Praise for Bailey continues with Patriots players


Praise for Bailey continues with Patriots players

FOXBORO -- When you think about how long Champ Bailey has been playing football, and how he's still playing at a high level, it makes you wonder how he was ever traded in 2004.
Just ask Bill Belichick, who had towering praise for the 34-year old cornerback Friday.
"He's, to me, one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody," the coach said. "He matches up against the Andre Johnson's of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. And then he'll match up against quick, real good route-running quick receivers. It doesn't really make any difference."
Patriots players, getting ready to ready to face the Broncos and Bailey this weekend, echoed the accolades let loose by their coach.
"He's just a great ballplayer. I think he just gets out of bed and he's just great," said receiver Wes Welker. "He's very patient and does a good job of getting his hands on you, and plays really well. He's a smart guy, good instincts, all those things It's why he's stayed around for a while."
Bailey is playing in his 14th NFL season this year. He's an 11-time Pro Bowler (including three consecutive from 2009-2011), a six-time All Pro, and sits on the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team.
Patriots wideout Brandon Lloyd played with Bailey in Denver from 2009 to 2011. Lloyd said he got to see the cornerback's dedication, both in film study and on the field, up close.
As in, duking-it-out-in-practice close.
"They were good battles," Lloyd smiled. "I learned a lot from him from a technique standpoint -- catching and finishing the play because Champ's one of the only cornerbacks I've gone against where the play is never over. You can even catch the ball, and if you're not bringing it in, if you're not protecting it, then he'll find a way to get it out."
Welker understands the challenge. The key, he said, is precision and variation. Patriots receivers will need to stay physical for 60 minutes to try to get open, and stay open.
There may be something else to getting the better of Bailey, but Lloyd joked that insider information was never swapped.
"I don't know. We've never really talked about the secrets," he smirked.

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?”