Mankins, Wilfork next up on Top 100


Mankins, Wilfork next up on Top 100

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
Nobody can argue that the NFL Network sits on its hands and doesn't come up with programming. Whether it's those Top 10 shows filled with knowledgeable and handsome sportswriters or the critically acclaimed "America's Game" Super Bowl retrospectives, if you're in for a minute, you're usually in for an hour on those. I haven't felt as strongly about their current countdown show "The Top 100: Players of 2011" and it's not just because of the awkward grammar (what's with the colon?). I think the main reason is, I don't trust the players to correctly evaluate their peers. There. I said it. Why? Well, most of them are pretty busy on Sundays when the actual games are being played, so I don't trust that they have a complete view of all the teams. And while there's no question a player like defensive end Jason Taylor is 19 times more of an expert than me on who the best left tackles in the league may be -- especially in the AFC East -- I'd be stunned if he knew who the best wideoutsand corners were. When does he actually spend time breaking that stuff down or even pay attention to it?Additionally, I think rooting interests among the players figure into these lists way more than they would if compiled by media types, scouts and pro personnel departments. If you don't think voting coalitions exist, ask yourself ifBrandon Meriweather would have been a 2010 Pro Bowler if he hadn't gone to the University of Miami, a school whose NFL alumni unabashedly promote their fellow Canes.And Lamarr Woodley of the Steelers pretty much agrees with me on this. So I've got that going for me. Be that as it notwithstanding irregardless, the countdown creeps into the top 30 this week and Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork will be in the mix from 40 to 31. Bill Belichick will present Mankins (further evidence, if you ask me, that the coach is about the biggest fan of the disgruntled guard one can find) and Jonathan Vilma of the Saints will present Wilfork. The two played together at... The U. The shows airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. Willie McGinest will be in on the reaction show beginning at 9 p.m. on the NFL Network.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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?”


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick

The Patriots pulled off a rare deal with a rival on Tuesday. 

According to ESPN, they've sent tight end A.J. Derby to the Broncos in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Derby played in 33 offensive snaps over four games this season for the Patriots. A sixth-round draft choice in 2015 out of Arkansas, Derby spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve. 

One of the stars of the preseason for the Patriots, Derby caught 15 passes for 189 yards in four exhibition games. A former college quarterback for Iowa and Arkansas, Derby was named a practice player of the week by the Patriots when they were hurting for healthy signal-callers early in the season during Tom Brady's suspension.

The deal leaves the Patriots somewhat thin at the tight end position. They now have now true tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. They do, however, have fullback James Develin, who meets with tight ends on a daily basis. On the practice squad, the Patriots have another fullback in Glenn Gronkowski. 

In Denver, Derby will compete with tight ends Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman and John Phillips for time.