Cannon's versatility appreciated by Belichick

Cannon's versatility appreciated by Belichick
September 23, 2013, 6:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- Offensive linemen generally don't stand out unless they screw up.

Quarterback gets sacked? Well whose fault was it? Running back gets stuffed? Who, exactly, did not do his job?

Marcus Cannon deserves some air time for his performance Sunday against the Buccaneers. But it's because he played well.

When starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer suffered a foot injury and was sidelined for the second half, it was Cannon who Bill Belichick tapped to fill in. Cannon has primarily played on the left side this season. There have been snaps when he hasn't, but those were spent subbing in at guard for Dan Connolly, not tackle.

Being Tom Brady's blindside protector is no small thing. Good for Cannon, then, that Belichick liked what he saw Sunday.

"He’s got good versatility, smart guy," the coach noted. "He came through for us yesterday."

Cannon played three years at right tackle for TCU before switching to the left side his senior season. The Patriots have used the 6-5, 335-pounder everywhere on the line but at center -- unsurprising considering Belichick's rookie-year evaluation of Cannon in 2011.

"I think he's athletic enough, he's certainly big enough, he has enough power and enough quickness," he had said. "So ultimately what is his best position? Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, right guard? I'm not sure."

It's possible the Cannon peg doesn't fit into just one hole in the line. Belichick said the line between wanting a versatile lineman and one who is excellent in a particular role is thin. What side he ends up on depends entirely on the player.

"I think you either have to be really good at one spot or you have to be able to do multiple things. That’s really the catch. We’ve had guys like Steve Neal, Dan Koppen, in the past that were very good football players for us that only played one spot and they never played anything else. Steve never played anything but right guard and Dan never played anything but center but they were very good at that spot and they were able to hold down that spot and we didn’t need them to play anything else.

"Then there were guys that were versatile and played a number of different spots – Dan Connolly would fall into that category," Belichick continued. "Each player has a different niche, has a different set of skills. Some guys are the Dan Connolly, Mike Vrabel types, other guys are the Steve Neal, Dan Koppen types. I’d say the players that can only play one spot but they’re not at that Dan Koppen, Steve Neal kind of level, then somebody else can come along and play at that level but also be able to do a couple other things for you, then that’s where the competition gets thick."

Vollmer's injury has thinned the herd a bit. The starter left Gillette Stadium in a walking boot Sunday night and his status won't get any clearer until the Patriots practice again.

Cannon might stay under the spotlight for a while longer. But his versatility will be appreciated by the Patriots well after Vollmer returns.