New England Patriots: Marcus Cannon

Checking the locks: Patriots OL

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4
5:00
AM ET
As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. It's offensive linemen on Thursday.

Sure-fire locks: LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, RT Sebastian Vollmer, OT/G Marcus Cannon, C Bryan Stork, RG Jon Halapio, RT Cameron Fleming

Near lock: G Josh Kline

Trying to get in the door: C Ryan Wendell, C/G Dan Connolly, C/G Braxston Cave, G Chris Barker, OT Jordan Devey, OT Chris Martin

Mankins
ANALYSIS: When it comes to competitions in training camp, offensive line is near the top of the list. Unlike last year, when the Patriots were combing the waiver wire in late August in hopes of finding some developmental blockers with upside, they are well-stocked to the point that incumbent starters Wendell and Connolly could feel pressure to keep top roles. It will all come down to how quickly draft picks such as Stork (fourth round, 105th overall) and Halapio (sixth round, 179th overall) develop and injuries, as well as how many offensive linemen the team ultimately decides to keep (anywhere between eight and 10). Wendell and Connolly have played plenty of good football for the Patriots, and are top-notch locker-room guys, so they warrant respect and should not be written off. But when a team drafts three offensive linemen, it's quite possible something will have to give somewhere along the line if everyone remains healthy.

Patriots pick Cameron Fleming in 4th

May, 10, 2014
May 10
2:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The pick: Cameron Fleming, offensive tackle, Stanford (140th)

My take: After not selecting an offensive lineman in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, the Patriots double-dipped this year, first with center Bryan Stork (4th round, 105th) and then Fleming. This is important from a feed-the-pipeline and salary-cap integrity standpoint. Specific to Fleming, the pick strikes me as "Marcus Cannon Insurance." Cannon enters the final year of his contract and he's proven to be a starting caliber player who could be worthy of a lucrative contract next offseason that the Patriots might not be able to match. There also is an element of "Sebastian Vollmer Insurance" as well, as the team's starting right tackle is recovering from a broken ankle sustained last October and has battled injuries at times over his career.

Size stands out: Fleming is listed at 6-foot-4 7/8 and 323 pounds. It just so happened that Stanford coach David Shaw was on NFL Network at the time of the pick, and he said, "The first thing that stands out is size." Shaw added that 323 pounds might be generous. Fleming was an Aeronautics and Astronautics major at Stanford.

Offensive tackle depth chart: Nate Solder (left), Sebastian Vollmer (right/left), Marcus Cannon (right), Fleming (right), Jordan Devey, R.J. Mattes.

What's next: The Patriots have three sixth-round picks (179, 198, 206) and a seventh-rounder (244).

Leftovers from weekly Pats chat

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
5:00
AM ET
A few leftovers from our weekly New England Patriots chat:

Evan (NJ): Hi Mike, in the AFC Championship Game last year, our pass rush was nearly nonexistent. I think we definitely need to sign a strong pass rusher to give Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich some relief. Do you see the draft or free agency as being the better option?

Evan, I do think we'll see an addition at defensive end behind Jones and Ninkovich, as the team has explored veteran Will Smith as one possibility. But another point to consider is how a pass rush comes from more places than just the defensive end spot. A better interior push will also be a factor and the team should upgrade in that area if Armond Armstead emerges as a contributor. I could also see Jamie Collins being more of a factor in this area. Better coverage also helps the rush and the Patriots look pretty solid in the secondary right now.

James (England): If, as you suggested, linebacker Ryan Shazier is an option in the first round, do you project him as playing inside or outside?

James, I think Shazier is best suited off the line, so it would depend on what defense the team is in. Part of my thinking with Shazier is that 70 percent of defense is played in sub anyway and he could ultimately be a big part of that. Also, there is a pretty notable dropoff after the top three linebackers of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and more quality depth is needed.

Joe (Waltham): Mike, do you think the Patriots draft a QB in this draft? Obviously the visits of Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were nothing more than educating themselves more on the draft board, but if someone like AJ McCarron falls to the bottom of the 2nd or even the 3rd, do you think they consider it?

Yes, Joe, I think that is a distinct possibility. A late second-round pick seems a bit rich to me for a quarterback but I think anything after that is in play. Just as Ryan Mallett was a third-round pick in 2011, it wouldn't surprise me if the team picked a quarterback that early this year if the right prospect is there (e.g. Pittsburgh's Tom Savage).

