Patriots

Cannon to IR thrusts Waddle, Fleming into key roles for Patriots

patriots_cannon_073017.jpg

Cannon to IR thrusts Waddle, Fleming into key roles for Patriots

FOXBORO -- The Patriots haven't had Marcus Cannon since Week 8. Now they'll have to go without him much longer. 

MORE PATRIOTS:

The team announced on Wednesday that Cannon was headed to injured reserve with an ankle injury that he aggravated in a win over the Chargers on Oct. 29. The prospect of Cannon's return - a second-team All-Pro selection last season -- was an enticing one for the Patriots offense as his presence would have had a domino effect on the rest of the unit. Now the team will have to turn others at right tackle. 

For the last two weeks, the choice has been Cameron Fleming. In 129 snaps as a starter against the Bills and Dolphins, he's allowed just three hurries. Not bad for a player who has been third on the depth chart for the majority of the season at that position. 

The reason Fleming was called upon was because of an ankle injury suffered by LaAdrian Waddle in Week 12 against the Dolphins when Waddle was filling in for Cannon. As the starter from Weeks 10-12, Waddle allowed a combined nine quarterback pressures and no sacks. 

The Patriots have gone out of their way to keep capable depth on their roster at that position, and it's paid off. Should they need more, they could turn to undrafted rookie Cole Croston, who has spent the season working at both tackle and guard. Croston is an Iowa product, where he learned line play from head coach Kirk Ferentz (a former line coach under Bill Belichick with the Browns) and Brian Ferentz (a former Patriots assistant).

The Patriots needed to make a move to their 53-man roster Wednesday as Rob Gronkowski was activated from his suspension. 

Belichick's club made a handful of additional moves on Wednesday, making the Kenny Britt signing official and re-signing defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. In order to make room for that duo, the Patriots released punt-returner Bernard Reedy and linebacker Jonathan Freeny. 

Freeny's release could be an indication that the Patriots feel as though Kyle Van Noy's return is relatively close. Jean Francois being back in the fold, meanwhile, could be a sign that there are concerns about fellow lineman Alan Branch's availability. Branch injured his knee in Miami on Monday and did not return to the game. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Trent Dilfer among those not counting the Patriots out

Trent Dilfer among those not counting the Patriots out

After this week's performance against the Lions wrapped up two consecutive uninspiring losses, the yearly cycle for the Patriots has begun: Are they finally done? Is this the year the dynasty falls?

This isn't the last time these questions will be asked. But it's not the first time, either. 

Perhaps the most notable regular-season loss of this decade occured when the Patriots were blown out by the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in 2014. Most Pats fans will remember the doubters emerging in full force about the demise of the New England Patriots. Of course, it ended up being exaggerated, and the team would go on to win another Super Bowl. 

Trent Dilfer was one of those doubters, famously claiming post-game that the Patriots "just aren't that good anymore". 

Fans have used that quote as a rallying cry, and now that the doubts are again rising about the Patriots, he's showing he hasn't forgotten his past transgressions. 

Pats fans wouldn't be too unhappy if things ended up the same as that fateful year. As it stands, many are suffering from PDS. Are these the usual early-season struggles, or indicative of something more? Only time will tell. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

McDaniels takes the blame for offense: 'I need to get better'

McDaniels takes the blame for offense: 'I need to get better'

A measly 10 points? 133 passing yards? If you're looking to place blame for the 1-2 Patriots offensive struggles, the offensive coordinator says to start with him.

"I haven’t done a good enough job the last two weeks of putting us in the right positions to be successful, and I need to get better at that," Josh McDaniels told reporters on a conference call Monday in the aftermath of a 26-10 loss in Detroit. "I need to do a better job of helping them do that and we need to play better."

It's the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double-digits since 2002. 

"We try to come up with the right things each week, in each situation – you know, practice them and then hopefully execute them properly in the game," said McDaniels, who had agreed to take the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job in the offseason before he was talked out of it and remained in New England for a new five-year deal reportedly worth more than $4 million a year. 

Of failing to convert on third downs, McDaniels said: "We felt like those gave us an opportunity to do that, and certainly Detroit did a better job of executing and defending us on those plays than we did. So, again, I take responsibility for all those things, and they didn’t work out so we have to do a better job of finding a way to make those short-yardage conversions moving forward."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE