Pats have brought in several new faces to compete at corner
Yesterday we wrote about the WR position and how the OTAs, Mini-camp and Training Camp battles should be intense. The same should be true about the cornerback position. Between the draft and signing UDFAs, the Patriots have added four new faces at corner and should be looking at some great competition this summer.
Top draft pick Cyrus Jones from Alabama, taken in the 2nd round of the draft with the #60 overall pick will naturally get a lot of attention this summer and with just cause. He should immediately vie for reps and can play either inside or outside.
A converted WR, Jones is slightly undersized at 5’10, but is physical, strong and has been improving in his coverage every year. He’s can mirror wide receivers down the field and is very active in run support. Jones is a dynamic punt returner with 4 returns for TDs in 2015. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and an outstanding 6.71 in the all-important 3-Cone Drill.
The Patriots also added three other corners, the theme being they’re being undersized but very athletic. They included Jonathan Jones from Auburn, V’Angelo Bentley from Illinois and Cre’Von Leblanc from Florida Atlantic. Bentley and Leblanc like Cyrus Jones have experience running back kickoffs and Jonathan Jones was a nationally ranked track star.
Jones was an All-SEC Selection in 2014 and ran a blistering 4.33 in the 40 at the NFL Combine as well as a 7.25-second three-cone, 36-inch vertical leap, and 123-inch broad jump. Strong for his size, he did 19 reps on the bench press.
He notched 129 tackles, seven interceptions, with 24 passes defended over his Tigers career. We ran a draft profile on him earlier during the draft process on his being a fit for the Patriots.
Bentley is another corner who isn’t the biggest guy at 5’10, 190 pounds, but he provided good production with 54 tackles, three TFL, sack, 743 kick/punt return yards last season. He was the only player in school history to score on a kick return, punt return, interception, and a fumble.
Leblanc is the third smaller but physical and athletic corner that the Patriots brought in as a UDFA. He too has special teams’ expertise, returning 29 kickoffs for 556 yards in his career.
While only 5’9, 194-pounds, he’s a stocky, muscular defender who was known for his versatility as a cover man/run stopper/blitzer. He doesn’t have great top-end speed (4.65 time in the 40) but did run a 6.91 in the 3-Cone.
These new faces will have the daunting task of unseating the veterans and three returning starters from last season in Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman in the slot. Butler will be a restricted free agent after the 2016 season, but isn’t going anywhere. Ryan is an unrestricted free agent after this year and as is the norm, you can’t keep everyone, so one of these young players may be vying for his spot.
The team also has recently signed E.J. Biggers a veteran backup and last season’s 7th round draft in Darryl Roberts. Roberts is an intriguing player who turned heads at last season’s training camp and earned the start for the team’s first preseason game, before injuring his wrist and being placed on IR.
Darryl Roberts looks to compete for starting reps in 2016. (SBalestrieri image)
Roberts too brings some very gifted athleticism to the table. He ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 6.66-second 3-cone, a 4.06-second short shuttle, with a 39-inch vertical leap, 23 reps on the bench press and an 11’1 broad jump at his Pro Day last year.
Unlike the rest of the league who are all trending to the bigger more physical corners, the Patriots are content with taking the slightly smaller, more athletic ones. Roberts and Biggers are the only corners at 6’0. Butler, Ryan and Coleman are listed at 5’11 and the rookie class is all under that.
It will be interesting to see who rises above the pack to nail down reps early this summer. While Cyrus Jones will be looked to push immediately for reps, Roberts and Coleman will have something to say about that.
With the old adage that you can never have enough good corners, the Patriots seem to be in that position this season. After entering 2015 with a ton of questions at the position, now they have three starters returning…something that hasn’t happened in recent memory with several talented youngsters waiting in the wings vying to compete.
The corner position will definitely be an intriguing one to watch this summer.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Combine 2016 NFL Draft 2016 Patriots Draft 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cre'von Leblanc Cyrus Jones Darryl Roberts EJ Biggers Jonathan Jones Justin Coleman Logan Ryan Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots cornerbacks V'Angelo Bentley