Earl (Marlborough, Mass.): I thought that Will Svitek filled in pretty admirably for injuries early on in the season, and he has versatility. What is his likelihood of return as depth on OL?

Earl, Svitek helped the Patriots through an early stretch of injuries in the preseason but by the end of the season, it was notable to me that rookie Josh Kline was thrust into action over him. Part of that could have been due to Svitek battling an injury. My sense is that the plan would be to turn that guard position over to a younger (less expensive) player like Kline or Chris Barker, knowing that the team goes three deep at tackle with Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon.

Carlos (Maine): Mike, why is it just assumed that Ryan Mallett is gone next year?

Carlos, Mallett enters the final year of his contract in 2014 and thus is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at this time next year. With Tom Brady entrenched as the starter here, and signed through 2017, it makes sense to think that Mallett will likely want to pursue a better chance to start elsewhere. The door should never be slammed shut on Mallett's return, but I'd think the odds wouldn't favor it at this point.

Patriots positional review: OL

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
5:00
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Continuing our positional review/offseason preview, here’s a look at the New England Patriots offensive linemen.

Guard Logan Mankins
Age: 31
2013 status: Played and started every game this season, including one at left tackle when Nate Solder suffered a concussion.
2013 highlights: The tone-setter. Mankins flexed his toughness throughout the year and showed his versatility in kicking out to tackle as well. A road grader in the running game who was named to the Pro Bowl. After nine seasons, Mankins remains one of the top interior linemen in the league.
Current contract runs through: 2016 season

Left tackle Nate Solder
Age: 25
2013 status: Played and started 15 games at left tackle. Also logged 22 snaps as a tight end during the regular season.
2013 highlights: Solder continues to blossom into one of the top young left tackles in the league. Has a compelling mix of length and power, but can continue to grow sturdier in his base. Was at-times dominant. Missed his first career game with a concussion.
Current contract runs through: 2014 season (team can exercise option through 2015)

Center Ryan Wendell
Age: 27
2013 status: Played and started every game at center.
2013 highlights: After an exceptional 2012, Wendell wasn’t quite as solid in 2013. He can be outmanned in the middle sometimes with his light frame, but he remains a solid technician. Smart, involved in the line calls and an accurate shotgun snapper, he’s a center you can certainly win with.
Current contract runs through: Free agent

Right guard Dan Connolly
Age: 31
2013 status: Played and started every game at right guard.
2013 highlights: After a down 2012, Connolly bounced back for a steady 2013. Offers unique versatility to play both guard spots and center. Not an overwhelm-er at the point of attack, but has good short area quickness and athleticism. If Wendell departs in free agency, Connolly could return to center.
Current contract runs through: 2014 season

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer
Age: 29
2013 status: Played and started eight games before being placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken leg.
2013 highlights: Dominant when on the field. The towering right tackle was among the best at his position before the injury. Powerful and athletic, his loss was felt along the line.
Current contract runs through: 2016 season

Guard/tackle Marcus Cannon
Age: 25
2013 status: Played in 14 games, starting six in place of Vollmer.
2013 highlights: The Patriots’ utility man along the line, Cannon took snaps at both tackle spots. He has experience at guard as well. As a starter, he was sufficient. Had some struggles against elite defensive ends but has continued to progress. Gives the Patriots insurance along the line.
Current contract runs through: 2014 season

Guard/tackle Will Svitek
Age: 32
2013 status: Played in 13 games, starting two at right tackle when Cannon was out due to injury.
2013 Highlights: Another utility lineman who returned from injury after missing the entire 2012 season. Held up in spot duty at both guard and tackle. A veteran with positional versatility.
Current contract runs through: Free agent.

