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Patriots Slot Corner

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Urgent, Jul 8, 2011.

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  1. Urgent

    Urgent Rookie

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    #24 Jersey

    cstjohn raised an interesting question in the Pass Rusher thread - I thought we could break it out and have a separate discussion.

    Who should be the slot corner?

    The Patriots are in the nickel a lot. The base 3-4 was used less than half the time in 2010.
    Let's assume the Patriots don't add any significant defensive (not special teams) corners in free agency.
    In the primary nickel defense, who would be the slot corner?

    Roster:
    Devin McCourty - 5-11 193, 4.48
    Leigh Bodden - 6-1 193
    Ras-I Dowling - 6-1 198, 4.39
    Kyle Arrington - 5-9 192
    Darius Butler - 5-10 183, 4.38
    Jonathan Wilhite - 5-9 187, 4.38
    Malcolm Williams - 5-10 204, 4.47

    Most agree that McCourty and Bodden are the two starters.
    Dowling is the next second-round pick, and we all hope he is a future starter.
    With luck, Dowling will be the third-best corner on the roster in 2011.
    But who would be the third corner, the slot coverage corner?

    I think the three candidates are Arrington, Butler, and Wilhite, not Dowling.

    Dowling has no college experience inside - he was a primary corner playing outside.
    Dowling is a tall corner, better at shadowing the deep receiver than squirming after a shifty slot receiver.
    Arrington, Butler, and Wilhite are all 3-4" shorter, lighter, shiftier.
    They are the more classic slot corner types.

    Dowling would focus on the back-up outside corner role, potentially replacing Bodden or McCourty when needed or due to injury. I would focus him on learning that role, to be available when needed. Especially with a dramatically reduced offseason and training camp, I would hesitate to offer him a new role.

    Arrington really suprised, beating out Butler, Wilhite, and Wheatley at corner last season. I'd assume he has the first shot at the slot. Butler really disappointed in his second season. He and Wilhite are really toss-ups, and are probably competing for the final roster spot. Which is not a bad situation - both are young, both have started some games, both have a couple seasons' experience in the system.

    So I'll project Arrington.

    Other views?
  2. NEGoldenAge

    NEGoldenAge Banned

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    Wow, it is a football related thread. It is hard to say, but my guess would be Arrington also. I think the 3 cone is a stat that projects to a slot corner much more than 40 time. I think Edleman projects well as a slot corner, but it's pretty unlikely given the lockout situation.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  3. signbabybrady

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    #24 Jersey

    I see your point on Ras-I and would also thow out he has had no offseason.

    I think you left out one huge name when it comes to the slot corner and that is Chung.

    I think ideally Butler shakes the jitters and he Chung split that role. I think at this time the evidence has shown Arrington to be the better corner than Butler but Butler has or at least obviously came in with a higher ceiling so I would hope he could. That said I think Chung and Arrington have to be considered the leaders for that role. (not Chungs only role as he will be in the normal safety spot plenty)
  4. patriot lifer

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    #87 Jersey

    Very good topic to bring up.

    Wilhite is a safe pick to be involved in the nickel play.

    Butler needs to make some significant strides to even make the team (pending injuries). I recall a number of other posters say that he has the skillset (due to his athleticism) to be a very good slot guy. That was said way back in response to our drafting McCourty, where people were predicting for 2010 that Bodden would be on the right side with Butler on the left side for the short-term until McCourty would take the reigns on the left (which obviously happened much sooner than predicted).

    Arrington certainly was appreciated by the coaches. We'll have to see how he switches to nickel this year. Maybe he'll even improve?! Not a bad pick to suggest him as the nickel.

