The New England Patriots have built solid depth across many of their most important positions, but the folks at Pro Football Focus believe the competition at cornerback will outweigh any other position on the roster.
When charting the biggest training camp competitions at every position, PFF pointed at New England’s competition between Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Marcus Jones and Jalen Mills as the biggest at cornerback across the entire NFL.
“The Patriots let J.C. Jackson walk in the offseason in a classic example of the team being unwilling to pay big bucks to retain one of its better players,” Sam Monson wrote. “Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has an outstanding track record of being proven right in those situations over the last 20 years, but it leaves the New England cornerback depth chart thin. Mills and Mitchell were the presumed starters, but the team has added Butler and Jones as competition.”
As is normally the case, a national view at these things doesn’t always tell the whole story. The Patriots cornerback competition is much more nuanced.
You can split the competition in two, as the Patriots typically designate the nickel cornerback spot as its own designation on the roster. Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant and the aforementioned Marcus Jones will compete for time in the slot, with the two veterans likely seeing some split time at safety throughout the year. Mills, Mitchell, Butler and Jack Jones will be the outside options headed into training camp, with Mills and Butler likely being viewed as the early starters, with Mitchell and Jack Jones serving as depth options.
That is where things start with training camp almost certain to bring some surprises. We’ve already seen Jack Jones emerge as the Patriots biggest surprise among rookies. With added depth to the secondary, perhaps we see more movement out of Mills in his second year with New England.
As is always the case, the Patriots represent the unknown, and perhaps that is the reason why this competition is so intriguing.