The New England Patriots cornerback dilemma
When the NFL offseason began, the New England Patriots had one clear objective, and that was to retain Darrelle Revis. As we all know, that objective failed. Not only did the team lose Revis, but he signed with the rival New York Jets. That same day, the Patriots did not pick up the team option on Brandon Browner’s contract, which led to him signing with the Saints and, just like that, the starting cornerbacks for the Super Bowl Champions were gone. After losing both cornerbacks, many people were waiting for the Patriots to make a move to help what was then a very depleted cornerback position; those people are still waiting. The Patriots did not sign a top cornerback on the open market, instead they settled for a few low-level signings, including Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain, and Chimdi Chekwa (who has since been released). The team also did not use a high draft pick on the position, which seemed very surprising considering the lack of depth in that unit.
Chekwa was not the only Patriots cornerback to be released in the past few weeks. Kyle Arrington and Alfonso Dennard were also shown the door by the team. Both of these transactions were very puzzling for a team that was already thin at the position. Arrington and Dennard had been on the team for multiple years and, at one point, were high on the depth chart which begs the question, “What are the Patriots doing?” Maybe the team has a trade up their sleeves to help this unit, but I definitely would not hold my breath for that to happen. As it stands right now, Logan Ryan and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler seem to be the best bets as to who will start in Week 1 and, although both have shown flashes of solid play in the past, giving starting jobs to two young cornerbacks seems risky.
Hopefully, by the start of the season, we will have a clear view of what the team’s secondary will look like. The safety position seems pretty solid with both starters, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, returning this upcoming season. If the team does not upgrade the cornerback position before the start of the season, then they are going to have to rely heavily on the front seven to get pressure on quarterbacks. That plan might work, but leaving a sub par cornerback group playing single coverage could be a disaster. I expect the Patriots to upgrade at this position at some point. The Patriots have been fairly active at the trade deadline the past few years and if the position is struggling, I believe they will be active again. A team’s secondary is vital to the success of their entire defense. Even though the other areas of the Patriots defense are above average, they need a good secondary to help make the defense complete.
Are the Patriots in trouble due to the lack of depth at cornerback or will their front seven be enough? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Colby Gatz covers the Patriots and Red Sox for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @bostonfan_15