    The thing with Dowling is that a lot of us are of the thinking that he will somehow be molded into a safety, which is possible. But he was drafted as a CB. I'm not saying it's written in stone or anything but it does suggest that they have that position in mind for the chap. That being said, if he plays better than Arrington and Wilhite and Butler at nickel (which will be very hard with a truncated TC), then we can sure as heck bet he'll be our #3. It's interesting that last year they picked a CB when it wasn't one of our biggest needs and it worked out extremely well, so can lightning strike twice?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  5. Professor Frink

    Professor Frink Rookie

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    This might be a cop-out, but I think all four players will be given the chance to compete for that role, and whoever does best in training camp will get it. I also think it's silly for people to write off Dowling because of his skillset. Yes, he might be better suited for the outside, but if he can cover NFL recievers and bring the nessesary amount of phyiscality to the position, I wouldn't be surprised to see him win the job.
  6. patriot lifer

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    #87 Jersey

    Sure, they'll all be given the chance. If you had to pick somebody and read the tea leaves, who would it be?

    I'd say Wilhite and Arrington are the safe picks, with Butler having a chance if he shapes up.

    Dowling might not even get that much playing time until after the first few weeks of the season for a lack of experience. If we ever have some garbage time, that would be a good opportunity for him.
  7. ctpatsfan77

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    Ok, NE. 'xplain. :)
  8. signbabybrady

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    #24 Jersey

    I write off Dowling right now like I right off every rookie drafted this year who lost on mini camps, offseason work, might miss the normal week when rookies report to camp, which will put them further behind most rookies in most years. Sure there will still be rookies that have impacts this year but it will be that much harder for them to do it.

    IMO it makes sense to limit what you want Ras-I to do STs and one role as a back up with the regulars would be what I would look for. I would expect him to back up on the outside but I suppose he could try slot.


    Edit: I will throw out there some positions are easier to learn for rookies than others but I dont think corner is one of them. I think RB tends to be one throughout the league though our reliance on RBs in the pass games lessens that here. On our team I feel OL has been a position we typically have gotten some contribution out of rookies quickly (Mankins, Light, Vollmer come to mind).
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  9. Brarrell

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    I believe the nickel back is changing he has to have some coverage skills but i think he has to be a good blitzer and an excellent tackler almost a monster back aka Charles Woodson. If one of the Pats corners or safties can fill this role now i think you've got something.
  10. patriot lifer

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    #87 Jersey

    But do you think that midseason or later on in the season that he could project as our nickel (excluding injuries as a reason)?

    On a side note, it is nice that we have the luxury of not needing to thrust the kid into the nickel role for the season. Between Arrington, Wilhite, and Butler, I'd expect 2 to make the team (no guarantee though) and play well enough to not necessitate Dowling to play.
  11. BradyManny

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    Dowling may not be slot corner - but if the lockout ends in time for a fairly normal training camp, he may contribute. He could take over for the role they tried putting Chung in last season with relatively poor results as the 5th or 6th DB who covers the opposing tight end. While I like Chung, I think its a misuse of him to try and force him to cover the Dallas Clark's of the world. Dowling has the size to do it, and rare speed for that size.

    As for who covers the slot...hmm, good question. Arrington or Butler seem like the best guess. Butler seemed to make some strides in that regard at the end of the year and has the prototypical size/speed/shiftyness for it.
  12. NEGoldenAge

    NEGoldenAge Banned

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    I just think that he is physical, very quick and understands coverages because he is a former QB. In my twisted mind, he projects well as a slot corner. Troy Brown did a fair job of it in a pinch.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  13. signbabybrady

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    #24 Jersey

    As people have pointed he would seem more typical to the outside....but as others have pointed strength is becoming more important for the nickle guys.

    I am not one to pigeon hole anyone so sure I could see mid way through the season Ras-I in the nickel. But I would hope come mid season he looks good enough as an outside corner that they leave him be. Hopefully Bodden and McCourty stay healthy meaning Ras-I doesnt see the field much except on STs but hopefully his not seeing the field is due to the skill of Bodden and McCourty and that Ras-I can push the two.
  14. patfanken

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    #91 Jersey

    The Key word here is MATCHUPS, and that is a week to week thing. I think if we do we will have to take care to try an NOT create hard and fast labels for the players, because they all bring certain skill sets to the table. A series of skill sets that we haven't seen in this kind of Depth for a long time.

