Over the offseason, the New England Patriots built one of the NFL’s elite secondaries — at least on paper. Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan have the top four cornerback positions locked up, leaving the fifth and likely final spot on the depth chart open. Let’s take a look at the battle as preseason wears on.
The players in this race all share something in common — being undrafted. Kyle Arrington, who’s been in the league since 2009, is well aware of the difficult position that Malcolm Butler, Dax Swanson and Justin Green are in right now. Unlike those guys, however, Arrington is an established entity in the NFL. He led the league in interceptions back in 2011 and is a solid slot defender. He should win the job, but he will be feeling the August heat that much more if one of these young guys steps up.
You’ve probably heard of Butler by now after watching the preseason game against the Washington Redskins. The small-school product held his own against the Redskins’ top receivers, getting his hand on several passes and nearly picking off a few as well. If he is let go by the Patriots, he should be able to find a home elsewhere. As of right now, he is Arrington’s main competitor.
Swanson bounced around on several rosters as a rookie in 2013, so he knows how tough it is to make it in the NFL. He’s stood out in offseason workouts and training camp with his knack for finding the ball. If Swanson can pick off a few passes in the remaining exhibition games, Bill Belichick will have a hard time letting him go — he should at least end up on the practice squad.
After playing in two games for the Patriots last season, Green is the only player in this competition besides Arrington who has actually stepped foot in a regular season game. However, he didn’t show much in that minimal playing time and has stood out the least among this group in training camp.
For the first four games of 2014, the Patriots will be without Browner, so look for the team to use Butler or Swanson at least for the month of September. If one or both of those guys stands out in the rest of preseason or the first few weeks of the regular season, it could spell trouble for Arrington. Green, however, appears to be destined for the practice squad.