Marcus Cannon among six Pats earning PFF All-Pro honors

Marcus Cannon among six Pats earning PFF All-Pro honors

FOXBORO -- The Patriots landed a pile of players on the Pro Football Focus All-Pro teams and the honorees align well with a team that went 14-2 with a balanced offense and a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL. 

One honoree that bears particular notice though is right tackle Marcus Cannon. The much-maligned Cannon whose disappointing performance in the AFC Championship Game last season was chewed on throughout the offseason, was named second-team PFF All-Pro behind Titans rookie Jack Conklin.

According to PFF’s graders, Cannon’s run-blocking numbers were off the charts in 2016 and -- given the numbers put up by the Patriots offense and the eye-test -- those graders were dead-on. His run-blocking at the point of attack and at the second level being as good as anybody in the league. He can overpower head-up against power guys, he can stalk linebackers, safeties and corners. Meanwhile, he’s neutralized pretty much every game-wrecking pass-rusher who’s lined up across from him including Von Miller during that frigid game in Denver.

Whatever satisfaction or redemption Cannon felt after that game, he kept bottled inside. And on Thursday, when I asked him his reaction to postseason recognition (he also received votes for Comeback Player of the Year handed out by MMQB), he declined to get into how he felt while the season was still going on.

The only validation Cannon seems to ever need is that of his coaches and teammates. And they’ve routinely given it to him. A week before that AFCCG loss at Denver, Cannon was dominant in the win against the Chiefs and was celebrated for it. Throughout the early part of the year, Bill Belichick raved when asked about Cannon. And in November, the team gave him a five-year, $32.5M extension with $14.5M guaranteed.

“Marcus showed a lot of mental toughness from the day he got here with the cancer treatments and all that, honestly,” said Belichick, referring to the battle with lymphoma Cannon was waging when he was drafted in 2011. “It’s hard for a rookie to come into the National Football League and just make the adjustment, period. Marcus came in with all that a rookie normally had and his personal situation, the treatments and checkups and so forth. I thought he handled that with great maturity. He’s shown a lot of mental toughness and I’d say everything else is probably not in the same category as that. He shows up to work every day. He’s totally team oriented. Does what he’s asked to do. He never blinks. He just tries to do whatever he can to help the team. He’s got a lot of respect in that locker room.”

Before the season, his locker room was the only place he was getting due respect. Cannon took a pounding from fans and media after the Denver game (ESPN’s Bill Barnwell called Cannon “nobody’s idea of a 16-game starter” in September)  and through the offseason.

To me, his problem was never about talent, smarts or effort. It was about confidence and consistency, as I wrote in August.

That Cannon’s never fired back or attempted to explain or justify himself was something I thought of this week when the Celtics Jae Crowder threw a Twitter tantrum because Celtics fans cheered for Gordon Hayward of the Jazz when Hayward was introduced at the TD Garden Tuesday night.

Not even a personalized attack on the ever-celebrated Crowder and he was stomping his feet. Imagine if he had to walk 10 steps in Cannon’s shoes.

As for the other Patriots honored, maybe I’m burying the lead here but Tom Brady was the first-team quarterback honoree for PFF ahead of Matt Ryan. James Develin was second-team fullback behind Baltimore’s Kyle Juszczyk. Defensively, Malcolm Butler was a first-team corner along with Aqib Talib, Dont'a Hightower was a second-team linebacker honoree and Devin McCourty was a second-team All-Pro PFF safety. 

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?