If needed, Pats have confidence in Hoyer


If needed, Pats have confidence in Hoyer

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady would have you believe he'll be playing on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. But how long he'll be in there is another question.

If Brady doesn't play the whole game, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer could see his most playing time of the season.

Hoyer has appeared in four games in this, his second year in the NFL. He's yet to complete a pass in 2010, after finishing his rookie season 19-of-27 for 142 yards in five games.

Still, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has seen improvements from his backup QB, even if he believes there's some things he has to work on.

"I think he took last year, and he built on that," said Belichick. "He certainly started at a much higher level this year than he did last year. That's obvious. I think he's improved a great deal this year, not as much as he did last year because his starting point was so much higher. Those improvements are incremental.

"I think he does a good job in his role," added Belichick. "He does what he needs to do at his position. We all know, and everybody knows, he's one play away from playing."

Just ask former Patriots backup Matt Cassel, who's now leading his Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs. Cassel came in for Brady in 2008 when Brady went down in Week 1 with a knee injury.

Brady missed the entire season,and Cassel got his opportunity, something Brady says is all that Hoyer needs to prove himself in the NFL.

As for when that consistent opportunity comes is another unanswered question. Hoyer may see time on Sunday against the Dolphins, but that won't be enough to convince another NFL team that he's a No. 1 quarterback in the league.

Brady will start on Sunday, in a game that is essentially meaningless with regards to the standings. In the devastating case that something were to happen to Brady between now and the end of playoffs, the Pats are confident that Hoyer would be ready for the call.

"Brian is a great player," said Brady. "Even though he's a Michigan State kid" -- a tough admission for Michigan grad Brady -- "he's really come a long way. For any quarterback, that first to second year is a really big jump. He's smart, has all the physical skills. All he needs is an opportunity. You never know when you'll get that opportunity because at quarterback, it's only one play away. The whole team has a lot of confidence in Brian."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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?”