Guard Josh Kline
Age: 24
2013 status: Played in seven games, starting against Baltimore when Mankins played left tackle.
2013 highlights: Emerged as a young, developmental prospect. Went undrafted out of Kent State but could stick around as a player the Patriots can count on. Performed at a high level in start against the Ravens.
Current contract runs through: 2015 season

Guard Chris Barker
Age: 23
2013 status: Played in four games.
2013 highlights: A reserve who was active sporadically, seeing some time on the field goal/extra point team.
Current contract runs through: 2015 season

Others on the roster: C/G Braxton Cave, T Jordan Devey, OL R.J. Mattes, OT Markus Zusevics

POSITIONAL NEED: Contractually, the Patriots have four of their five starters from 2013 in place for next season, as Wendell is the lone free agent. If the team brings him back, the 2014 starters may well mirror this year’s starting group. If Wendell doesn’t return, the team could shift Connolly back to center, use Cannon at right guard and form an altered starting five. Kline showed promise as a developmental prospect, while Barker, Cave, Devey, Zusevics and Mattes are lesser-known prospects. Given that Cave was claimed off of waivers from Cleveland at the start of the season, he could be a player the team has a preferred level of interest in. All told, the Patriots have options along the offensive line. The angle worth watching closely is the transition from longtime coach Dante Scarnecchia to Dave DeGuglielmo. Scarnecchia was simply phenomenal, both as an X’s and O’s coach and talent developer. This group had some struggles on the whole in pass protection this season, but can be a strength of the roster with a bounce-back season.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
11:26
PM ET

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing thoughts on the New England Patriots' 43-22 divisional-round playoff victory Saturday over the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game for the eighth time in Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, which continues a remarkable run of success for Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Many of the faces around them have changed over the years, but Belichick and Brady have been the constants, and one could make a case this has been their most impressive season as a tandem. The Patriots have been hit as hard by injuries as any team in the NFL, but they've willed their way to put themselves in position to win their first Super Bowl championship since the 2004 season.

Running game sparks attack again: For the third consecutive game, the Patriots' ground attack was the difference-maker, led by hard-charging LeGarrette Blount (franchise-record four rushing touchdowns). The Patriots split snaps at running back evenly among Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and sliced up the Colts with strong work up front by the offensive line -- left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Logan Mankins, center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly and right tackle Marcus Cannon -- as well as tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan and fullback James Develin. When the Patriots run it like this, it brings back memories of the 2004 Super Bowl championship team for which bruiser Corey Dillon was the lead back.

Injuries to monitor: Punter Ryan Allen left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski handled the punting duties, and Brady handled the holder responsibilities as part of the field-goal operation. If Allen is unavailable in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots would almost certainly bring in another punter. Former Patriot Zoltan Mesko isn't an option, as he punted for the Bengals in the playoffs and isn't eligible to join another team. ... Elsewhere, rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury (presumably a concussion) and did not return. Veteran Austin Collie was his replacement.

Stock watch: Jamie Collins -- up. The Patriots' top pick in the 2013 draft (52nd overall) was thrust into an expanded role, in part because linebacker Brandon Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the week. Collins had played just 25 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season, but he didn't come off the field and made his presence felt as a tackler, pass-rusher and in coverage with an interception. He was all over the field in what was a coming out party for the ultra-athletic defender from Southern Mississippi.

What's next: The Patriots will play in the AFC Championship Game against the winner of Sunday's game between the visiting San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos (4:40 p.m. ET). If Denver beats San Diego, the AFC Championship Game will be played in Denver. If San Diego beats Denver, the AFC Championship Game will be played in New England. Regardless of location, the game will be played at 3 p.m. ET next Sunday.

Picked-up pieces from 1st-quarter review

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
4:25
PM ET
Picked-up pieces from reviewing the first quarter of the New England Patriots’ 41-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

1. Offensive lineman Logan Mankins talked after the game about the Patriots having success with zone runs, which displaced the Ravens' sturdy defensive front, as defenders were often over-pursuing. This was evident on LeGarrette Blount’s 11-yard run (1:50 remaining) as the Patriots created a strong side to the left with tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan and ran in that direction, with Blount hitting the cut perfectly as the left side sealed things off and right guard Dan Connolly got enough of nose tackle Terrence Cody to create enough of a crease. That was the type of run play in which the Patriots had great success throughout the day, and the key seemed to be getting the big Ravens defenders moving east-west at the snap.

[+] EnlargeLeGarrette Blount
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesLeGarrette Blount's runs in the first quarter, including one for a TD, owed much to the Patriots' offensive line.
2. The overall offensive line play was solid, although right tackle Marcus Cannon seemed to be the primary breakdown with two negative runs – defensive tackle Arthur Jones crossed his face to bring down Stevan Ridley for a loss of 2 yards (7:03 remaining) while Cannon missed a block on Terrell Suggs when Blount was brought down for a loss of 3 yards (1:18 remaining).

3. The first offensive play foreshadowed what was to come the rest of the day in terms of the Patriots’ approach. Out of their 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package, the Patriots aligned tight ends to both sides (in more of a pass set) and brought receivers Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman in tight to the formation to constrict the defense. The Ravens countered with an eight-man box and Connolly pulled to deliver one of several solid blocks on Blount’s 5-yard run over the left side. An opening play can sometimes be described as an “attitude” play, and that’s how we’d view this one.

4. Marquice Cole, playing the role of gunner on the punt team, drew the penalty on Jimmy Smith that led to the Ravens starting their initial drive at their own 7.

5. When the Patriots’ running game is discussed, much credit goes to the offensive line, tight ends and backs. But receivers shouldn’t be overlooked. Patriots receivers are willing blockers, and they were involved in run-blocking Sunday, as evidenced on Blount’s 14-yard run (12:18 remaining). Dobson half-motioned into the line of scrimmage and blocked down on Suggs before getting up on linebacker Jameel McClain. Good effort, and you also see Edelman doing his part, knocking safety Matt Elam on his backside in front of the play.

6. More physical play – fullback James Develin plowing through the hole and pancaking linebacker Josh Bynes on Blount’s 1-yard touchdown run.

7. Develin was also a factor on the Patriots’ second red-zone touchdown, his vertical route helping create traffic so McClain had to go around him to cover running back Shane Vereen. Great design and execution, which came after CBS analyst Phil Simms said, “Of course they didn’t give us any details last night, but I think the Patriots have a lot of stuff up their sleeve [in the red zone], ways to get guys singled up so they can make plays a little easier. No Gronkowski for the jump ball. No big, tall receiver on the outside to throw the fade to in the corners. Gotta find a different way.” Simms’ timing, like the Patriots’ execution, was perfect.

8. For such a flag-happy game, one detail stood out on the play in which Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted Joe Flacco: Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe isn’t on the line of scrimmage, as it’s noticeable that the left side of the Ravens’ line is fanned out in a way that gives them an unfair advantage in pass protection. That should have been an illegal-formation penalty from our view.

9. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork once again accompanied the team on the trip and was seen jotting down notes after Ryan’s interception. Looks like the Patriots have an addition to their staff: Coach Wilfork.

10. Cornerback Kyle Arrington can be a lightning rod of sorts among Patriots followers because of his occasional struggles on the outside, but one aspect that coaches have to appreciate about him is his toughness when playing in the slot. On Bernard Pierce’s 5-yard run (3:41 remaining), Arrington set the edge against tight tackle Michael Oher, forcing Pierce to cut the run back. Tale of the tape – Arrington (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) vs. Oher (6-4, 315). Those are little effort things that showed up throughout review of the game -- the Patriots getting more of those type of plays. The run wasn’t defended particularly well on the backside, but Arrington more than did his part.

11. One change for the Patriots in their rush front was keeping Chandler Jones outside, with Andre Carter instead rushing from an interior position. Probably just a case of the Patriots attempting to dictate specific blocking matchups, but it was a switch from the norm.

12. Edelman’s first quarter: 34-yard pass-interference penalty drawn, 5-yard illegal-contact penalty drawn, one incomplete pass, a 17-yard reception and an 11-yard punt return. It’s the type of production we regularly saw from Wes Welker in 2007-2012. No doubt, this is as well as Edelman has played in the NFL. He's their go-to guy right now in the passing game.

13. Vereen came out of the game after pulling up on a second-and-13 incomplete pass in his direction (44 seconds remaining) as he was running down the left sideline with McClain in coverage. Vereen left for the locker room but later came back to the sideline (although he never re-entered the game). As of late Sunday night, it wasn’t considered anything serious with Vereen; it was more of a precaution. There was a penalty on the play for an illegal shift on receiver Danny Amendola.

Reiss' P.A.T. with Marcus Cannon

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
7:42
PM ET

Mike Reiss delivers the latest news from Gillette Stadium, catches up with offensive lineman Marcus Cannon and answers your Twitter questions.

Solder and Cannon active vs. Dolphins

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
11:52
AM ET
MIAMI -- New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, who missed Wednesday's practice and was listed as questionable to play in Week 15 due to a recently suffered concussion, is active for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Solder, who returned to practice on a limited basis for both Thursday and Friday, conducted a pregame workout with members of the team's medical staff in the hours leading up to the game.

He played every offensive snap in the team's Week 14 win over the Browns and has been a top performer on their line since assuming the left tackle role on a permanent basis to start the 2012 season.

The team will have its starting offensive line intact this week as right tackle Marcus Cannon, who has missed two straight games due to an ankle injury, is also active. The Patriots have relied on veteran Will Svitek in his absence.

The Patriots, who can clinch their fifth straight AFC East title with a win, announced that defensive ends Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, guard Chris Barker and tight end D.J. Williams will be inactive today, joining receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, previously ruled out due to injury.

Below are the inactives for both teams:

Patriots
Guard Chris Barker
Linebacker Steve Beauharnais
Defensive end Jake Bequette
Defensive end Michael Buchanan
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson
Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins
Tight end D.J. Williams

Dolphins
Offensive line David Arkin
Safety D.J. Campbell
Quarterback Pat Develin
Defensive tackle A.J. Francis
Defensive back Justin Rogers
Cornerback Jamar Taylor
Offensive line Danny Watkins

Analysis: Beyond the news that the Patriots will have their offensive line intact, they'll also return tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who has missed three games due to a knee injury. The fact that D.J. Williams is inactive, leaving the Patriots with just two healthy tight ends today, could be a sign that Hoomanawanui is ready for extensive action. While the Patriots are down to just three defensive ends with both Buchanan and Bequette inactive, it's been several weeks since Buchanan has played at all on defense. The Patriots will continue to lean on Andre Carter as the top reserve behind Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones at the defensive end spot.

Solder misses practice with concussion

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
6:12
PM ET
Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder missed Wednesday's practice due to a concussion, according to the team's practice report.

Solder did not miss any snaps during the Patriots' Week 14 win over the Browns, and it is unclear when the injury took place.

He was one of two Patriots to miss practice on Wednesday, as rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson missed his seventh consecutive practice after suffering a foot injury during a Week 12 win over the Broncos.

Solder will need to pass NFL concussion protocols to return to practice. His status for this Sunday's game in Miami is not known at this time.

Tackle Marcus Cannon was limited in his return to practice, as he's sat out two weeks due to an ankle injury that has thrust Will Svitek into a starting role.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who has been previously limited by a knee injury, was also limited by a shoulder injury, which he suffered on Sunday against the Browns.

Cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Kyle Arrington (groin) and Marquice Cole (shin) were also limited, as was quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder). Brady has been limited in practice during previous parts of the season, though the issue has not seemed to limit him at all during games.

Patriots rule out Dobson, Cannon

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
4:10
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots on Friday ruled out rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) and starting right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Dobson
Both were injured in a Week 12 matchup with the Denver Broncos and have not practiced since. A timetable for their respective returns is not known.

With Dobson out, the Patriots might turn to veteran receiver Austin Collie, who was re-signed this week. In addition to Dobson, fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) is questionable and practicing on a limited basis this week.

Veteran Will Svitek is expected to earn his second consecutive start in Cannon's place. He's the third player to man the right side of the line for the Patriots this season, as season-opening starter Sebastian Vollmer was previously placed on injured reserve.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee), who practiced Wednesday but was absent on Thursday and Friday to appear in court in Lincoln, Neb., for hearings relating to previous arrests, is among those players listed as questionable.

Top cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), as well as cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (groin) and Marquice Cole (shin) are also questionable.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed Wednesday's practice due to a non-injury issue, is questionable with a knee injury.

The Patriots can clinch their fifth straight division crown Sunday with a win and a Dolphins loss.

Will Bolden's absence open door for Ridley?

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
11:05
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Running back Brandon Bolden was not spotted at the start of Friday morning's rainy New England Patriots practice, which sparked the following question: Could this open the door for Stevan Ridley to return to the 46-man game-day roster?

Ridley
Ridley
Bolden hasn't been listed on the team's injury report this week and the absence could be non-injury related. More details regarding Bolden's absence should be learned around 4 p.m. ET when the official participation report is released.

