OFFENSIVE LINE HAS A NEW STAR:
I SAID THEN:
The offensive line was the Achilles heel of the Patriots last season as injuries and ineffectiveness cost offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo his job as Dante Scarnecchia came out of retirement to take back his long-time job in New England. So far the team has already seemingly lost right tackle Sebastian Vollmer indefinitely after shoulder surgery and being placed on the PUP list. Marcus Cannon–who struggled last season after a foot injury (believed to be a broken big toe) robbed him of his strength and movement–is set at right tackle and has taken to the coaching of Scarnecchia.
So far Cannon has looked like the tackle the Patriots hoped he could be when he was drafted in 2011. Opposite Cannon, Nate Solder has been slowly returning to form after missing the last 11 games after tearing his right biceps…At left guard it has been the surprise of training camp, third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State Joe Thuney, who stepped in at the first practice and has refused to give up the job.
Thuney graded high with stats-based scouting service ProFootballFocus.com while in college as they ranked Thuney as one of the better blockers in the draft based on their proprietary ratings. So far Thuney has looked like a steal…Thuney has looked like a potential long-term solution and if his play continues into the regular season the Patriots may have finally found their replacement at left guard after almost a decade of Pro Bowl quality play from Logan Mankins.
I SAY NOW:
Nailed it. I was all in on Thuney and he is playing his rear-end off as a rookie and has been a rock at left guard. Thuney has still not let up his hold of the position.
He is far from perfect still getting caught holding an interior lineman seemingly once a game. Overall, he has helped rejuvenate the rushing attack and the best part is he is still improving.
Marcus Cannon was on the top of the list of players to be run out of town after last season. Cannon stepped in at left tackle when starter Nate Solder was placed on injured reserve. After a few solid performances, Cannon left with a broken toe and missed some games.
Unfortunately, as tackles kept getting injured, Cannon had to come back to lineup despite not being healthy enough to play. Missing just four games (not enough time for the broken toe to heal completely), the quiet giant stepped in at right tackle (to put less pressure on the toe which would be on his plant foot on the left side.
Clearly hobbled, Cannon got into some bad habits trying to tough it out. In the AFC Championship game, his immobility was exposed as Denver edge rusher Von Miller wreaked havoc on Cannon. This year, it has been the exact opposite.
The play of rookie Thuney and the return to health of Cannon and left tackle Nate Solder have been a huge part of having kept Tom Brady upright, opened space for LeGarrette Blount, and helped keep the team afloat the first four games of the season without Brady.