    That being said. If we were looking at the slot CB position as the guy who is likely to cover the Wes Welker type WR, then I'm looking for Butler to be the guy. He has all the skills and in a "matchup" situation I think he will thrive in that role. Most of Butler's problems, IMHO, came when he was matched up against bigger stronger WRs like Braylon Edwards. He doesn't play physical enough, at least to date, to effectively cover those guys. HOWEVER, if you can match him up on a smaller less physical guy, he SHOULD do a lot better.

    Dowling, Boddin, and McCourty should be your outside the hash CBs. However when you get a team that puts a "bigger" WR in the slot, like Miami does at times with Marshall, the Dowling would be the obvious choice.

    People are writing off Butler much too quickly. Too often last season he was asked to do what he physically wasn't capable of doing. Now the Pats are deep enough in the secondary, adding Boddin and Dowling to the mix, so that you can "matchup" Butler against people he CAN cover.

    Also, the Pats are perhaps a bit lucky with this lockout thing, since 3 of their top 4 picks play positions that are among the easiest to play right out of the box, in CB and RB

    Thanks for the thread
  15. PatsWickedPissah

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    Matchups is the keyword as Ken stated.

    Remember the playoff game years ago when BB befuddled Manning lining Ty Law up all over the defensive backfield creating both confusing defensive sets and exploiting matchups where Ty was able to leave his primary assignment and be where he was not expected to be? Several times in fact.
  16. Urgent

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    #24 Jersey

    Two out-of-box names were thrown out:

    Golden Age suggested Edelman, recognizing it's unrealistic without an offseason. If what makes a good slot receiver also makes a good slot corner, he's right on. While he lacks elite straight line speed, Edelman's agility is off the charts. That's great in the slot. As Golden Age basically hedged, without an offseason to make a transition, he really couldn't do it. I would further note the Patriots have focused his development on learning routes, catching, and breaking tackles. I think adding tackling technique would be one more big challenge.

    I think it was Baby Brady who brought up Chung. I was not excited with the Chung experiment at nickel. When you've got Arrington starting at outside corner, your depth at nickel is limited. I think Chung improved significantly at safety, but not so much at nickel corner. Belichick loves the big nickel. Tank Williams and John Lynch were brought in with hopes of the big nickel secondary. It really hasn't worked well yet.

    I'd much rather see a corner facing the slot receiver than a safety.

    And on the argument: if Dowling is the third best corner, shouldn't he be the third corner on the field? In a lot of ways, I think the role is different. That's sort of why the Patriots almost never ran Moss out of the slot - his vertical explosion was negated, and his relatively limited agility a liability. Analogous to outside and inside linebackers - not the same degree, but different skillsets excel.
  17. ay-yo

    ay-yo Rookie

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    Arrington
    Butler
    Wilhite / Dowling

    Of course TC could change any or all of that list but this is how I currently see it. I hope Butler turns it around being a UConn Alum. He seems like a hard worker and an excellent athlete so it wouldn't surprise me.
  18. convertedpatsfan

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    In principle, I agree.

    But don't forget Dowling played for Al Groh in a similar defensive system. Even the terminology is similar. It's like playing for BB's farm team. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dowling have an immediate impact.

    I still think there's hope for Butler, and a move inside might be exactly what he needs. But as ken said, match ups will be key.
  19. betterthanthealternative

    betterthanthealternative Rookie

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    As a Virginia fan, I was surprised when the Pats picked RiD so high. He was good as a junior, and projected to be a good senior, but missed the year with injuries. There was a lot of hope about how good he would be as a senior but he wasn't that consistent as a junior. So I was pleasantly surprised.

    The Groh system was the same but Groh and that staff were pretty bad college coaches.

    In sum, I wouldn't say that RiD is coming out of Virginia with a preparation advantage, given the poor coaching and missed senior season.
  20. Professor Frink

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    Writing Dowling off because he is a rookie is entirely different than writing him off because of his skill set. There's ample evidence to suggest a rookie without an offseason to prepare isn't gonna be ready. There isn't nearly enough evidence to suggest he is physically unable to perform the duties of a slot corner. FWIW Reiss predicted Dowling would be one of the earliest contributors of the rookie class. Personally, I just hope he can be as effective on STs as McCourty was last year.

    As for "reading the tea leaves" I suppose I'd guess Butler wins the competition.
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