With Marcus Cannon having opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about the Coronavirus, the New England Patriots entered training camp with an open spot at the right tackle position. The team did have numerous players vying for the job Cannon has held ever since 2016, but one has established himself as the clear frontrunner one week into the full-speed portion of camp.
Jermaine Eluemunor is on track to take over for Cannon this year.
Eluemunor first arrived in New England last August, when the Patriots sent a fourth-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens to acquire him and a sixth-round selection. He went on to appear in 10 of his new team’s 17 combined games in 2019 as a backup lineman who received occasional playing time at both guard and tackle but never proved himself much more than an emergency option. This is expected to change heading into the 2020 season.
After playing just 29 offensive snaps last season — primarily as a run-blocker in late-game situations — Eluemunor has seen the majority of practice reps at Cannon’s former spot this summer. While his 6-foot-4, 340-pound frame makes him look more like a guard than a tackle, and could create some problems again speed rushers trying to win around the edge, he has looked serviceable so far in practice.
His experience from last year has helped get him into that spot, the 25-year-old said during a media conference call earlier this week.
“Getting traded as late as I did last year, it was my job to catch up quickly and be ready for any situation I was thrown into,” the former fifth-round draft pick said. “Obviously, I feel better this year having more time. With Covid and everything, and quarantine, I had more time to really dig into the playbook.”
Being able to become more familiar with the Patriots’ offensive system has allowed the fourth-year man climb to the top of the team’s right tackle depth chart — and to effectively fight off fellow offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham and Justin Herron so far when it comes to earning the starting position opposite Isaiah Wynn. Eluemunor’s offseason preparation also played a part in this, as he pointed out.
“From conditioning to the mental part of the game to the physical part, there wasn’t one thing that I didn’t try to improve on this offseason, because I feel like I can improve on a lot of things,” he said this week. “So, a big emphasis on everything: coming back in shape, at the correct weight and ready to go mentally.”
Eluemunor spent the first two seasons of his career in Baltimore, starting three regular season games in the process: two at right guard in 2017, and one at left tackle in 2018. After staying in New England this offseason on to the original fifth-round restricted free agency tender, and following his solid training camp performance so far, he is on track to take over the Patriots’ vacant right tackle role and to add to his starting résumé.
“I’ve played a ton of positions in my entire three-year career in the NFL, from left tackle to left guard, right tackle, right guard. So, I’m familiar with all four of those positions,” he said. Heading into 2020, however, it seems as if Eluemunor’s main focus will be only on the right tackle role.