I missed a day, oops! But here is the final piece of our training camp preview, the defensive backs.
Now I list them all together and not as strictly cornerbacks and safeties because there is a bit of fluidity between the two for most of these guys. That doesn’t mean we want Patrick Chung covering a deep threat but you know what I mean.
This group is deep and I think there is a lot of flexibility and duplication in players size, skill sets and talent level. That’s going to make for some serious competition across the board. I’ll do my best to sort it out.
A quick reminder that this first list is the order of importance to the team in my estimation.
|21||Butler, Malcolm||26||3||West Alabama|
|39||Biggers, E.J.||29||7||Western Michigan|
|43||Ebner, Nate||27||5||Ohio State|
|42||Sunseri , Vinnie||24||3||Alabama|
|35||LeBlanc, Cre’von||22||R||Florida Atlantic|
Devin McCourty has become the anchor of the secondary. He plays CF as well as any Patriots safety has in the Belichick era. A smart defender who can cover in man to man, read and react in zone, and run the alley and meet and tackle running backs himself. He is rarely out of position, and rarely takes bad angles. A key cog to the Patriots success the last few years on defense.
Malcolm Butler, the Super Bowl hero, really grew into a starting number 1 corner by the end of 2015. There were some very small issues early, but if he is able to replicate his 2015, or even improve on it he will get paid.
Logan Ryan emerged from a role as a third/situational cornerback to become a solid #2. Now consistency has been Ryan’s issue, so being more consistent has to be his number 1 goal for 2016.
Patrick Chung, the prodigal son, who left for a year and came back better than before. His role is clearly defined and in that role he is very good. Push him beyond that though and there maybe an issue.
Cyrus Jones the second round pick who will likely double as a returner. I expect to see him as the nickel corner almost immediately, to be a big contributor on special teams as a gunner and return man and to eventually unseat Logan Ryan as the #2 corner.
Justin Coleman was a popular guy on practice squads all last pre-season and eventually ended up with a home on the Patriots regular season roster where he played special teams and flashed on occasionally on the defense. I think he has the ability to become a permanent fixture on special teams and a rotational guy on the defense.
Duron Harmon has seemingly been around forever, but was a 3rd round pick in 2013. I think this is likely his last year with the Pats as his rookie contract will expire after the season and the Patriots tend to replace depth through the draft.
Jordan Richards was a second round pick in 2015 and made some nice contributions on special teams and as a depth safety. I’m not sure both he and Harmon make the team, so if Richards proves he can do what Harmon has the last few years he likely gets the spot, I’m just nto sure he can do that yet.
Import Brock Vereen was a 4th round pick by the Bears and is old friend Shane Vereen’s brother. I’ve always liked his skill set, even if he is a little on the small side for CB in today’s NFL. The Patriots tend not to stress size if the players are in the right position and make plays. I expect Vereen to be a special teams contributor, but could see him being cut just as easily.
E.J. Biggers is the sort of free agent the Patriots bring in and I ask myself why. I feel like he has fine ability, but is hardly an upgrade over some of the younger guys they have on the roster. That’s not to say I don’t think he can contribute, he surely can, just always intrigued by moves of this nature.
Nate Ebner is almost as invaluable to the special teams as Matthew Slater. It will be interesting to see if his role is there when he returns from the Olympics. I expect it will be as Belichick tends to respect that sort of versatility as long as it does not affect a player’s performance on the field.
Brandon King found a home on the practice squad for sure in 2015. I don’t know that he can contribute on the defense, but if he can he becomes a very valuable asset to the Pats.
Jonathan Jones could be a welcome addition to the Pats. With loads of experience, a 4 years starter at Auburn, is a wealth of experience few rookies come to the table with. I’m not saying he is a lock for the roster, but I imagine he has a great shot of being a contributor.
Vinnie Sunseri was released by the Saints in April and is a long shot to make the Pats, but did come from Alabama so could have an edge to making the team having played in such a similar pro-style defense previously.
Darryl Roberts was a 7th round pick in the 2015 draft who got hurt in the 3rd preseason game last year and was able to redshirt the year on injured reserve. While on occasion that turns into a great thing for the team and the player, but it hasn’t been the case the last few times it has happened for guys with the Pats.
Cedric Thompson came over to the Patriots practice squad when the playoffs started last year. I imagine they would like to keep him there in 2016, but that’s hardly a lock.
V’Angelo Bentley resume screams Pats practice squad player.
Cre’von LeBlanc is likely to be a return specialist if he makes the team. He will have to flash some serious skill to do anything but get put on the practice squad.
Starters: Safety; Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung
Starters: Corner; Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan
Nickel: Cyrus Jones
Backup/Dime: Duron Harmon
In Case of Emergency: Justin Coleman, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
Practice Squad: V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones, Darryl Roberts, Vinnie Sunseri
Cut: Brock Vereen, Cre’von LeBlanc, Cedric Thompson, E.J. Biggers