Today we’re taking a look at one defensive position that will look a bit different this year — cornerback.
For the last two seasons, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan have been fixtures at cornerback. We were all a bit panicky when they were the two to replace Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, but the duo ably replaced that Super Bowl-winning duo with a Super Bowl victory of their own.
Ryan departed for the Titans this offseason, a departure few Patriots fans would’ve ever thought they’d find disappointing after Ryan began his career with two seasons of being a favorite target of pundits. But Ryan emerged as a consistent player with outstanding tackling skills who could match up with bigger receivers.
Ryan’s ability to shift into the slot is a role not easily replaceable. That is one of the bigger questions facing the defense this summer.
Of course it helps that the team signed Stephon Gilmore, a soft spoken, man coverage corner who seems to be fitting in great. However, Gilmore is an outside corner, as is 2016’s third corner, Eric Rowe. Who replaces those vital snaps Ryan gave them inside is not easily apparent, and plenty of guys were getting looks in the slot during OTAs, including last year’s special teams rookie standout Jonathan Jones and 2016 second-round pick Cyrus Jones.
Regardless of how the slot plays out, the team has really solid depth, including a trio of undrafted rookies who should all make some plays during training camp. At the top there’s plenty of talent to not only replace Ryan, but to be even better, though his physicality and consistency will certainly be missed.
Here’s a closer look at all the corners.