The New England Patriots currently have 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the offseason, we take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with New England’s starting right tackle.
Name: Marcus Cannon
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 61
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6’6, 335 lbs.
2017 review: After establishing himself as the Patriots’ starting right tackle in 2016, Marcus Cannon was penciled in as the starter in 2017 as well – a role he filled, at least when his health allowed him to. While the veteran started all seven of the games he appeared in, he missed a combined six contests before finally being placed on season-ending injured reserve in early December because of an ankle injury.
Cannon’s ankle ended what would have been another solid season by the former fifth-round draft pick. He played 100% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps (443 of 443) during his first six games – Cannon missed week three because of both his ankle and concussion symptoms – and would have continued at this pace had he not re-injured his ankle midway through New England’s week eight contest against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Before the injury, Cannon stood out especially as a run blocker: having the fluidity to be productive in both zone blocking and man-on-man schemes, the veteran earned the highest run-block success percentage among offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. While his pass protection was not on the same level – Cannon gave up 6.5 sacks, three hits, and four pressures – his loss was still a big one for the Patriots offense.
2018 preview: Cannon was back on the field for the Patriots’ offseason workouts and quickly resumed his role as the team’s top option at right tackle. Entering the second season of the five-year, $32.5 million contract extension he signed in 2016, the 30-year old hits the team’s salary cap with $5.77 million – a hefty number but one reflective of Cannon’s status as a clock to make the roster as Tom Brady’s right side protector.
As has been the case throughout his career, the main question with Cannon is neither talent nor productivity, but health. He missed games because of injury in five of his seven seasons in the NFL, and had to leave practice earlier this week with what was reported to be a minor issue. Time will tell whether the severity of the injury is really nothing to worry about, but Cannon is nevertheless expected to be full-go once the regular season starts.
And when healthy, he will likely do what he has done since becoming the team’s starting right tackle two seasons ago: be a physical presence on the right end of the offensive line, that has a proven track record as both a road grader in the running game, and a reliable protector in the passing game. With the unit having lost Nate Solder in free agency, his veteran presence and experience will also be crucial.