We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at undrafted rookie cornerback V'Angelo Bentley.
Name: V'Angelo Bentley
Jersey number: 9*
Size: 5'10, 190 lbs.
2015 review: Bentley started all 12 games of his 2015 senior season at Illinois and finished the year with 54 tackles, one sack and six pass breakups. While he was serviceable as a defender, displaying sound tackling and communication skills in the process, his best work came on special teams.
The 22-year old finished the season with a combined 743 return yards (505 on kickoffs, 238 on punts) and was named honorable All-Big Ten mention after the season. Bentley finished in the conference's top ten in both kickoff return average (22.0 yards/return; ninth) and punt return average (9.2 yards/returns; sixth).
2016 preview: While the Patriots' top three cornerbacks – Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones – are locks to make the roster, the spot(s) behind the trio are open for competition. In order to beat out his fellow defensive backs, Bentley needs to leave his mark as both a defender and, perhaps more importantly, a kick returner.
It remains to be seen whether or not his versatility and raw skill-set will earn him a spot on New England's roster or special teams. One thing seems sure, though: Bentley faces an uphill battle. But if he performs over the course of the summer, improves his technique and proves coachable, he could very well become a member of the 2016 Patriots either on the roster or, more likely, on the team's practice squad.
As their offseason transactions show, the Patriots have made improving their cornerback depth a priority this year. V'Angelo Bentley is a part of this process, but given the talent of his competition, needs to stand out in the upcoming weeks not to get lost in the numbers game.