Patriots

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. 

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: