The Patriots are fortunate to have a fixture locked in at right tackle in Marcus Cannon, who will be starting his 10th season in the league this year.
It wasn’t so very long ago that Marcus Cannon flirted with serious bust status as a player in the NFL.
Granted, as a fifth-round draft pick, it’s hard to get labeled a “bust.” Traditionally, such a derisive term only gets applied to first-round picks — and maybe the occasional second or third-round pick if they’ve slipped somehow on draft day and are still considered a first-round talent.
The point, however, is that Cannon was generally seen as a weak link at one point on this New England Patriots offensive line. He struggled to see the field during his first three seasons in the pros (2011, 2012, 2013), and in 2014, he floundered as the team’s starting left guard — so much so that he was demoted back to a swing tackle that year.
The O-line struggled as a unit in 2015 for the Pats, prompting legendary coach Dante Scarnecchia to return from retirement the following season and resume coaching the group. Cannon wasn’t the only problem that year, but he certainly was one of the more pronounced — particularly in New England’s grueling lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
Not so anymore, though. All of Cannon’s struggles are firmly in the past.
He was named Second-team All-Pro for his efforts in 2016 toward turning his career around (Cannon also made the full-time switch to starting right tackle this year). He signed a five-year contract extension with the team at the end of that season, and as a result will be with the Patriots through the 2021 season if all goes well for both sides.
Despite battling a series of injuries and illnesses over the past three seasons, Cannon’s play has been markedly improved whenever he’s been healthy enough to stay on the field. He’s easily one of the strong-points on the Patriots offense, and his return in 2020 should be a boon to the New England running game — particularly if he can make it through all 16 games unscathed.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
Cannon earns his second All-Pro recognition for outstanding play this season — even if it is as a Second-teamer. It’s not crazy at all to think he could end up First-team either — or even make the Pro Bowl.
The biggest thing working against Cannon is name recognition though. He’s nowhere near as well-known around the country as the Cowboy’s La’el Collins, the Eagles’ Lane Johnson, the Chiefs’ Mitchell Schwartz, or the Raiders’ Trent Brown (a former Patriot), for example.
Perhaps another solid outing from Cannon in 2020 will elevate his name and standing into their company, though.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
It has to be injury. While Cannon probably isn’t considered to be among the most elite right tackles in the NFL, he’s certainly well above-average. And at age 32 with nine years of professional experience under his belt, it’s probably safe to assume he’s “figured it out” as this level by this point.
The worst thing that could happen — both for Cannon and for the Patriots — would be for the former TCU Horned Frog to get injured. New England’s current depth chart has Korey Cunningham and Justin Herron behind Cannon; the former was a healthy scratch for the entire 2019 season and the latter is a rookie sixth-round draft pick.