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Patriots Should Try Switching Marcus Cannon from Right Tackle to Right Guard

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Patriots Should Try Switching Marcus Cannon from Right Tackle to Right Guard
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Marcus Cannon has struggled as a pass blocker playing right tackle this preseason.

[Marcus Cannon] has the pure mass that may be best suited for the interior. 

- Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly draft analyst, Pro Football Weekly 2011 Draft Guide (h/t Kevin Fishbain)

I’m open to the suggestion.

After three preseason games in which Cannon has resembled a revolving door, it’s time to try him somewhere else. It’s too early to give up on the massive 24-year-old, but the transition from college offensive tackle to the pros has not looked good.

Cannon has the tools and the talent to become a very good offensive lineman—maybe just not at tackle. It’s worth a shot sliding Cannon over to guard to see if it suits him better.

Cannon has the size (6'5", 340 pounds) and strength (33 reps on the bench press—tied for most by an offensive tackle at the 2011 NFL Combine) to become an imposing guard. Cannon could aspire to be like Tampa Bay’s Carl Nicks, a 6'5" 343-pound Pro Bowler last year with New Orleans—an ideal road-grading right guard.

The Cannon at right tackle experiment won’t be a complete waste. While it's Sebastian Vollmer’s job, Cannon gained valuable experience during the preseason. In case another injury befalls Vollmer, Cannon can shift back outside.

Trying Cannon out at guard makes perfect sense as the Brian Waters situation plays out. If Waters, selected for his sixth Pro Bowl last year, ultimately retires, depth at guard becomes a concern. If Waters comes back, he can mentor Cannon and accelerate the former TCU Horned Frog’s development.

Age should also factor into the Cannon-to-guard decision. Going back to the 2011 season opener, the offensive line’s interior consisted of LG Logan Mankins, 30 years old, C Dan Koppen, 32 (turns 33 in September) and RG Waters, 35.

If Dan Connolly, 29 (turns 30 on September 2), starts at either center or guard, the interior line remains a 30-and-over group. With tackles Nate Solder (24) and Vollmer (28) likely the bookends for a while, it’s vital to learn who is capable of playing with them in the future.

The competition for those future spots will be interesting. Besides Cannon, Nick McDonald (25), Donald Thomas (26) and Ryan Wendell (26) all have experience within New England’s system. It will be a fair fight between the four, so let the best man win.

Cannon had a great Walt Disney-like story for his journey to the pros: Rated as highly as a second-round pick, he discovered that he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the Combine, continued working out during chemotherapy, was cancer-free and played in seven games that same year.

But great stories can’t stop bull rushing defensive tackles or defensive ends from coming around the corner. Belichick always tries to put players where they will succeed. Shortly after Cannon was activated off the reserve/non-football injury list, Belichick said that he was open to all possibilities for Cannon.

"I personally don't see any reason why he couldn't play inside,” Belichick said, according to The Boston Globe, last November. “I think he's athletic enough, he's certainly big enough, he has enough power and enough quickness, so ultimately what is his best position? Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, right guard? I'm not sure.”

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Cannon certainly has the size to become a successful offensive lineman. The Patriots have to find the right fit.

Right tackle has not been working out for Cannon this preseason. It’s worth trying him out at guard to see if he’s better suited inside. 

Whichever team drafts him will be frightened over whether Cannon can protect the quarterback. He’s worth a gamble, but needs some time to develop.

- Sporting News 2011 NFL Draft Guide

Could not say it better myself.

 

Questions? Comments? Send to randolphc82@comcast.net.

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