MicroPats 2018 Week 2 vs. Jaguars: The Absence of Marcus Cannon Leaves Big Hole in Patriots O-Line

Marcus Cannon and his calf injury was one of the least talked about injuries heading into the Patriots Week Two tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cannon was a question mark when the Patriots drafted him in the Fifth Round of the 2011 Draft out of TCU. Not because of his skills, but because he was battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since kicking cancer to the curb, Cannon has gone on to become one of the best linemen for the Patriots and one of the best lineman in the NFL. Cannon can play guard as well as tackle, and his versatility paved the way for a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension in November 2016. However, after missing the second half of the 2017 season with an ankle injury, Cannon started and played an exceptional season opener against the Texans before suffering a calf strain. That calf strain sidelined him for the game against the Jaguars and inserted LaAdrian Waddle as the right tackle.

Waddle did a pretty good job as the reserve “swing-tackle” for the Patriots last season (starting four games), and his role this season was supposed to be as the primary swing-tackle. In a perfect world (read: non-injury world) Waddle’s job is to come in as the third tackle in certain running formations, and to also sub-in as a tackle when the Patriots are trying to give either of their starting tackles a breather. Waddle is one of those guys that is a great third tackle, and is a fringe starting tackle. That is in no way a dig at his abilities. When going toe-to-toe against an average pass rusher, he can get the job done. However, Waddle has had some issues when asked to take on some of the best in the game.

In the season opener, he had to face one of the best lines in football in the Houston Texans’ defensive line. He did not have his best game when filling in for Marcus Cannon. His responsibilities did not get any easier in the second game when slotted in as the starting right tackle versus the Jaguars due to the Cannon injury. Again, it was not his best performance; he was one-on-one with Dante Fowler on the 3rd down play in the fourth quarter that ended with Fowler’s strip sack of Brady. A situation where even a straight sack would leave a makeable field goal for Stephen Gostkowski and bring the Patriots’ deficit down to eight. Instead, it was a lost fumble and the Patriots could not recover.

That is not to say an extended absence from Marcus Cannon will doom the Patriots. Far from it. Waddle is the type of player the Patriots felt confident enough in to have him starting the Divisional Round game against the Tennessee Titans last season. The Patriots liked him enough that they felt fine letting Cameron Fleming (last year’s swing-tackle) walk and sign with the Dallas Cowboys. Through the first two games of the season, the man on the offensive line taking most of the flak from Patriots fans (and certain bloggers) is LaAdrian Waddle.

This might be a skewed perception of Waddle’s abilities; he has had to face two of the best defensive lines in football (maybe only the Rams and Eagles are better) and has not had his best games. If Cannon is to miss more time due to the calf strain, it might be a bit early to jump down Waddle’s throat. His next four opponents are the Lions (tied for last), Dolphins (4th, but played injured Titans and Sam Darnold’s Jets), Colts (T-13th, but stomped by Bengals before holding the Chiefs to nine points in Week Two) and the Chiefs (29th out of 32 teams). So while the vast majority of New England fans want to already cast off Waddle after two weeks, it is probably best to give him at least a month as he tries to fill in at right tackle for the Patriots. And remember, Brady’s security blanket (Julian Edelman) comes back in Week Five… and nothing makes an offensive lineman’s job easier than a wide receiver that gets open faster than anybody else on the field.

MicroPats 2018 Week 2 (Video): Tom Brady Misses Cordarrelle Patterson on Shallow Crosser

This week’s MicroPats focuses in on Tom Brady overlooking Cordarrelle Patterson on the Patriots first drive of the game. The play before, Myles Jack got away with either a holding penalty, an illegal contact penalty, or a defensive pass interference penalty (he was guilty of all three) and the play after Gostkowski missed a 55-yard field goal. However, Brady not recognizing Patterson wide open on the cross is not a play you often see from Brady, and was a microcosm of the Pats’ loss; uncharacteristic misses compounded immediately by other mistakes.