By: Jake Mackey
The Patriots corner back depth chart is one spearheaded by a rising Pro-Bowl star in Malcolm Butler. Behind him, the list is thin with many question marks, much like last year at this time. Here is a preview the corners on this year’s squad.
Malcolm Butler: Arguably the most important player on the entire Patriots defense in only his third season, and in a contract year, Malcolm Butler will need to be the rock that he was last season in order f0r the defense to reach its full potential. On a week-to-week basis, Butler will once again need to take on the opposing offense’s top receiver. This season those receivers will include DeAndre Hopkins, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, AJ Green, and Brandon Marshall twice. Seems like a tall task from a player whom just two years ago was a complete unknown in New England. Nevertheless, he proved everyone wrong in 2015, and I would expect much of the same in 2016 due to the fact that he may have a monumental payday in the near future.
(GIF Credit: Patspulpit.com)
Logan Ryan: The fourth-year corner also heading into a contract year has had a career full of ups and downs. Many Patriots fans think he is a solid player simply because he has 11 career interceptions. Many of those picks have been deflected passes and situations where he is in the right place at the right time. However, he is overall solid in the role that he is in which is second corner.
Cyrus Jones: This is a player I will be watching intently throughout camp. The second-round rookie comes in competing for a job that is there for the taking. The Patriots did not have one solid nickel back last season, and Jones is the perfect fit. He played on both the inside and outside at Alabama, and he also dabbled at slot receiver. At 5-10, 197 pounds he is the perfect size for a reliable nickel in the NFL, and he has the speed to match. Expect him to be the starter come week one. In addition, he was the top punt-returner in the nation last year returning four punts for scores.
(GIF Credit: SBNation.com)
Darryl Roberts: A player that many were intrigued to see last summer as a seventh-round rookie out of Marshall, Roberts will have a chance to show the talent that you can see on his college tape on the practice fields. Last summer, Patriots fans got a brief look at Roberts until he was put on injured-reserve. He struggled at the start of camp but bounced back strong before his injury. His aggressive play and use of his hands at the line of scrimmage draws some similarities to that of Malcolm Butler.
(Video Credit: Zach Marshall)
Justin Coleman: The un-drafted rookie in 2015 came in and played in ten games, and started two. He also started in the divisional round against Kansas City in a game in which many said he was impressive. I tend to disagree. The Chiefs converted on almost all their third downs in that game and many were in the direction of Coleman. Then again, he had some bright spots in 2015. His job in Foxborough certainly is not safe and the drafting of Cyrus Jones tells us how confident Bill Belichick is in Coleman’s starting ability.
EJ Biggers: A player who could very well be on the chopping block indeed, EJ Biggers comes in as a free agent heading into his eighth NFL season. He has spent time with Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia. I would not be surprised if he is cut, and then again I would not be surprised if he is this summer’s version of Zach Sudfeld.
Cre’veon Leblanc, V’Angelo Bentley, and Jonathan Jones are all un-drafted rookies this summer. After the rise of Malcolm Butler, all football fans know not to overlook un-drafted guys during the summer. Jonathan Jones was one of the standouts at mini-camp, so make sure to keep his name in the back of your head when you are behind Gillette Stadium this week.