Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated


Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated

PITTSBURGH - Batten down the cornerbacks. The Patriots are just heaving them overboard this week.

On Friday, came the surprise release of Leigh Bodden. Saturday afternoon, it's rookie Ras-I Dowling being placed on season-ending injured reserve with what the Boston Herald reports is a torn tendon in his leg.

The loss of Dowling, a second-round pick whose time at Virginia was marred by myriad injuries, leaves the Patriots with just four active cornerbacks heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers - Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams.

Molden and Adams are players the Patriots signed after they were released by the Texans and Niners, respectively.

The Dowling move puts the release of Bodden in a different light. Even though Dowling has been injured, it figured he'd be good to go in the near future. Why else would they release Bodden with so little depth? But the fact Dowling's season ended a day later makes the Bodden release a standalone move.

Whatever was said in the Friday morning meeting Bodden had with Bill Belichick, it's clear the two sides believed they were better off without each other and - given Dowling's situation - the Patriots had apparently had it with Bodden.

Bodden was never a visible disruption in the locker room and, quite often, you can sense a player who's discontented by his actions.

The Patriots have two practice-squad corners they could elevate to the roster next week. Meanwhile, Asante Samuel has been voicing his discontent in Philadelphia with his role on the Eagles. A trade for their former Pro Bowler seems a stretch from a "locker room fit" perspective. Samuel, while a very good performer, isn't what you'd call a team-first guy and he left a sour taste in Foxboro.

As for the activations, it will be interesting to see what extent the Patriots rely on Kevin Faulk as the 35-year-old returns from last season's knee injury. Brandon Deaderick will help provide some depth on the defensive line, which is needed since Myron Pryor and Mike Wright have both been IR'd.

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”