Cannon, Solder struggle again

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Cannon, Solder struggle again

FOXBORO - There's no reason to sugarcoat it. Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder played badly last week against the Saints and - after 10 days off and a rigorous week of practice - the second year tackles came out and played badly again against the Eagles.

Doesn't matter who else was out there next to them, across from them or behind them. Doesn't matter that it was just the second preseason game. After the Saints game, their lack of discipline and fundamental soundness was a flashpoint. They simply needed to play better and show improvement to quell the angst.

They did not.

The offensive line as a whole wasn't good - 2.1 yards on 29 carries; 15 for 37 passing with two sacks allowed and another wiped out by penalty - but the return of Brian Waters and Logan Mankins should settle three-fifths of the line. The other two-fifths - the tackle spots - were probably the biggest problem and Cannon and Solder were expected to be competent there. They haven't been.

On the second snap of the game, Cannon got called for a hold. On a screen in the first quarter, Solder got beat by Trent Cole which caused a screen pass to get messed up. Cannon allowed a strip sack. Solder got steamrolled by Cole later in the first. Solder allowed a sack by Cole that got wiped out by penalty.

Concern?

"The Eagles are a good team so we're concerned about everything," said Belichick when asked about the protection issues. "Just go out there and play. We had over 50 plays in the first half and we had a lot of snaps so we got a chance to evaluate a lot of things against the Eagles."

Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham was asked about his matchups with both players.

"I was getting up and under him a lot and that is probably the best thing," Graham said of Solder. "The challenges are that he is a big, long guy and you have to get his hands off of you. He is real strong and you have to stay on your game when you're playing him."

Cole was on his game in terms of bringing pressure.

Asked about Cannon, Graham said, "I feel like we should have gone at him a little more."

Solder, the 17th overall pick last year, was unfailingly polite (as he always is) when asked if he was concerned about the protection breakdowns.

"That's our job," he said. "I'm going to continue to improve my game. That's my focus. I don't know the specifics (of what he needs to work on). It will be what (offensive line coach Dante) Scarnecchia's telling me and all the coaches are telling me. I haven't been around long enough to know but I'll continue to work and do the best I can."

The look on Solder's face seemed to signal that he's as uncomfortable with how things have looked as anyone watching is. Probably more.

The phrases "try to get better", "look to improve" and "continue to work" are his verbal crutches. But he must feel in real time and he'll certainly see on tape that he's too often tentative and playing well below his physical capabilities.

His affable predecessor Matt Light brought an air of nasty to the position that helped him. Solder's going to need to tap that because he's a beacon of insecurity on Tom Brady's blindside right now and defensive ends and outside linebackers will prey on that when they see the film.

The conversation was loud after the first preseason game. After this one - regardless of how long the Eagles played their starters and the fact the Patriots barely played theirs - the noise will grow louder still.

"My focus is getting better and it's gonna be within these walls that we're gonna focus and get better," Solder declared.

There's reason to believe he will. Maybe both he and Cannon will. But time is running out.

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

FOXBORO  -- To think there’d be no further questions about the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo dynamic when Brady’s four-game suspension ends would be moronic.

Bill Belichick won’t like them. He’s destined to give them the verbal Heisman. But there are aspects to the story which demand further interrogation.

So there’s those questions. And then there’s baiting for the sake of baiting, which is what happened Friday morning.

A reporter asked Belichick, “You said Tom will start when he’s eligible. Can you think of an occasion when you named a Week 5 starter in July?”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said.

“What happens if Jimmy plays better?”

“Look, I told you what’s gonna happen,” Belichick answered.

Pressing on, the reporter began, “So there’s no, there’s, there’s . . . ”

At that point, with Belichick reacting like he’d come open a month-old-corpse and muttering, “Jesus Christ," the reporter cut himself off.

I’ve been trying to steer clear of the media ombudsman business. But this stuff makes it hard. The first question was obtuse in the extreme. I don’t even know how that gets formulated.
This is not a Brady-Bledsoe scenario.

You have the best quarterback of his generation who – 17 months ago – took down what was supposed to be one of the great defenses in NFL history in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. A guy who got smashed all over the field in Denver at the age of 38 and still almost pulled out a win last January.

When that guy’s cleared to play, you sprint him onto the field regardless of the circumstances.

“If Jimmy plays better . . . ”? Better than what? Better than 11 touchdowns, no picks, 116-for-160 and 1,547 yards, which is what Brady did in the first four games last season? Better than Brady played in Denver while getting his head caved in every other play?

I understand that sometimes you have to ask the dumb question to get something on the record, but this was not that. This seemed like someone who really thought he was onto something. Was going to paint Belichick into an uncomfortable corner and hang him with his own words.

Sorry, counselor.

Now, you and I can sit on the front stoop and wonder what happens if Garoppolo plays ridiculously well then Brady comes back and spends four weeks playing like he’s never been on a field before and is clearly an impediment to the team’s success.

Won’t happen. But we can talk about it.

Asking Belichick if he’s gonna go with the hot hand when two days prior he told you what he was going to do is asking for a JC response.

Belichick probably figured that stating Brady was the Week 5 starter before he was asked was the best way to defuse idle speculation. “We’ll see . . . ” or “We always do what’s best for the football team . . . ” would have ignited a thousand hours of conversation about the budding quarterback controversy in New England.

Belichick now knows that the speculation and scenario spinning is coming anyway. JC may hear his name muttered a few more times from the podium between now and October.