When New England Patriots starting right tackle Marcus Cannon decided to opt-out of the 2020 season this week, it wasn't a complete surprise. Cannon is now a veteran, but in his rookie season he battled Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Since he is a high-risk individual, him missing the season seemed more likely than him playing.
Looking at the tackle position behind Cannon, there isn't a lot of depth. Opposite Cannon is Isaiah Wynn, but after that the Patriots roster is filled with unproven players such as Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham, and rookie Justin Herron.
With the Patriots expected to run the ball more now that Tom Brady is gone, the loss of Cannon is less than ideal. James White is a running back who thrives on bouncing to the outside and using his speed to evade defenders. With Cannon opting out it's fair to expect New England to run behind David Andrews, Joe Thuney, and Shaq Mason a bit more.
But the position that may be most affected by Cannon's opt-out is quarterback.
No matter who ends up under center for New England, that person needs a strong offensive line. At the moment Cam Newton is the leader in the clubhouse to be the starter based on his experience and talent. What made Newton joining the team so interesting in part was that he would finally have a strong offensive line to work behind, which is something he hasn't really ever had in his NFL career. But the absence of Cannon potentially eliminates that narrative.
Newton is able to get the ball out of the pocket quickly, but if the pocket collapses he could be running a lot more than we expected him to in a Patriots uniform. Newton already a magnet for contact, so that could lead to some unwanted injuries.
Also, Newton is known for throwing the deep ball. Being able to do so rely's on having a strong offensive line that gives you space and time for plays to develop. It will be hard to hit guys like N'Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu down the field if the defensive line is in Newton's face before they get downfield.
Even if Jarrett Stidham is the starter, the loss of Cannon will affect the Patriots. Stidham is an inexperienced quarterback who will need extra time to progress through his reads and get the ball out. Fans can't expect him to make the same lightning quick throws that Brady used to make.
The 2020 season will undoubtedly be interesting for the six-time Super Bowl champions. Expectations were already low after Brady and Rob Gronkowski headlined a mass exodus of players. After Tuesday it's hard to have any confidence in the team. This could be one of the worst seasons in recent Patriots history.
So even though it's not surprising that Cannon opted out of the 2020 season, it definitely has a great impact on the Patriots offense in a negative manner.