The Patriots dressed three running backs for last Sunday's win against the Texans -- Shane Vereen (41 of 70 snaps), LeGarrette Blount (20 snaps) and Bolden (9) -- which left Ridley on the sidelines. Since that decision, one of the top storylines surrounding the team is if Ridley will continue to be a healthy scratch, or if he might re-emerge in some form. Bolden's status could have a direct impact on the answer.

The other area of note that caught the eye at practice was seeing fill-in starting right tackle Will Svitek's right ankle heavily taped. Svitek landed on the injury report Wednesday, leaving the Patriots vulnerable at tackle because starter Sebastian Vollmer (leg) is on season-ending injured reserve and top backup Marcus Cannon (ankle) remains out of practice.

Also with receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) not practicing, it essentially rules him out Sunday for the second straight game.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard wasn't present for the second day in a row as he is due in court for a second day in Nebraska.

Svitek, Talib & Slater draw media crowds

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
8:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few picked-up pieces from the New England Patriots' locker room during the media-access period (1:15-2 p.m.):

Svitek
Svitek's rise to top unit yields attention: Veteran offensive lineman Will Svitek, who signed a one-year free-agent contract with the Patriots in the offseason, will start at right tackle with Marcus Cannon (ankle) having already been ruled out. Svitek was one of the more popular players drawing media attention and he discussed what this season has been like for him under coach Dante Scarnecchia. "He focuses on technique so much, and details, and he works us hard," Svitek said. "He's a great coach, he really knows fundamentals and he knows the scheme. I've learned a lot. This is my ninth year and I feel like I'm a rookie again sometimes because I've learned so many different things."

Talib on mental approach: Cornerback Aqib Talib was one of the few players to draw a large media crowd. He answered a question on the mental challenge of keeping an edge against a two-win team. "It's football, man. Any given Sunday. You still have to line up, you still have to prepare. Just because they're 2-9 doesn't mean they're going to hand us the win.," he said. "We prepare all week for it and treat it like it's any other week." When it comes to possibly taking their foot off the accelerator, Talib cited a "great coaching staff" and added the coaches "don't let us do that."

Special teams units find motivation from 2012: Special teams captain Matthew Slater reflected on two 2012 games against the Texans, and said coaches have challenged them to be better than they were. "They really embarrassed us last year the way they performed against us," he said. "Almost everything could have been better," he said.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
11:33
PM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the New England Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: Great game as Cam Newton outdueled Tom Brady. Brady brought his "A" game but this was Newton's night. He had some dazzling runs against a defense that couldn't make the stop at the critical time. The Patriots fall to 7-3, and they will look back at some lost opportunities as this game was there for the taking. This was a limited-possession game -- the Patriots had just seven offensive drives -- which magnified mistakes on both sides. The Patriots had more of them early and trailed 10-3 at the half before the teams combined to play an exciting second half. A third-and-1 incomplete pass through the back of the end zone forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal to go up 20-17, which set up the Panthers' game-winning touchdown drive. The Patriots fought to the finish, but their final drive fell short with the clock also working against them. Should a penalty have been called on the final play? Fair question.

Aqib Talib vs. Steve Smith: This was the matchup within the matchup and the win goes to Smith, the Panthers' veteran receiver. The two were jawing from the get-go and had to be separated several times after plays. Talib appeared to lose his cool early. Smith beat Talib for a 42-yard gain down the left side in the first quarter, which was a tone-setter of sorts for a one-on-one battle that was especially fun to watch. Talib ultimately left the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury and didn't return.

Stock watch: Patriots running back Stevan Ridley's ball-security issues resurfaced. He fumbled on the team's second drive and was kept on the sideline for 18 snaps before the coaches went back to him. Ridley runs hard, but if he continues to struggle holding on to the ball, it will likely lead to a drop in his playing time.

Injuries to monitor: Patriots No. 2 tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. In his absence, five-year veteran Matthew Mulligan bumped up the depth chart and fullback James Develin was utilized a bit more. Also, as noted above, Talib left with a hip injury in the fourth quarter.

Leg whip by Cannon draws scrutiny: Patriots tight tackle Marcus Cannon's leg whip on Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, which knocked Johnson out of the game with a knee injury, wasn't penalized. But Cannon will likely hear from the NFL in terms of a fine.

