Line is looking thin
FOXBOROUGH — It isn’t often that the words “thin” and “offensive line” are used in the same sentence, but the Patriots offensive line, which already lacked depth, is getting downright skinny these days with Robert Gallery’s retirement and two injuries on Sunday.
The Patriots signed Gallery, 32, to provide depth, particularly at left guard, where Logan Mankins is rehabbing from a torn ACL.
But Gallery was having some problems in camp, and his body wasn’t responding and recovering the way he hoped, leading to his decision.
“I talked to Robert several times in the last few days. He made that decision; I respect it,” coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “He’s a good player; he had a good career. I’m sorry it didn’t work out this year but I understand it and both of us will move on.
“He worked hard while he was here, did everything we asked him to do.”
New England already was shuffling players around the line. Gallery began camp with the first unit at guard, seeing snaps on the left and right side, but over the last several days was playing with the second unit, with Donald Thomas working with the first team.
With Mankins rehabbing and Brian Waters still not with the team (Belichick had no update), Thomas and Dan Connolly may remain the top guards, with either Dan Koppen or Ryan Wendell at center, though there is precious little experienced depth behind them.
And the tackle depth took a hit Sunday when Darrion Weems (unknown) and Kyle Hix (left arm) left early with a member of the training staff.
Weems, acquired last week, quickly had been gaining the staff’s confidence and was showing well in one-on-ones. Hix spent all of last season on injured reserve.
One of the offensive linemen who has been on the field every day is left tackle Nate Solder. The second-year player joked that one thing that has been better about this season is knowing where the locker room is.
Solder can see different players opposite him on nearly every snap, and has to know how to succeed against a variety of different players. But in first-team 11-on-11 work, he’s increasingly lining up against rookie Chandler Jones, who quickly has shown that he might be more than a situational player.
Solder wouldn’t say what it is that makes Jones so good, opting instead to say that he’s learning from the competition.
“I won’t talk specifics about Chandler, but I have to say that all the guys are great competition,” Solder said. “The harder it is, the better it is getting ready for the season.”
Clearly, the word was spread Sunday: No fighting.
On Friday, the Patriots had two full-team fracases, following one on Wednesday night, and after the second one Friday, not only did Belichick make the players run three penalty laps, he gathered them together to enforce his point, with quarterback Tom Brady kicking coaches out of the huddle after to address his teammates.
But Sunday it was clear that there was to be no more talk of the skirmishes.
“I hope so,” Belichick said when asked if the fighting was behind him. “That’s all a couple of days old now so we’re moving on. I’m sure we’re ready as a team to start to work against somebody else. We’ve seen plenty of each other and that’s been good, but that’s not the way it’s going to be during the season. We’re going to face new people each week [and] we start doing it this week.”
Brady was also mum on the fireworks.
“We’ve moved on from that. We had a good day off [Saturday], and I honestly wasn’t even involved in any of it. It wouldn’t be good if I was in the middle of any of that.”
Solder, who was in the middle of Wednesday night’s scrum, also went with the “it’s behind us” response.
Like many across the NFL, Belichick offered words of sympathy for Eagles coach Andy Reid, whose son, Garrett, was found dead Sunday morning. “Very sad,’’ said Belichick. “Andy is a good friend of mine. My heart goes out to him and his family.”
Reid is the longest-tenured current NFL coach and Belichick is second. The two are frequent trade partners. Garrett Reid was 29.