Patriots OT Antonio Garcia puts ‘nasty’ playing style on the line
If your offensive line gets pushed around or intimidated, that’s usually bad news for the quarterback. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have at least one enforcer on the line.
By that, we mean a player who brings an edge, a mean streak to the table. Former Patriots guard Logan Mankins had that quality in spades. He played with a certain nastiness in the trenches and emboldened his teammates. It heightened the play of his linemates, and kept Tom Brady safe and protected.
So with that in mind, it was interesting to learn about Patriots third-round pick Antonio Garcia, a tackle with the kind of surly attitude made for an offensive line.
Matt Moore, Garcia’s line coach at Troy, told the Herald last week that he’d sometimes have to scale him back at practices because the 6-foot-6, 302-pound tackle was rag-dolling one-too many of his defensive teammates.
“The only time I’ve had to call Tony out and really have to get on him, is when we’d be practicing, and he would dump our players,” Moore said. “He’d be blocking a guy, and then twist him and throw him to the ground. That’s what you want, but at the same time, you have to take care of each other.”
Moore wasn’t too hard on Garcia: He loved the nastiness and aggression because it figured to bode well, both for Garcia and the offensive line.
“He plays the game with a lot of passion. He’s really physical. He really wants to finish blocks,” Moore said. “Being a small guy growing up, he’s always had that meanness and tenacity. And that’s stayed with him as he’s grown. He always plays hungry. He plays really hard .?.?. I wish I had to pull all my guys back a little bit.”
Asked to describe his style of play on a conference call, Garcia certainly didn’t shy away from his reputation: “I would say physical, athletic, just nasty.”
The visual of Garcia slamming his defensive teammate to the ground brings to mind stories of former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison’s first practices in Foxboro, when he leveled teammate Troy Brown while Brown cut across the middle to catch a pass.
Harrison sent a message and set a tone. He meant business. Garcia was doing the same.
“If you don’t have one guy in your group that plays like that, it’s hard to get any of them to play like that,” said Moore. “You can’t get pushed around. You have to have that mindset, we’re not taking any crap from these guys.”
It is nice having an enforcer on the offensive line. So many teams have had them at tackle, whether it was the Chiefs with Willie “Nasty” Roaf, the Eagles with Jon Runyan or the Ravens with Jonathan Ogden.
Former Patriots offensive lineman Damien Woody put it further into context.
“Offensive line play is all about imposing your will on the other guy. That’s what it’s all about. So when you hear the description of this rookie with a mean streak, and he’s an enforcer-type, those are characteristics you’d want in your offensive linemen, because you don’t want anyone to touch your quarterback. You want a guy who’s going to back up not only your quarterback, but anyone on the offense,” the current ESPN analyst said on Friday. “Dante (Scarnecchia) will teach him the finer points as far as playing the offensive line, but not everyone has a mean streak. Not everyone is an enforcer. So when you have a guy who has those intangibles, and then put it together physically, you have that quintessential offensive lineman.”
No one likes playing across from an offensive lineman who plays with that edge. It simply adds to the drama of playing the Patriots.
“(Garcia) wouldn’t get pushed around, and he wouldn’t let us get pushed around. That’s what he brought to our group,” Moore said. “Everyone knew he was going to be mean. He was going to be nasty. That was so huge.”
Said Woody: “Sometimes other guys feed off that emotion. A guy who’ll run 15-20 yards down the field and knock somebody off the pile, or do those little things that get people’s attention. Every offensive line needs a guy like that. Not all five guys are going to be like that. If this guy turns into a player, he’ll be a real asset.”
If you want to talk numbers, Garcia started 42 careers games at left tackle for the Trojans. He allowed just three sacks in more than 1,700 offensive snaps during his final two seasons, and zero in his last 900.
When was the last time he gave up a sack?
“I don’t remember, no,” Garcia told the Patriots media. “It’s been a long time. I know that.”
As for what lies ahead for Garcia in Foxboro, at worst, he comes in as a depth piece at tackle, able to fill-in on both sides. At best, he could be Brady’s future left tackle depending on what happens with Nate Solder, who has one year left on his deal.
Either way, he’s going to be interesting to follow.
“I know this,” said Moore. “He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. The way it’s fun to watch.”
Jets draw a rave
Woody, by the way, thought the Jets scored the best player in the draft when they took LSU safety Jamal Adams with the sixth pick.
“When you look at him, and I hate to, as Bill Parcells would say, put somebody in Canton early, but I think he’s a generational-type talent,” Woody said. “You haven’t heard one bad thing about this kid. He loves football. He eats football up. He’s a natural leader. He’s vocal. He does everything the right way. He busts his butt in practice. When you got a guy like that, it carries over to the locker room.”
Woody said one of the biggest problems with the Jets, aside from a lack of talent, was locker room leadership. He thought the team needed to start over and essentially, that’s what they’re doing.
“I think he’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle moving forward,” said Woody. “They had a bunch of bad apples in the locker room, and needed some guys that reflected (head coach) Todd Bowles’ image of how the locker room should be. They’re on their way.
“But they still have to find a quarterback. If you don’t get the quarterback, you’re only going to go so far.”
Cleveland, can Kizer?
Speaking of quarterbacks, the Browns couldn’t pry Jimmy Garoppolo out of Foxboro, so they’re trying to sell Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer to the masses.
“We’ve got to coach him from the ground up, but we’re working with a guy that’s very talented,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said via Cleveland.com about the 52nd overall pick. “This is a guy who has a skill set that’s going to allow us to push and prod and get him to where he needs to be. .?.?. I don’t think we’re going to rush to stick him out there but, at the same time, I’m not going to stop him from being out there if he demonstrates those skill sets very quickly.”
Kizer stands tall at 6-foot-4, 233 pounds. He’s in the mix with Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan.
“He’s a big man,” Jackson said. “He has the AFC North stature that I love. He has a big arm. He’s very intelligent. He’s played in a real big-time football program. He understands the demands of playing the position. He understands the demands of being a quarterback and the face of a franchise.”