Patriots’ Final Cornerback Spot Still Cloudy After Third Preseason Game


August 26, 2016

The New England Patriots are three games into the preseason, and the decision Bill Belichick will have make on a fifth cornerback to crack the 53-man roster isn’t getting any easier.

Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones are locks, and Justin Coleman remains an odds-on favorite to make the regular-season roster. So, Belichick will have to decide between undrafted rookies Cre’Von LeBlanc and Jonathan Jones and 2015 seventh-round pick Darryl Roberts before the Sept. 3 final cutdown date.

LeBlanc had the strongest performance between the three players Friday in the Patriots’ 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers before allowing a 34-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. He had been tested all game and was coming up strong, ultimately allowing four receptions on 11 targets for 51 yards with a pass breakup.

Roberts was targeted four times and didn’t allow a reception, while Jones allowed just one catch on four targets for 12 yards with a pass breakup. He got very lucky on one of those incompletions, when he would have been beat for a touchdown if Panthers wide receiver Miles Shuler could have hauled in the ball cleanly while getting two feet down.

Here’s how all of the Patriots performed in coverage Friday:

Cre’Von LeBlanc: 4-11, 51 yards, PBU
Vinnie Sunseri: 4-4, 47 yards, TD
Jordan Richards: 3-4, 44 yards, TD
Cyrus Jones: 2-4, 23 yards
Jonathan Freeny: 1-1, 18 yards
Malcolm Butler: 2-3, 15 yards
Jamie Collins: 1-2, 12 yards
Jonathan Jones: 1-4, 12 yards, PBU
Justin Coleman: 2-5, 11 yards
Ramon Humber: 1-1, 11 yards
Logan Ryan: 1-5, 9 yards, INT
Dont’a Hightower: 1-1, 3 yards
Kevin Snyder: 0-1
Patrick Chung: 0-1
Darryl Roberts: 0-4
Chris Long: PBU
Devin McCourty: INT

Here’s how the Patriots’ defenders stand after three games, with the bubble cornerbacks highlighted:

Justin Coleman: 8-12, 125 yards
Jordan Richards: 5-6, 119 yards, TD
E.J. Biggers: 3-5, 62 yards, TD allowed
Cre?Von LeBlanc: 7-19, 61 yards, INT, 2 PBUs, 24.2 passer rating against
Jonathan Jones: 6-11, 52 yards, three PBUs, 67.2 passer rating against
Vinnie Sunseri: 4-4, 47 yards, TD
Ramon Humber: 5-6, 41 yards
Kamu Grugier-Hill: 3-4, 34 yards
Cyrus Jones: 3-7, 32 yards, INT
Malcolm Butler: 4-7, 26 yards, PBU
Patrick Chung: 2-3, 22 yards, two-point conversion allowed
Jamie Collins: 2-4, 20 yards, INT
Jonathan Freeny: 1-1, 18 yards
V’Angelo Bentley: 2-2, 17 yards
Darryl Roberts: 1-11, 9 yards, three PBUs, two-point conversion allowed, defensive pass interference, 39.6 passer rating against
Logan Ryan: 1-5, 9 yards, INT
Dont?a Hightower: 2-2, 7 yards
Shea McClellin: 1-1, 7 yards
Cedric Thompson: 1-2, 6 yards
Kevin Snyder: 1-2, 6 yards
Chris Long: 1-1, 4 yards, PBU
Trey Flowers: 0-1
Elandon Roberts: 0-1
Anthony Johnson: PBU
Rufus Johnson: PBU
Devin McCourty: INT

— LeBlanc has been the most consistent of the three despite letting up the most yards and receptions. He entered Friday’s game first, which could be a good sign. He’s also the athletically limited of the three players based on testing numbers.

— Jones has stood out in special teams, though he was flagged for being offsides on a kickoff Friday. He’s been the shakiest in coverage.

— Roberts has the best numbers and has got his hand on the ball an equal amount. He is the only one of the three young players to be flagged for pass interference, however.

— Coleman’s numbers look rough, but he’s also gone against tougher competition.

The easier decision would be to keep two of the players, but that would come at the expense of another position, and the Patriots’ roster currently is a little banged up.

LeBlanc, Jones and Roberts should receive a ton of reps in the Patriots’ fourth and final preseason game. The choice looks to be coming down to the wire for Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio.

Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images

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