Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Patriots rookie Marcus Cannon at tackle for TCU.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots are rapidly approaching the deadline to make a decision on whether to activate rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve. After starting the year on the reserve/non-football injury list, Cannon participated in his first practice session last month and is scheduled to reach the end of his three-week window on Nov. 15.
The 6-foot-6, 348-pound Cannon, the team's fifth-round draft choice out of Texas Christian, said last month that he's in full remission after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now it's up to the team to determine if he'll be physically able to help this team over the final two months of the season.
"It's good to have him out there," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I think he’s working hard. He hasn’t had a chance to play until we activated him, but he’s gotten better consistently. It’s great to have him out there. We’ll see how it goes."
When healthy, the Patriots are fairly stocked at tackle with Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer in stating roles, while rookie first-round pick Nate Solder has shown an ability to play on both sides of the line (as well as serve as a third tight end). The team would seem to need more depth inside, but Belichick hinted Cannon might have enough versatility to play any spot on the line.
"He’s played a lot more at tackle than he has any place else on the line. He played there in college and he’s played both sides. He hasn’t played a lot inside," said Belichick. "I personally don’t see any reason why he couldn’t play inside -- I think he’s athletic enough, he’s certainly big enough, he has enough power and enough quickness, so ultimately what is his best position? Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, right guard? I’m not sure.
"In the third week of practice, he’s taken a lot of snaps, most of them have been with the scout team, but he’s worked in a couple of different positions. I don’t see any limitations, but that being said he hasn’t done it. He hasn’t done a lot of it, especially at guard. He’s a lot more comfortable at tackle; he has a lot more experience at tackle. That’s not saying he couldn’t play another position, but it would only be based on limited snaps at this point."
The notion of position flexibility left Belichick talking at length about the luxury that having a player that can play both inside and outside could provide on the gameday roster, potentially giving the team the ability to carry one less depth lineman and stock up at another spot.
"That’s a good question and it’s definitely an interesting question when you look at your offensive line," said Belichick. "When you go through the draft, you go through free agency, you look at the players in the league, there are a lot of guys who are tackles, there are a lot of guys who are guards, there are a lot of guys who are centers and that’s the only position they play. Then you have some players who can play center and guard and then you have some players who can play guard and tackle and probably, I don’t want to say they can’t play center, but that would be the least of the three.
"Trying to find the versatility of that player, it changes the makeup of your roster, too, particularly when you take seven linemen to a game. If you have a guard-tackle, swing player then you could potentially go to the game with five inside players -- your three starters, another inside player and then a guard-tackle swing guy as opposed to having just a three position swing guy inside and then trying to find a swing tackle, if you will. Just trying to figure all that out but somewhere along the offensive line you have to have some position flexibility because you can’t – nobody takes 10 offensive linemen to the game, you’d have a backup center, backup left tackle, backup right guard, you just can’t do it. You have to find some versatility in there somewhere.
"A center-guard combination, there are a lot of players that do that. We had [George] Bussey -- he was a guard-tackle swing player as an example. And then we’ve had certainly plenty of guard-center swing guys so it’s just a question of finding the right mix. It doesn’t rule anything out, but it just changes it, it just changes it a little bit. We’ve had more inside swing guys than we’ve had guard-tackle swing guys, but there are plenty of them in the league. Maybe Marcus is that, but I’m not sure."