The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots’ offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with offensive tackle Marcus Cannon.
Name: Marcus Cannon
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 61
Size: 6’5, 335 lbs.
2015 review: Entering the 2015 season, Marcus Cannon was projected to serve as the top backup swing-tackle behind starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. However, when Solder left the Patriots’ week 5 game against the Dallas Cowboys with what later turned out to be a season-ending biceps injury, Cannon was thrust into a starting role.
While he was solid in this capacity in the past, Cannon struggled mightily in 2016. He originally replaced Nate Solder as the starting left tackle but a toe injury sustained in week 5 forced him not only to miss the subsequent four games but also to switch sides. Cannon’s already inconsistent play did not improve with the position change – it got even worse.
Overall, Cannon gave up 56.5 quarterback pressures in the 14 games he played in – the worst number of all Patriots offensive linemen. He allowed Tom Brady to be sacked 5.5 times, while also giving up 19 hits and 32 hurries. Not only did Cannon struggle in the passing game, he had issues in the running game as well. The veteran was unable to consistently get a solid initial push and sustain blocks, while his technique was sloppy at times.
All in all, Cannon has had a rough 2015 season.
2016 preview: Due to his $4.75 million cap hit this year – the tenth highest on the team –, Cannon looked like a candidate to be released by the start of the new league year. He wasn’t, though, and will get another chance to prove his worth to the Patriots and their offensive line.
Despite his struggles last season, Cannon enters training camp as New England’s number three offensive tackles behind Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Considering that the team did not address the position this offseason, his major competition for that spot will likely be recently extended LaAdrian Waddle. If the 28-year old can return to his 2013 form, when he started six games in place of an injured Vollmer, then his chances of beating out Waddle and fellow offensive tackles Cameron Fleming and Keavon Milton do not look bad.
Cannon’s biggest advantage in the battle for one of a maximum two backup tackle spots is the Patriots’ new offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia. From when he was drafted in 2011 until his best professional season in 2013, Scarnecchia was Cannon’s position coach – and has been integral for his development. If Scarnecchia can get Cannon to perform like he did before the veteran coach originally retired, then his chances of making the team project to be solid despite a rough last two seasons and a bloated cap hit.
However, if Cannon can’t get his play back on track and continues to play inconsistently and with a sloppy technique, seeing Waddle (or somebody else) take his spot would not be a surprise. Consequently, Cannon’s tenure in Foxboro would be over.
Given the last two seasons and his contract, Marcus Cannon’s roster spot is on thin ice. He still has a chance to keep it, though. It all comes down to whether or not Cannon can do his job well enough to find himself on the team.