While most of the discussion about the Patriots since the clock read 0:00 against the Ravens in January has centered on the wide receiver position, I have found the offensive line to be equally as intriguing. The team made the decision to re-sign free agent Sebastian Vollmer, which solidified the unit both in terms of starting talent as well quality depth.
Marcus Cannon enters his third NFL season with the Pats
With all the starters returning from last year’s offensive line for the Patriots, what role will Marcus Cannon have? Where is his best fit, where can he be the most productive? How will the team’s decision to utilize him had a domino effect on the rest of this year’s offensive line?
Oliver Thomas of NEPatriotsDraft.com takes a look at Cannon, and what may be expected from him in the 2013 season.
It has been speculated that Cannon lacks the nimble footwork and aggressiveness against pass-rushers to be a full-time tackle in the NFL. In turn, the thought of his well-built frame lining up inside at guard â€” where he played just 12 downs in 2012 (per Rotoworld.com) â€” is an intriguing one.
There may be some fire to go along with that smoke, too. ESPNBoston.comâ€™s Mike Reiss tweeted that Cannon saw reps at right guard during organized team activities.
If indeed Cannon is not a fit as an NFL tackle, then it makes the Pats decision to re-sign Sebastian Vollmer as their starting right tackle that much more logical. It also makes that much more sense that the Pats went out and signed veterans Will Svitek and Kevin Haslem and undrafted free agent Elvis Fisher to compete with Markus Zusevics for the backup tackle roster spots.
If the Patriots are looking at Cannon as strictly a guard, then that will set up some very interesting training camp battles for starting and reserve positions. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly can both play all three interior line positions, and last year the Pats decided to go with Wendell at center and Connolly at right guard. Does that mean that Wendell is the team’s starting center, and the competition will be between Connolly and Cannon for right guard? If that happens, does Connolly still get a chance to reclaim his job at center, or does that mean he is strictly the top interior backup offensive lineman?
If that is the way that camp plays out, what is Connolly’s future with the team? Although it may seem like it has been that long, he has been in the NFL since 2005 and will turn 31 before the regular season kicks off. The Pats signed Connolly to a 3-year, $9,750,000 contract just a year ago. The previous year Dan Koppen spent almost the entire season on injured reserve, and the team had enough faith in Connolly for him to replace Koppen as a starter on a permanent basis. However, Connolly is due a base salary of $2,250,000 this season and represents a cap number of more than $3.3 million. Only three players on the team have a higher base salary this season, and Connolly’s cap figure will be the ninth highest on this year’s club. While Bill Belichick the head coach may like to have the security of having Connolly available off the bench, will Belichick the general manager think that is too much money and too much cap space to allocate to a player that is not a starter?
Part of that decision may rest in the confidence that Belichick and his staff has on the alternatives to Connolly. Nick McDonald was excellent in spot starts in 2011, but never seemed to get back on track last year after being sidelined with an injury early in training camp. Others competing for a depth roster spot on the interior offensive line are veteran free agent Tyronne Green, and undrafted free agents Chris McDonald, Josh Kline and Matt Stankiewitch. It would make for some rather unique family conversations if at the end of training camp the two McDonald brothers are competing against each other for a single roster spot.
For much more analysis on Marcus Cannon and his future with the Patriots, please check out the rest of the article referenced above by Oliver Thomas for NEPatriotsDraft.com, where he continues on to break down Cannon’s play against the Jets when he started in place of Vollmer in the Butt Fumble game.
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