This will be the first installment of a series of battles worth watching in camp for Patriots fans. The first camp battle will be the starting CB job opposite of Logan Ryan, who has had a good off-season so far. With the departures and free agent signings, Belichick is depending on internal improvement from Ryan and Malcolm Butler along with band-aids (Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain) for the position this year. With the perceived need to draft a CB, the Patriots waited until the 247th pick to draft a CB. That CB may turn to be a nice steal in the future, as Darryl Roberts has ideal athleticism for the position. Figuring out how the CB position shakes out should be fun/agonizing (depending on your viewpoint).
Camp Contestants: Bradley Fletcher, Malcolm Butler, Darryl Roberts
This battle likely comes down to Fletcher vs. Butler. Darryl Roberts is going to have a Malcolm Butler type camp to really get into consideration given how Belichick rarely trusts rookies to start in his defense. Unless Butler really struggles in camp, he's likely guaranteed a roster spot on both the 53-man roster and 46-man gameday roster. Naturally Fletcher comes into camp with the edge because of his experience in the NFL. With the Patriots likely shifting off their press-man coverage from 2015 (with a nice mix of off-man and zone), we will likely see more off-man and zone than press in 2015. While Fletcher has the natural edge, Malcolm Butler should not be overlooked and it's not just because of his Super Bowl ending interception. Butler came into camp a year ago as a long shot, but forced his way onto the roster with a stellar camp and preseason. A similar level in camp may win him a starting role.
Projected Winner: Malcolm Butler
Even though Bradley Fletcher has more NFL experience and coached by a former BB assistant (Ferentz at Iowa), this is his first year in Bill Belichick's system. Butler does not have that problem and is much younger (25 vs. 29). The interception plays very little into this decision, but rather his solid play in the 2014 season and Super Bowl XLIX. Another great camp from Butler will win him a starting spot across from Logan Ryan.