We continue our pre-training camp look at the position battles on the Patriots roster with a look at the cornerback position.
What's at Stake:
Much like the wide receiver position where there's a clear cut number one in Julian Edelman, the cornerback position has a top dog in Darrelle Revis. The rest of the depth chart is very much up for grabs heading into camp this year.
Brandon Browner: Browner is perhaps the favorite of the bunch to claim the number two cornerback position heading into camp. At 6'4" and 221 lbs, Browner was signed with the idea that he would be an ideal compliment to Darrelle Revis as a physical boundary cornerback. The only issue with Browner? He's got a four game suspension to open the regular season which could allow someone to steal a starting spot from him.
Logan "Instant Offense" Ryan: In his rookie season, Ryan showcased potentially elite ball skills and instincts. While his physical attributes don't necessarily jump off the page like Browner, he could be the second best cornerback on the roster if he continues to improve like he did near the end of last season. He's a top candidate to take over slot duties should he not win a starting spot.
Alfonzo Dennard: Entering his third season in the league, it is clear that Alfonzo Dennard does has some athletic limitations, but very good ball skills and physicality. He might not be the tallest, but he will always compete for the ball and has enough short-area quickness to stick with some of the shiftier receivers in the league. He has played primarily on the outside in his career, but could probably play in the slot as well.
Kyle Arrington: Arrington was a mixed bag in 2013, but has generally been one of the league's better slot cornerbacks. And while he may be the forgotten man amongst this group, he has surprised when the odds were against him before. At this point, he's still a favorite for the nickel spot, but barring injuries, probably won't see much action on the boundary.
Justin Green: Green only played nine defensive snaps in 2013, but has an NFL body and athleticism, and had his moments during the preseason in 2014. He's more of a bubble/back-end player, but one to keep an eye on.
Everyone Else: Malcolm Butler, Travis Hawkins
Current Depth Chart Projection:
1. Darrelle Revis
2. Brandon Browner*
3. Logan Ryan
4. Alfonzo Dennard
5. Kyle Arrington
(6. Justin Green)**
(7. Malcolm Butler)**
(8. Travis Hawkins)**
* = Suspended for first four games of 2014 regular season. Alfonzo Dennard would be projected to start in his absence.
**= Projected Cut
Next to the wide receiver position, this could be the most entertaining camp battle the Patriots have with five players with starting caliber talent. And while the five roster spots might already be pretty well solidified, where each of those players land on the depth chart is a complete unknown. Ultimately, I do expect Brandon Browner to claim a starting spot on the outside, but his suspension certainly leaves the door open for Dennard or Ryan to claim that role permanently. Rookie Jemea Thomas could also factor in at this position, but his role would likely come as a sub-package cornerback/safety hybrid.