Even since before the 2010 NFL season came to a close, I've been extremely anxious to see what a cornerback pair of Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty would look like together. Both have similar builds, McCourty has the advantage in ball skills and athleticism, and Bodden has the advantage in experience and to a slight extent physicality, although both players are very capable as run defenders and in press coverage.
In 2009, Leigh Bodden had the best coverage season for a Patriots cornerback since Asante Samuel in 2007, and the best overall season for a Patriots cornerback since Ty Law in 2003 (including press, zone, and run support). Before I became the managing editor of Pats Pulpit, I declared Leigh Bodden "the closest thing the Patriots have had to Ty Law since, well, Ty Law."
Then, the Patriots went out and drafted Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. While most didn't expect McCourty to be the player he ended up being his rookie season, the thought of a Bodden-McCourty-Butler trio was still a pretty tantalizing thought. Then, however, Leigh Bodden went down for the season with a rotator cuff injury in the preseason. Patriots fans never really got to see the two play together.
You know how the rest of the story went. Devin McCourty turned into a Pro Bowl, shutdown corner his rookie season amazing those who even had the highest expectations for the former Rutgers star. While people were initially excited for Bodden's return, those expectations were tempered a bit when the team drafted former Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling with the 33rd overall pick in April's Draft. Ever since that draft selection, Leigh Bodden has become somewhat of a forgotten commodity.
Read the rest after the jump, including a statistical look at Bodden and McCourty!
In my opinion, Bodden's career with the Patriots is far from over. Off the top, he's still only 29 and has three years remaining on his deal. He will only be 32 when his current deal expires. While Ras-I Dowling may pass Bodden on the depth chart by the end of Bodden's contract, it very likely won't be in the next two seasons. If Bodden is still the better player, he will see the field as his contract is relatively reasonable for a player of his skill. Next, Leigh Bodden is only coming off of a rotator cuff injury - it could be worse for a cornerback. As long as he has stayed in shape, his legs won't be much older than they were during his solid 2009 campaign.
And going back to his 2009 campaign, lets look at some of his stats: according to ProFootballFocus.com:
Leigh Bodden:876 snaps (88.6%), Thrown at: 92 times, Completions: 46 (50%), 4 touchdowns allowed, 5 interceptions, 18 passes defensed, 59.7 QB Rating
Now, lets take a look at Devin McCourty's stats:
Devin McCourty: 1121 snaps (95.6%), Thrown at 104 times, 58 completions, 5 touchdowns allowed, 7 interceptions, 17 passes defended, 61.1 QB rating
Those are some truly impressive numbers for both players. And surprisingly, they're really similar (especially when considering the two interceptions that Bodden had called back). Now, we don't know for sure if Leigh Bodden will be the same player he was in 2011 that he was in 2009. In fact, it's not even a 100% guarantee that he will make the roster and be a starter. If Bill Belichick thinks a player such as Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, or even Darius Butler is a better option, possibly due to salary cap reasons, Bodden could be shown the door. I don't expect this to happen. I expect Bodden to be a really good player for the Patriots next season, and in 2012 and beyond as well.
And just to think, if Bodden continues to show up and McCourty progresses as he should, the Patriots really will have a "pick your poison" type of mentality when it comes to the cornerback position, especially if a guy like Darius Butler can progress to his potential as a slot cornerback.