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.

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.