The New England Patriots have the luxury of too many starting-caliber cornerbacks. The locks to make the roster are Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard — all of whom would start on most NFL teams. Now that they have the ultra-talented Revis and Browner to lead a strong core of young guys, the Patriots boast the league’s best cornerback group.
Let’s start with the cream of the crop. For the first time since the Ty Law era, the Patriots have a true shutdown cornerback in Revis. The Pats can stick Revis on any wide receiver and have confidence that he will win the matchup. Richard Sherman may have surpassed Revis as the best corner in the game, but the fact still remains that Revis is a quarterback’s worst nightmare.
Browner is a mammoth of a defensive back at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds. He will be especially useful this season because the Patriots face the biggest and best wideouts in the NFL — Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas. His sheer size alone will be an asset in these games; of these receivers, only Johnson, at 6-foot-5, is taller than Browner.
After a standout rookie season in which he picked off five passes and earned the nickname “Instant Offense”, Ryan can be labeled as a rising star. Although Revis and Browner are penciled-in as the starters, Ryan will have a chance to prove his worth in the first four games of the season while Browner is out. Even when Browner is back, Ryan will be a regular fixture in the starting rotation.
The forgotten man in this group is Dennard, mainly because of his diminutive stature and legal issues that have checkered his two years in the NFL. However, when he is at his best, Dennard is a top-20 corner. He is physically aggressive, quick and a sure tackler. Much like Ryan, Dennard will have opportunities to start in the first month and will definitely be a valuable commodity as the season progresses.
Another veteran who should make the roster is slot corner Kyle Arrington. Barring a wave of injuries, Arrington will be used exclusively in the slot, where he is an effective player. When placed on the outside, Arrington is often a liability, but he is very useful in his role on the inside.
Injuries will happen, of course — but that’s how Browner’s suspension is a blessing in disguise. The four games Browner will miss at the beginning of the year is essentially an insurance policy, guaranteeing that he won’t get injured during that period. If any of the other players gets hurt, then Browner’s return will help to cover the loss.
As for the other 12 games, if one of these five players goes down for the rest of the season, then the Patriots can call on minicamp standout Daxton Swanson to pick up the slack.
No other secondary in the league features a cornerback group as formidable and deep as the Patriots. Revis provides star power, Browner brings an intimidating physical presence, Ryan and Dennard offer promise and youth and Arrington is dependable in his role. Gone are the days of the Patriots having a punchless pass defense. This group will outperform other units around the league on a weekly basis.