Yesterday, the news that Sebastian Vollmer is likely starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list was a huge blow to the team. Vollmer had been the starter there since 2010, although he’s battled injuries in 2011, 2013, and 2015. With the news of the 32-year-old tackle going to start the year on PUP, he is out for a minimum of six regular season games. The Patriots addressed the tackle spot in the offseason by re-signing midseason waiver claim La’Adrian Waddle, but the answer to the right tackle position might have already been on the roster in Marcus Cannon.
The Patriots drafted Cannon in the 5th round of the 2011 after doctors discovered a very treatable form of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. The tumor dropped Cannon from a possible 1st/2nd round pick, so the Patriots took the gamble. While Vollmer has been the starter at right tackle, injuries have forced Cannon into the main lineup at RT in 2013 and 2015. Cannon struggled mightily in 2015, although he played the 2nd half of the season with turf toe because the Patriots were basically out of healthy bodies on the offensive line. Cannon has reportedly looked better in preseason and hopefully he takes that step forward. The Patriots gave Cannon a 2-year extension worth $9M, with the Patriots hoping that Cannon would progress enough to either solidify a guard spot or eventually replace Vollmer at right tackle. Neither has happened yet, but the chance to do so has.
Tackles are one of the most coveted positions in the draft and teams basically need a Top 20 pick in order to land a player that’s capable of starting in the NFL. When you’re the Patriots and have had only two Top-20 picks since 2004, that becomes difficult to find. The Patriots drafted Vollmer in the 2nd round in 2009 for what many considered a reach pick at the time, Nate Solder in the first round who while becoming a quality left tackle has somewhat failed to live up to his draft hype, and Marcus Cannon. I have no idea who is available at the position in the next draft and it’s too early to worry about it. Since the position is coveted in free agency and the draft, Cannon has an opportunity to not only seize the right tackle job, but also set himself up nicely for a pay day opportunity.
In the 2-minute drive against the Bears, Cannon did a good job of shutting down Bears first round pick Leonard Floyd. Cannon has historically struggled against speed rushers, which Floyd profiles as. Even though Floyd is a rookie playing in his first preseason, I definitely liked what I saw on that drive from a pass blocking standpoint. For Cannon, the tools to be successful are there, it’s just a matter of putting things together once the games count. His first assignment this year will be Markus Golden of the Arizona Cardinals, who is a very solid player.