Turnover streak snapped: The Patriots had forced a turnover in 36 straight games entering the night, which was the longest active streak in the NFL, but that came to an end.

What's next: The Patriots return home to host the Denver Broncos on Sunday night. Another Brady versus Peyton Manning matchup will be a top storyline, along with receiver Wes Welker's return to town. Welker sustained a concussion in the Broncos' win over the Chiefs on Sunday and his status will be monitored closely.

Vollmer injury spotlights OL depth

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:48
PM ET
When starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer remained down on the ground in the second quarter of Sunday's win against the Miami Dolphins, and could be heard screaming in pain on the television broadcast and was later carted to the locker room, it had all the makings of a season-ending situation.

Thus, it was little surprise that the Boston Herald is reporting Vollmer was set to undergo surgery Monday to repair a broken bone in his right leg.

Let's focus on the trickle-down effect this has on the offensive line depth chart:

Marcus Cannon: The third-year player from Texas Christian has been the team's swing tackle this season and also has flexibility to play right guard. He replaced Vollmer in Sunday's game at right tackle and is now the projected starter going forward. Line coach Dante Scarnecchia was complimentary of Cannon in spring camps. "Love his physicality. Love his passion for the game," Scarnecchia said. "He’s a smart kid, a great kid to coach, he’s driven to be very good. I think he’s a really good tackle. ... He’s a special kid, a starting quality player. I love the kid."

Will Svitek: An eight-year veteran in his first season with the Patriots, Svitek now bumps up from No. 7 to No. 6 on the offensive line depth chart, meaning he will be the swing tackle. He also has flexibility to play right guard. Svitek represents good depth for the Patriots, having proven to be a capable fill-in in recent years with the Falcons (10 starts in 2011) and before that the Chiefs (4 starts in 2007). The Patriots signed Svitek to a one-year, $1 million contract in the offseason and that looks like a sound insurance policy right now.

Chris Barker: The undrafted rookie from Nevada is on the developmental track, having been inactive for the past five games. But the Patriots obviously see enough from him to want to keep him on the roster, as he's also cross-trained a bit at center. Because the Patriots generally go into games with seven offensive linemen, Barker would now likely become a candidate to be on the 46-man game-day roster as the seventh lineman if the team doesn't add another player at the position.

Braxston Cave/Jordan Devey/Josh Kline: The three offensive linemen create added layers of depth on the practice squad, and could be promoted to the active roster if the Patriots decide they want more insurance for game day. Cave and Kline are interior linemen, while Devey is a tackle.

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
2:25
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing a few thoughts at halftime, as the New England Patriots trail the Miami Dolphins, 17-3:

Ugly half of football. This has been one of the Patriots' worst halves of the season. The tone was set by Tom Brady's interception on the team's second offensive play -- an inaccurate delivery to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was a bad throw by Brady, who might be dealing with discomfort with the middle and ring fingers on his throwing hand.

Where's Ridley? Running back Stevan Ridley, the team's leading rusher in 2012, was limited to six snaps in the first half (not including final kneel-down) as the Patriots went mostly with Brandon Bolden (15 snaps), while mixing in LeGarrette Blount (starter who totaled 5 snaps). A bit of a head-scratcher there.

Cole over Ryan at cornerback. Without top cornerback Aqib Talib, the Patriots started Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington at the position, with Marquice Cole playing the nickelback role. It was Cole who overran receiver Brandon Gibson on the Dolphins' first touchdown. The Patriots used rookie cornerback Logan Ryan in that role last week, but he hasn't played a defensive snap today, with Cole getting the nod over him.

Dolphins sparked by run. Miami ran the ball 21 times in the first half, and you wonder if the same approach would be taken if the Patriots had Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at defensive tackle, and Jerod Mayo at linebacker. The Patriots just aren't as sturdy in the front seven and the Dolphins are taking it to them. Credit goes to the Dolphins for executing and winning the critical situations.

Injury report. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer left with a right leg injury and has already been ruled out. Looked like the season-ending type, but that hasn't been confirmed. That thrusts third-year player Marcus Cannon into the statring mix at right tackle, with veteran Will Svitek now the top backup.

Patriots get the ball. The Patriots had won the opening toss and elected to defer, so they will receive the opening kickoff of the second half. The home crowd booed the Patriots as they kneeled on the ball at the end of the second quarter.

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