The cornerback position of the New England Patriots was always going to receive the most scrutiny in 2015. The team had won the Super Bowl thanks to cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington, and then all three were gone. The Patriots effectively turned over the entire position from a star-studded group to a one-hit wonder in Malcolm Butler and a bunch of nobodies.
They exceeded all of the possible expectations.
Butler became a legitimate #1 cornerback in his first season as a starter and he'll only get better next season. He was joined by Logan Ryan, who became the team leader at the position even though he was the second youngest in the room. Ryan was the perfect complement to Butler when it came time to cover some of the more physical wide receivers in the league.
The team had a rotation on the roster as the likes of Bradley Fletcher, Tarell Brown, Leonard Johnson, and Justin Coleman played at various times, and the team was expecting rookie Darryl Roberts to be the starter before his injury during the preseason.
The position is extremely young and it appears to be in great hands moving forward.
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Butler and Ryan are both top candidates to receive quality contract extensions, while Coleman will be under team control for the foreseeable future as an exclusive rights free agent. Head coach Bill Belichick liked Coleman so much that he stashed the cornerback during his injury, even though it put a strain on the roster.
Johnson is under contract and will be a camp body and his energy was contagious when he was on the field. Brown has expressed a desire to return and the team could use a veteran leader because no one else will be 27 years of age or older.
Butler, Ryan, Coleman, and Roberts could be the core of a great future, and the team will likely carry five players during the season, so Johnson or Brown could also make the squad. With so much talent in house, it doesn't appear that the position will be of great need during the draft or free agency, but don't be surprised if Belichick and company add a body for the sake of competition.