Patriots Mailbag: Could Cornerback Switch Positions To Boost Safety Depth?


May 11, 2018

In an effort to be completely transparent, we’ve hit another slow period in the New England Patriots’ offseason schedule.

Now that those words have hit the web, some controversy undoubtedly will strike moments after this mailbag is posted.

But the NFL draft is over, and organized team activities open to the media don’t start for nearly two weeks. The Patriots will hold rookie minicamp this weekend, so rookies are in town and already have begun signing their contracts. But those practices won’t be visible to reporters.

The media will be allowed to talk to the rookies next week, however, and assistant coaches will be available Friday.

This week was so slow that a local TV producer got Twitter ratio’d over a Drew Bledsoe take and we all overanalyzed a 37-second Patriots offseason workout hype video.

So, let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

With the #Patriots drafting of @7upya__ (Duke Dawson), do you see a possible scenario where they attempt to move Eric Rowe back to the safety position he played in college? Richards is a liability in the back end, and Rowe has the size and skill set to be a more productive safety imo.
— @pats_chatter247
I was actually thinking about this Tuesday during media availability while chatting with some other beat reporters in the workroom, though not specifically about Eric Rowe. The Patriots are much stronger and deeper at cornerback than they are at safety, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they experimented with moving a boundary player to the middle of the field over the next few months.

As the Patriots’ roster stands now, I would consider cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson and Jonathan Jones and safeties Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner locks or near-locks to make the 53-man roster, barring injury.

The Patriots usually roster 10 total defensive backs.

If the Patriots kept a fifth safety, it likely would be Jordan Richards over David Jones and Damarius Travis, both of whom went wire to wire last season on the practice squad. The Patriots know what they have in Richards, and it wasn’t pretty at times (well, many times) last season.

Some of the Patriots’ reserve cornerbacks, like rookies Keion Crossen and J.C. Jackson, 2016 second-round pick Cyrus Jones and 2017 undrafted free agent Ryan Lewis, have more promise than Richards. Why release a player with potential for a known commodity who can’t consistently contribute?

Rowe played safety at Utah before moving to cornerback for his final senior season. Dawson, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones all play inside, and there are a lot of similarities between the slot and safety.

I’d personally keep six cornerbacks and four safeties and let Cyrus Jones, Crossen, Jackson and Lewis battle it out to make the 53-man roster. I suspect that won’t happen, however.

Why are people writing off Danny Etling so fast as the successor of Brady? He must have some intangibles that Bill and Josh liked that could make him the future, especially developing for 2 years +
— @BrycenPapp
Sure, Etling could supplant Tom Brady one day, but it’s definitely not likely simply because he’s a seventh-round pick.

There have been 498 quarterbacks taken in the seventh round and lower since 1936. Here are the top 10 players, sorted by Pro Football Reference’s career approximate value: Trent Green, Steve DeBerg, Brian Sipe, Brad Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gus Frerotte, Bill Kenney, Doug Flutie, Wade Wilson and Matt Cassel.

There’s actually, oddly, a much better track record for undrafted quarterbacks. Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Dave Krieg, Tony Romo and Jim Hart all didn’t hear their names called in the draft and wound up (arguably) having better careers than Green.

Green was a good quarterback and everything, but if he’s the best possible scenario, then it’s probably not wise to count on a seventh-round quarterback as a future starter. Etling will be given a shot in training camp and preseason to make the roster. It would help if his work with Tom House, Brady’s throwing coach, fixed his mechanics.

But it’s ultimately a major plus if Etling turns into Cassel. That would mean he’s the 10th-best quarterback ever drafted in the seventh round or later. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you come into Etling’s career expecting him to be Brady’s successor.

What positions do you think Pats have improved on most in FA and draft and what positions do you still see  a need for? #maildoug
— @JefFullerMyself
That’s a good question because the Patriots were proactive in adding running backs, wide receivers, offensive linemen and cornerbacks, but they also lost Dion Lewis, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Nate Solder and Malcolm Butler. So, if anything, those positions are a wash.

I would have to say the defensive line. They traded for Danny Shelton and signed Adrian Clayborn without really losing anyone. They’ll also gain Derek Rivers and Vincent Valentine, both of whom didn’t play in 2017 because of injuries. Harvey Langi, who could play as a linebacker or defensive end, also will be returning after suffering serious injuries in a car accident.

He looks 100 percent in this aforementioned hype video.

will the patriots have a complementary pass catching TE to go w/ Gronk this season? someone to go 600 yds/5 tds or more
— @mattNOTofficial
Highly doubtful. We thought there was a chance Dwayne Allen would be that player in 2017, but then he was barely utilized in the passing game and dropped like 25 percent of his targets. If Allen can’t do it, then there’s probably not a tight end on the roster with the potential to do so. Will Tye probably comes the closest, but he spent last season on the practice squad and has a career high of 464 yards and three touchdowns.

Is Trent brown good enough to start at left tackle? Does Thuney injury potentially push Wynn inside?
— @KidRob21
He’s a better option than someone like LaAdrian Waddle. Brown was very good last season in his only start at left tackle. I think the Patriots will give both Isaiah Wynn and Antonio Garcia the opportunity to beat out Brown for the starting role, but if they can’t, then Brown is a fine option. He doesn’t have the prototypical athleticism for the position, but it hasn’t seemed to matter in his limited spot starts on the blind side.

A report from ESPN’s Mike Reiss indicated Thuney’s foot surgery shouldn’t affect his availability for the 2018 season. Thuney has been wearing a walking boot this week. I believe the Patriots still should start out Wynn at left tackle.

Who is returning punts in 2018? Besides 11
It probably will come down to Cyrus Jones, wide receiver Braxton Berrios or wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Jones and Berrios have extensive experience returning punts while Patterson mostly has brought back kicks during his pro and college career.

It wouldn’t be surprising to at least see Patterson hauling in punts during practice to see if he can handle it. Patterson, Jones and Berrios all are competing for spots on their roster at their respective positions.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Is Drew Bledsoe overrated?
— @vladujic
He’s a lot better than Tommy Maddox, that’s for sure.

Is Riley macaron or Braxton berrios more likely to be the patriots slot receiver of the future?
— @matt12dipesa
Berrios based on college production and draft slot.

Do u prefer macaroni and cheese or cheesy macaroni?
— @DelGrex
Macaroni and cheese. What is cheesy macaroni if not a dumb way to say macaroni and cheese?

When is rookie mini camp?
— @Campbell_DG9

Is rookie minicamp opened to the media?
— @JustinMH90
No, sir.

Do you think you could pull off Brady?s Met Gala tux?
— @davidmbry
I’m not a big turtleneck guy, but probably.

your thoughts on the controversy that Roman Reigns should?ve defeated Brock Lesnar?
— @DrBlakeSims
WWE is actually pretty interesting right now outside of the Universal Title picture. They definitely need to do something there, though.

Roman and Brock are booooooring. Push Finn Balor or Seth Rollins already.

Thumbnail photo via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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