Cornerback Malcolm Butler made the Pro Bowl, but the 25-year-old is just in his second year as an undrafted member of the New England Patriots. He is the second longest tenured Patriots cornerback.
Cornerback Justin Coleman is an 22-year-old undrafted rookie. 25-year-old Cornerback Leonard Johnson (also undrafted) has been a member of the Patriots for less than a month. 26-year-old Rashaan Melvin (undrafted!) has been on the team for two months and is currently on the practice squad.
30-year-old veteran Tarell Brown (5th round) has the most experience and 25-year-old rookie Darryl Roberts (7th round) was going start, but both are on the injured reserve- and Brown is a one-year rental.
That leaves 24-year-old cornerback Logan Ryan, a 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft, as the most experienced cornerback with the best draft pedigree on the active roster, and he's assumed the leadership role of the group.
"I'd say Logan [Ryan] has a done a great job of... he's not a coach, but in terms of taking leadership of that unit, in terms of their preparation, their communication, their on the field adjustments, helping guys like Leonard, Malcolm, working with the safeties," head coach Bill Belichick said. "Logan has been a big part of the development of that whole unit as well."
The Patriots had a gaping void with the departure of veterans Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington, and there was speculation that the secondary would be the downfall of the 2015 Patriots. That hasn't been the case.
"This year we're looking at a lot different makeup on that [cornerback] group," Belichick explained. "Younger players who can be instructed more in the basic fundamental way to play that haven't been in other systems, that don't have other habits, that don't have other things to change that you can build it a little bit more from the ground up rather than from the top down."
Logan Ryan and cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer have been instrumental in the educational process of these new and inexperienced faces. We've seen how questionable communication can really hinder an offensive line unit, as the constant rotations and injuries have prevented the interior linemen and the tackles from developing into a cohesive unit.
The same applies for the secondary and the Patriots have rotated cornerbacks all offseason, and even featured both Brown and Bradley Fletcher early in the year, before settling on Ryan across from Butler. The unit took some time to perform at a high level, and it took the introduction of Ryan and his assumption of leadership before the results were seen on the field.
Thanks to players like Ryan and Butler, and coaches like Boyer, the Patriots secondary will be in good hands for years to come.