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. 

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

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Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are looking at losing both coordinators, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, to head coaching jobs in the near future. When it happens, that will prompt questions. What's next? How will this impact the on-the-field product? What about the culture?

The short answer: As long as Bill Belichick is around, the Patriots will be the Patriots. The expectations. The culture. The schemes. They all remain. 

"I mean, I believe so," said Patriots captain Duron Harmon. "The culture is built. The culture is built. This is two decades of winning. A winning franchise. Coach Belichick is going to make sure whoever is in the defensive room is going to be the right guy to display the message and the picture that he wants his defense to play with. That goes through the defensive coordinator, whoever he hires."

That's not to say that filling the coordinator job on either side of the football will be easy. Consistency at those positions has value, whether it's in how new players pick up the system, or how certain fundamentals are taught. 

"Whenever you're trying to get something done professionally, to be able to have consistent leadership and foundation upon which to build is important," Patriots captain Matthew Slater said. "A consistent message, understanding what you're trying to get done. And we're fortunate not only with Josh but obviously Coach Belichick and the rest of our coaching staff.

"That consistency with the character of the coach, with the message of the coach, with what he demands of you is important because it helps set a standard. And then when players come in you say, 'OK this is what's expected of me and anything less is not going to be good enough.' " 

Harmon acknowledged that the consistency of having one coordinator in place for several years -- both Patricia and McDaniels have held their titles since 2012 -- can help. But, as just Slater pointed out the consistency coming from the team's head coach, Harmon explained that everything starts with Belichick.

"It's important," Harmon said of having consistency on staff. "Not only is it important coming from the defensive coordinator, but it's important coming from the head coach. Coach Belichick does a great job of always portraying the message he wants, and how he wants his team to play, and it goes through the coordinators and then to the position coaches and then to the players. I think the consistency is not always built straight from the defensive coordinator. I think Coach Belichick does a great job of doing that as well."

It won't be an easy job to replace McDaniels and Patricia when they leave, particularly since the favorites to be their successors could in theory leave with them. But as long as Belichick remains, so too will the standard he's set.