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Patriots roster tier: The cornerbacks

Related: Patriots roster tier: The linebackers

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Remember that great New England Patriots defensive backfield last year? The one with Gilmore, Jackson, Jones, McCourty and others? Yeah it’s pretty much going to be the same this year. As far as tiers go, this has been the easiest. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

But before you do that please go check out our other tier lists:

Also if reading isn’t your thing go check out the Pats Nation Podcast, Episode 80. I joined Pat Lane and Ryan Spagnoli to talk about this cornerback group.

Now for the good stuff:

In order: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, Justin Bethel, Myles Bryant, D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins

The Guy

Stephon GilmoreHe won Defensive Player of the Year. Moving on.

Roster Locks

J.C. JacksonI believe there is no better bang for your buck in the NFL than J.C. Jackson. Last year, the Patriots got five interceptions and the lowest passer rating allowed in the league out of him for roughly $570,000. That is unbelievable production for a second-year UDFA. He firmly established himself as the number two corner behind Gilmore and lined himself up for a big payday either next offseason or when he is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency one year later. The Patriots are a little preoccupied trying to figure out the Joe Thuney situation but they should have plenty of money next year to extend the restricted free agent to be. Oh yeah, he’s going to make the team.

Jonathan JonesAs the slot corner position has become more vital to a lot of teams in recent seasons, it also has in New England. The Patriots run their nickel defense (five defensive backs) most of the time and employ a man-to-man coverage scheme. Jones plays that third cornerback role in the middle of the defense with no help from the boundary. Just him, the shiftiest receiver on the other team, and green grass. He does as good a job as anyone in the NFL in the slot. His success has been vital to the Patriots success in recent seasons as well, and his absence in Super Bowl 52 had just as big of an impact as Malcolm Butler’s. I will say that to my grave. Jones your number three corner for the foreseeable future.

Joejuan WilliamsWilliams had a tough rookie campaign. He was moved around a ton in the preseason so he had a lot to learn, he never saw any real action on the defense as the secondary stayed fairly healthy throughout the season, then to cap it all off was arrested in January on minor drug charges. Not the best year. This year should be different. The whole Duke Dawson situation from last year makes me nervous, but Williams has the size and talent to be a good corner in New England. The team will find a role for him, maybe as a reserve corner in four wide receiver sets or against tight ends. Something like that.

Jason McCourtyI considered putting McCourty in the fringe roster section because I just don’t know how he’s going to hold up this season, and the groin injury from last year worries me. Alas I kept him in the lock section because injuries are impossible to predict and I haven't considered them so far so why start now. McCourty is a leader on this team and should have a spot come final cuts.

Justin BethelBethel is a special teamer, we all know that. I kept him in the cornerback section because he brings at least some value on the defensive side as well: he sees some time on defense when the Patriots are up 30 or so. Most importantly, he’s the second best gunner in the NFL and Bill Belichick loves him some special teams.

Fringe Roster Guys



Myles BryantI wrote about Bryant earlier this week. He’s an undersized do-it-all kind of guy who you will see plenty of this preseason. He also has a cool story about walking on to Washington. Check it out here.

D’Angelo RossRoss is another guy I really like. He’s a bit of an athletic freak and made a ton of plays in camp last year. He was pretty much redshirted in 2019 and will have another chance to prove himself this summer. If he can make some strides and show off the same playmaking ability he did last year, he will be hard to ignore come final cuts.

Camp Body (No Chance in Hell)

Lenzy PipkinsIt pains me to do this. With a last name like Pipkins you root for the guy. Unfortunately, however, the Patriots’ cornerback room is as deep as they come and I just don’t see him carving out a role. He has made rosters before but has never had competition quite like this.

No Chance List

  • Brian Lewerke
  • Gunner Olszewski
  • Sean Riley
  • Isaiah Zuber
  • Devin Ross
  • Najee Toran
  • Courtney Wallace Jr.
  • Terez Hall
  • Lenzy Pipkins

We’re officially down to two episodes, I have to figure out what the hell I'm going to do....