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Bill Belichick on Marcus Cannon: ‘It’s always good to have him on the field’ 12.12.14 at 11:00 am ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

FOXBORO — The way Bill Belichick sees it, a two-year, $9 million extension for Marcus Cannon is money well earned. The Patriots coach made that much clear Friday morning, hours after the extension was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cannon showed his biggest value in 2013 when Sebastian Vollmer went out with a broken leg against the Dolphins in October. He took over at right tackle and helped stabilize the offensive line.

“Last year, he had an opportunity to play a lot,” Belichick said of the 26-year-old offensive lineman out of Texas Christian. “I thought he played well. This year, he gives us a lot of depth at a key position. It’s always good to have him on the field.

“He works hard and is very athletic guy, tough.”

This year has been a bigger challenge for Cannon, who has struggled at times on the left side of the offensive line. He started the first three games at left guard, as the Patriots searched for a replacement for the traded Logan Mankins. But he seemed to find a more comfortable role in the tackle-eligible role when the Patriots went with their jumbo sets.

“Marcus works hard. He’s done a lot of different things for us. He’s improved a lot,” Belichick said.

Belichick would not specifically confirm the new deal for Cannon, focusing instead on the upcoming opponent this weekend at Gillette Stadium.

“I don’t really talk too much about contracts. Just right now worried about Miami,” Belichick said.

Cannon was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon’s deal gives the Patriots some tackle insurance on the offensive line as Nate Solder is facing an upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million. With Cameron Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
Report: Marcus Cannon receives 2-year, $9 million extension from Patriots 12.11.14 at 8:15 pm ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

The Patriots didn’t want Marcus Cannon hitting free agency.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the fourth-year lineman out of Texas Christian and the Patriots have come to an agreement on a two-year, $9 million contract extension. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon is being rewarded for his versatility and the depth he provides on the Patriots’ offensive line. But the bigger factor could be the upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million potentially due left tackle Nate Solder. Cannon started the first three games of the season at left guard before moving to his current role as third tackle and tackle eligible, a role he shares with Cameron Fleming. With Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

The Patriots drafted Cannon in the fifth round of the ’11 draft, with the 138th pick, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans. Cannon was diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the pre-draft process. His value dropped, allowing the Patriots to take a chance on the big lineman. At TCU’s pro day in March 2011, Cannon was measured at 349 pounds. Although he played offensive tackle throughout his TCU career, the Patriots listed Cannon as an offensive guard when announcing the pick.

Weighing in at 358 pounds at the NFL Combine, Cannon was the heaviest player ever drafted by the Patriots, and the second-heaviest player in team history after nose tackle Ted Washington.

Cannon began the 2011 season on the Non-Football Injury list as he recuperated from his chemotherapy treatment, which took place during the NFL lockout.

Cannon was activated to the 53-man roster after the Patriots’ Week 10 game against the New York Jets, and saw his first snaps in the NFL at right tackle on the Patriots’ final drive against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. Cannon was selected as the Patriots’ recipient for the Ed Block Courage Award.

After Sebastian Vollmer went on injured reserve in late October 2013, Cannon started the rest of the season at right tackle.

This season, Cannon has provided even more depth on the exterior of the line, serving as a tackle eligible when the Patriots got into their “jumbo” sets.

Read More: Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, non-hodgkin's lymphoma
Patriots’ 244-yard rushing attack vs. Colts ‘a group effort’ 11.17.14 at 5:56 pm ET
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Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — In Sunday night’s dominant win over the Colts, much of the attention was centered around running back Jonas Gray and his 199 yards and four touchdowns, but he would not have been able to pick up those yards if it weren’t for his blockers leading the way in front of him.

Used to pass-blocking for Tom Brady, left tackle Nate Solder said he and the rest of the offensive linemen sometimes enjoy games like Sunday where the team rushed for 244 yards on 45 carries.

“Yeah, when it’s working, yeah,” Solder said with a smile. “When it’s working you do like that, definitely.”

It was a complete team effort as everyone was involved in the blocking game. Rookie Cameron Fleming saw his first action since Week 4 and was used as an extra tight end on a number of occasions — this going along with fullback James Develin and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui doing their usual solid work.

“Everyone has got their roles and when Cam [Fleming] came in, he did a really good job for us in that jumbo tight end look,” said Develin. “Then Hoo-man [Hoomanawanui] and Gronk, they consistently get the job done on the edge and our offense line blew open some huge holes. It was fun to watch those guys work.”

It was the second game this season the Patriots have had 200 or more yards rushing as they ran for 220 yards against the Bengals in Week 5. It was the 12th time the team has ran for over 200 yards under Bill Belichick and they are 12-0 in those games.

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Read More: Cameron Fleming, James Develin, Nate Solder,
Patriots offensive line comes together following loss of Dan Connolly 10.13.14 at 12:04 pm ET
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ORCHARD PARK N.Y. — With the injuries to rookies Cameron Fleming (finger) and Bryan Stork (concussion) forcing the pair missing Sunday’s game against the Bills, the Patriots used their fourth different starting offensive line combination of the year and third different one in three games.

After Dan Connolly went down with a head injury and did not return in the second quarter, things needed to be shaken up again, but even when things seemed stacked against them — including a tremendous Buffalo front-four — the grouping answered the call, especially when it mattered most in the second half.

