Four of the top-six corners on the depth chart have been drafted since 2008, and New England’s No. 1 cornerback, Leigh Bodden, signed a five-year contract extension this offseason. With the core in place, let’s take a closer look at the Patriots’ corners.
Cornerbacks on Roster: Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Terrence Johnson, Devin McCourty, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite
Available Roster Spots: Five, maybe six
Key Statistic: Last season, Patriots cornerbacks combined for 11 interceptions, 34 passes defensed and two defensive touchdowns.
Position Battle to Watch: With the potential cutoff at five cornerbacks, the battle between Arrington and Wheatley could possibly determine the shape of one player’s career. Bodden, Butler, McCourty and Wilhite are all safe. Arrington leaped past Wheatley last season because of his dominance on special teams, and Wheatley, a 2008 second-round draft pick, was inactive 12 times (10 times after not appearing on the injury report), including the playoffs.
During spring practices, Arrington and Wheatley rotated with one another between the defensive starters and the scout team, which indicated that they were in direct competition. The Patriots kept six cornerbacks last season and could very well do so again in 2010, but if the line drops to five, it promises to be a good competition for that final spot.
Hot Topic: Butler, who was a second-round pick in 2009, had a great string of spring practices and stood out as much as any defensive player on the field. He has clearly emerged as the starting left cornerback opposite of Bodden, and Butler adds some speed and jump to the cornerback position. He’s solid at reading routes and closing on the ball, but he’s got to prove he is strong enough to compete with bigger, more physical wide receivers. Butler was often pulled in favor of Wilhite against such receivers last season, and with Brandon Marshall now in Miami, there will continue to be an emphasis for Butler to improve in that area.
NESN.com will be breaking down the Patriots by position.
Monday, July 26: Linebackers
Wednesday, July 28: Safeties