The best candidate for right guard for the New England Patriots looks to be the least likely to start. Although Marcus Cannon opened training camp as the starting right guard, he appears to have to fallen to third place, which is last in this competition. Sure, he has missed the last couple of weeks due to injury, but that shouldn’t be a good enough reason for him to fall behind.
Cannon was a fifth-round out of the Texas Christian University in the 2011 NFL Draft, but only because he had a scare with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Many scouts thought that Cannon was a second-round talent, and thus a steal for Bill Belichick at the time. At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, Cannon has the potential to be a mauling run blocker. Additionally, he played left tackle while at TCU, which means that he does have some sort of athleticism that can translate into pass protection. The upside is too tantalizing for Belichick to resist much longer. Plus, the competition isn’t that much better.
Last Thursday, Will Svitek started as the first team at right guard. This was after he had only signed months prior (Mar. 17, to be exact) as a journeyman swing offensive tackle. That’s right, the projected started right guard for the Patriots has been a backup for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons between 2005 and 2012. Not to mention that Svitek was primarily an offensive tackle for the Falcons. Now he’s playing a new position, and at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds, I don’t think he’ll play it well. The writers for Pro Football Focus have given him a negative run blocking grade this preseason, which is to be expected since he is only 308 pounds. This guy is not a fit at guard, much less a starting guard on an otherwise excellent offensive line.
Let’s look at another, and much better, option for the Pats. Here we have Dan Connolly, who was the team’s starting right guard last season. He didn’t do bad, though he is ideally more of a swing-type, capable of playing either guard spot or center. That’s because Connolly doesn’t really stand out in run blocking or pass protection. His versatility is his best trait, and it’s time for him to assume his natural role as a solid backup.
Cannon might be more raw than Svitek and Connolly, but that can easily be fixed if he starts at right guard; that way, Belichick would know if he has a long-term answer at the position. If that’s not the case, then he could easily go and pick up another in next year’s draft, or in free agency. Either way, it’s time to give the young man a shot.