WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — J.J. Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year for the Houston Texans, found himself in familiar territory this week, again firmly held captive by New England Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon.

Watt appeared to try it all against Cannon in the first of two joint practices, but was neutralized. In back-to-back plays at one point, Cannon withstood Watt’s power rush and next easily stayed in front of Watt amid consecutive spin moves.

Consecutive spin moves? It was the work of a shockingly desperate pass rusher who likely has grown tired of getting locked up by Cannon. When the teams met in Week 3 last season, Cannon kept Watt in check over the course of 24 blocking assignments, including 16 one-on-one meetings.

Watt had a bit more success at the joint practice while kicking inside. But he never mustered much against Cannon, who kept him out of quarterback Tom Brady’s area code. It’s the latest in a strong string of performances this summer.

Marcus Cannon

“I’m not where I need to be yet,” Cannon said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff I’m still working on, trying to get better.”

Cannon absorbed another challenging move by Watt in the first 11 on 11 period of the practice. By staying square in his set, Cannon gave Brady time to complete a 20-yard pass to Julian Edelman.


To be fair, Watt was coming off back surgery last year and the Texans shut him down after falling to the Patriots in September. And while these joint practices don’t present game speed, the parallel within the results indicates Cannon has a knack for handling Watt, who has grown to enjoy the challenge.

“You live for that,” Watt said. “That’s the goal. You want to get the guy’s best shot. You want somebody to give everything he has because that’s the only way you’re going to find out how good you are. It’s a lot of fun. I love the competition. I love competing. ”

On a greater scale, Cannon is backing up his breakout season with a sturdy training camp, and that may yield the answer to one of the Patriots’ few questions. Will Cannon’s breakthrough be a one-hit wonder or the start of a long, successful career?

Cannon’s peak was so sudden and impressive that his five-year, $32.5 million contract extension wasn’t even questioned in November. After a disastrous season in 2015, which ended when he allowed eight quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks in the AFC championship game loss to the Denver Broncos, Cannon was saved by position coach Dante Scarnecchia.

It’s possible Cannon could even be on the cusp of an All-Pro team. That’s how he’s getting paid anyway; his average annual value of $6.5 million is the seventh most among right tackles.

“Keep listening to my coach, what (Scarnecchia) tells me, what Coach (Bill) Belichick tells me,” Cannon said. “Anything I’ve got to work on, I’ve got to write it down, remember it, work on it at practice and get better at it. There’s still a lot that I have to get done. Keep working hard until I’m the best I can be and help the team as much as I can.”

Cannon, a six-year veteran, turned 29 in May but his career trajectory has been anything but ordinary. Now that he’s a year into his prime and seemingly building on that success, who knows how good it could get.

Cannon isn’t changing anything and wants to keep the goals simple.

“We’re just in training camp. I just want to help my team,” Cannon said. “I want my teammates to trust me. If I’m doing everything the coach tells me to do and my teammates trust me, then I’m happy with where I’m at.”

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