When push comes to shove—as it often does on the offensive line—a guard has the same basic job as a tackle: Don't let their guys touch our guys. Sebastian Vollmer's posited move from right tackle to guard may leave him with the same ultimate goal, but the way of getting there is going to be markedly different.
In the shadow of the deal that sent longtime Patriots left guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, speculation ran rampant on the prospects of who would fill his shoes. Would it be a second-year jack-of-all-trades like Josh Kline or Jordan Devey? A powerful presence like Marcus Cannon?
According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, all the speculation was off by about a continent.
I'm told the #Patriots had a meeting with the veteran offensive linemen yesterday and told Vollmer about moving to guard, Cannon to tackle— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 30, 2014
Vollmer—removed six time zones from his native Germany—was himself quiet on the whole issue of if he will be moved to guard.
Asked Vollmer if there were any discussions about moving to guard. Wouldn't say what's been discussed internally.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) September 1, 2014
If you'll allow me to trade pigskin for parquet for a moment, I'll try to make an analogy.
If Bill Russell and Robert Parrish—two of the best centers in Boston basketball history—were on the same team, Parrish wouldn't get parked on the bench. One would find a way to get both players on the court at the same time.
While equating Vollmer and Cannon with Russell and Parrish is a bit of a stretch, it is clear that Cannon is one of the best five offensive linemen on the team. While it seems that slotting Cannon in at guard would be the easiest thing to do, the skill sets just don't line up.
Greg Bedard from MMQB.com and Mike Loyko from NEPatriotsDraft.com had some interesting analysis of just that.
@NEPD_Loyko called around. Doesn't think quick enough for guard. That's the issue. Makes sense now— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) August 30, 2014
Mankins' decline in quickness following multiple leg injuries is one of the reasons that Bill Belichick was willing to let him go. He wouldn't want to replace him with an even slower presence. Cannon's worst game of 2013 was when he was tasked with playing guard, a -4.3 performance according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Kline and Devey have shown marginally better quickness, but neither has the anchor that Vollmer has.
At 6'8", Vollmer may have a tough time gaining leverage against shorter defensive tackles, but his strength profile and footwork is good enough to handle any onslaught. His quickness should allow him to pick up the interior stunts and blitzes that have dogged Tom Brady the last few years.
The move isn't all roses. Vollmer, when healthy, is a better tackle than Cannon. In a similar number of protections—including the postseason gives Cannon a few dozen more—Cannon gave up 24 combined pressures compared to 16 for Vollmer. His five penalties also compares poorly to Vollmer's zero. That said, Cannon's ability to play right tackle opens up Vollmer to shore up the weakest spot on the offensive line: left guard.
While Vollmer is almost certainly a better tackle than he will be a guard, the net effect on the Patriots offensive line is a positive one.