Last week, we talked about the return of Patriots' defensive end Ty Warren, and what that could mean for the Patriots. Another player presumably returning to health next season will be veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden. Bodden missed the entire 2010 season with a rotator cuff surgery, and talked about his recovery during Super Bowl week:
I'm going to be good, it's my shoulder. I'm rehabbing it good. I'm lifting on it. It's been five months so, I have the most confidence in the world that I'm going to have my best season next year.
A healthy Leigh Bodden will give the Patriots one of the best one-two punches at cornerback in the league, with 2010 rookie Devin McCourty already playing at an elite level. While Bodden's return is certainly a great thing for the Pats, it will cause a mix-up on the cornerback depth chart. Bodden and McCourty presumably become the number one and two outside corners, with the slot cornerback position up for grabs. So who are the candidates to grab that spot?
A look at who may play slot cornerback after the jump!
Kyle Arrington: In 2010, Kyle Arrington took over as starting right cornerback for Darius Butler starting week three. He was solid in run support and decent in coverage. However, I see Arrington as more of a boundary corner than a slot cornerback, and I think that will mean he takes a serious cut in playing time.
Darius Butler: Darius Butler is probably the wild card here. He played a very solid rookie season, before struggling out of the gates his sophomore year, being benched after a miserable game against the Jets in week two. He didn't see the field much after that until late in the season, when he started to show some signs of life. Butler could play on the outside or in the slot with his athleticism. That being said, I would say Butler is probably the favorite for the spot right now.
Jonathan Wilhite: Jonathan Wilhite is a guy really being overlooked at this point. After struggling making plays on the ball in 2009, Wilhite played solid football in 2010 before going down for the year with injury. He's not tremendous, but he's super athletic, and was the team's top slot cornerback for when he was healthy last year.
Pat Chung: Patrick Chung, a safety, played a lot of slot cornerback in 2010, despite other options (such as Butler) being healthy. I'm not sure if that's a sign of the coaches confidence in Chung, or lack of trust in Butler. My guess is the latter, as Chung really struggled in man coverage from the slot. Don't get me wrong, Patrick Chung is one of the Patriots' best defensive players, I just don't want to see him as the slot cornerback.
Tony Carter: Tony Carter was a practice squadder early in the 2010 season, before being promoted to the active roster in December. Carter is undersized and would probably be best suited as a slot cornerback. He impressed coaches in practice, earning several practice player of the week honors.
So lets get a debate going: who do you think will be the Patriots slot cornerback in 2011?