The Patriots played nine cornerbacks altogether last season, which is why that backup roster spot is so important. The obvious choice would be 2012 seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard, but he still hasn’t returned to action since injuring his hamstring in practice July 27. When Dennard does return, he'll be behind the curve, having to catch up both in coverage and special teams. If he struggles, Will Allen, Marquice Cole, Ross Ventrone, Malcolm Williams and Derrick Martin will battle for the fifth spot behind Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling and Sterling Moore.
The Patriots require their reserves to play special teams, which may mean bad news for the veteran Allen. Allen’s advantage comes in his versatility to play outside, in the slot or back at safety, which is where he was lining up Sunday at training camp. Allen is also probably the best player in coverage out of those fighting for a roster spot.
The former Jet, Cole, has the most experience in special teams, but he isn't well versed in coverage. He played just 51 snaps on defense last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Ventrone is new to the position, playing safety during his college and pro career. If the Twitter superstar does make the team, expect him to be moved in and out of the roster a few times. He was kept off the active roster in Week 17 to prolong his practice squad eligibility for one more season.
Williams may have the least experience in coverage. He was a surprise seventh-round pick in 2011 after not even starting at cornerback in college at TCU.
Martin is the newcomer to the Patriots secondary, signed Aug. 4. He was a member of the last two Super Bowl-winning teams, with the Packers in 2010 and the Giants in 2011, so it may be wise for the Patriots to keep him around for good fortune.
Cole was playing in the slot with the second team at training camp on Sunday. In Thursday night's preseason game against the Saints, Cole was playing the same role for much of the third and fourth quarters next to Moore and Dowling. Ventrone was also playing with the second team Sunday across from Moore, while Allen was back at safety. Williams sat out with an undisclosed injury.
Cole may have the best shot at a roster spot right now if Dennard cannot get healthy. He's been getting the most reps on defense and has been running with the first team on special teams.
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