Raise your hand if you believed before this season that Marcus Cannon would be an All-Pro right tackle for the New England Patriots.
No, you didn’t. Put your hand down.
Cannon spent his first five NFL seasons as a versatile but underwhelming backup, never starting more than eight games as he rotated between guard and tackle. But since taking over for the injured Sebastian Vollmer this past summer, the slimmed-down 28-year-old has played the best football of his career.
Cannon started 15 of the Patriots’ 16 regular-season games, headlining an offensive line that was far more stable, healthy and consistent than its 2015 counterpart. For his efforts, he was awarded a five-year contract extension, plus spots on both Pro Football Focus’ and The Associated Press’ All-Pro second teams.
Asked Monday about Cannon’s accolades, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attributed the O-lineman’s remarkable improvement to a tireless work ethic on the practice field and in the film room.
“Marcus always works hard,” McDaniels said in a conference call with reporters. “He cares about his job. He’s unselfish. He’s done a lot of different things over the course of his career. In my time here, we’ve played him at different positions. He’s been a swing tackle, he’s played guard, we’ve had to use him a little bit at jumbo tight end here and there. But Marcus just works at his craft and tries each day to get better.
“He’s tough. He’s been out there most of the time. Very rarely has that been an issue. He practices extremely hard. He studies. He prepares. He listens intently to the coaching that he’s receiving. (Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia) has worked with him for years, and he’s done a tremendous job.”
Cannon, whose lone DNP came in a Week 5 win over the Cleveland Browns, was on the field for 92.2 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps this season — 1,031 total. He’d never played more than 624 offensive snaps in any previous season.
“I just think that young players always have a chance to get better if they’ll put time and effort into it and they care about football and want to be the best that they can be, and I think that describes Marcus,” McDaniels said. “I’m happy for Marcus. Very happy for Marcus.”
The Patriots boasted seven AP All-Pros this season. Cannon, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Malcolm Butler, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Nate Ebner all earned spots on the second team, while special teamer Matthew Slater was New England’s lone first-team representative.
Thumbnail photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images