Here is a drive-by-drive breakdown of what the Patriots offensive line looked like (left tackle to right tackle):

Drive 1: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Josh Kline, Sebastian Vollmer (Punt)

Drive 2: Solder, Connolly, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Missed field goal)

Drive 3: Solder, Connolly, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Touchdown)

Drive 4: Solder, Connolly, Wendell, Kline, Marcus Cannon (Punt)

Drive 5: Solder, Jordan Devey, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Punt)

Drive 6: Cannon, Devey, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Field goal)

Drive 7: Solder, Devey, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Punt)

Drive 8: Solder, Devey, Wendell, Kline, Vollmer (Field goal)

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Read More: Dan Connolly, Jordan Devey, Josh Kline, Nate Solder
Nate Solder: Urgency is ‘extremely high, as high as it can get’ 10.01.14 at 4:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO —  Nate Solder and the rest of the offensive line know now over a month since Logan Mankins was traded, it’€™s time to pick it up.

“€œExtremely high, as high as it can get,”€ Solder described the urgency of the offensive line and team going into Sunday’€™s game with Cincinnati. “€œMoving forward we have to improve. We have to get better, we have to play better.”

Through four games this season quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked nine times and hurried another 38 times in 147 drop backs, per Pro Football Focus. Brady hasn’€™t put up the numbers he has in the past, as his 59.1 completion percentage is 14th in the AFC with only E.J. Manuel and Jake Locker being worse. Part of the reason for his low numbers is the pressure he’€™s been under and feeling uncomfortable in the pocket.

The team changed things up last week with starting two rookies in center Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming, who moved to right guard from right tackle for the first time in his entire football life, and deactivated guard Jordan Devey who had started the first three games of the year.

When asked how the unit was operating without their former captain in Mankins, Solder explained it’€™s a group effort.

“œWe all work together,” he said. “€œWe have a captain with Dan [Connolly] and we have several guys that have played a lot of ball so we’€™re moving forward.”€

He added: “€œWe keep moving forward. We have plenty of guys that can do it.”

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Read More: Logan Mankins, Nate Solder,
Patriots offensive line continues to make changes, struggling to find right combination 09.30.14 at 12:29 am ET
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Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday's 41-17 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Patriots made a few changes to the struggling offensive line prior to Monday’s game against the Chiefs by starting two rookies — Bryan Stork at center and Cameron Fleming at right guard (his first time ever playing the position), as well as moving Dan Connolly to left guard.

In addition, the team deactivated Jordan Devey, who had started the first three games of the season. Even with the changes, it did not stick as the team continued to rotate players in and out almost every series throughout the game trying to find a combination that works.

Here is our breakdown of the line (left tackle to right tackle) for each of their 11 drives:

  • Drive 1: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Sebastian Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 2: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 3: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 4: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Marcus Cannon (Punt)
  • Drive 5: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 6: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Fumble)
  • Drive 7: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Interception)
  • Drive 8: Cannon, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Touchdown)
  • Drive 9: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Ryan Wendell, Vollmer (Interception)
  • Drive 10: Solder: Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Cannon (Touchdown)
  • Drive 11: Cannon, Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Dan Connolly, Nate Solder
Nate Solder: ‘I don’t think confidence has been a problem’ with offensive line 09.26.14 at 6:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s been a brutal week of criticism for everyone along the Patriots’ offensive line.

Even Tom Brady dropped very subtle hints this week that he needs more time to “make better decisions” and expressed concern that sometimes teams “flatten out” in their improvement and never get above a certain level.

But all of that has done nothing to shake the confidence of one those who has heard the most criticism since the Patriots escapted 16-9 Sunday against the Raiders. Nate Solder figures to once again be the starting left tackle, assigned to slowing down Tamba Hali or Justin Houston. Solder says neither he nor any of his offensive line teammates are in a confidence of crisis.

“I don’t think confidence has been a problem,” Solder insisted Friday after practice. “We’ve been building steadily the whole year and we’re going to continue to do that.

“We’re working hard to fix everything. At this point, it’s just a building process. Things hopefully improve but you never know until game day so we work hard every day to make it better.”

As for slowing Hali or Houston, Solder knows what he’s up against.

“Exceptional players, play really hard and make a lot of plays. Huge challenge for us,” Solder said.

Even with the struggles of the offensive line against the Dolphins and Raiders, Solder and Sebastian Vollmer appear to be fairly secure at the left and right tackle spots, respectively. It’s the interior line where the Patriots might decide to shake things up, especially with veteran center Ryan Wendell not appearing on the injury report.

After struggling through the first three games of the season, the Patriots offensive line is looking forward to showing that it can perform at a higher level when it takes the field Monday night in Kansas City.

If the Patriots decide to shake up the offensive line, such as starting rookie Bryan Stork at center, moving Dan Connolly to right guard or even swapping out left guard Marcus Cannon, they’ll be doing do in one of the most hostile environments in football – Arrowhead Stadium. But Solder, who played in the Big 12 at Colorado, says he’s not overly concerned.

“I imagine the crowd will get into it at some point but our main opponent is the Chiefs so that’s what we’re really focused on.”

Read More: Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
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