For years the New England Patriots fielded one of the best cornerback groups in the NFL. Led by Pro Bowl-caliber players such as Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, the unit had no problem keeping opposing pass catchers in check on a week-to-week basis.
The times, however, they are a-changin’ for the group. Gilmore was traded to Carolina last October, with Jackson leaving in unrestricted free agency five months later. As a result, the unit finds itself in uncharted territory and facing a lot more questions than it has in quite some time.
Just don’t tell Adrian Phillips.
Phillips, who is entering his third season as a Patriot, was asked about his confidence in the cornerback group following Thursday’s training camp practice. The veteran safety did not hesitate to give an answer.
“I’m super confident,” he said. “Whoever lines up out there with us, we know that they’re going to bring it.”
The Patriots did make some investments in light of the aforementioned departures. They signed veterans Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell in free agency before later selecting Marcus Jones and Jack Jones in the third and fourth rounds of the draft, respectively.
It would not be a surprise if one of them ended up winning the vacant spot in the starting lineup last held by Jackson. During the first two sessions of camp, that responsibility went primarily to Terrance Mitchell; the ninth-year man formed the starter-level tandem alongside last year’s CB2, Jalen Mills on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Obviously, though, the Patriots’ training camp is still in its early stages — the team hasn’t even put on full pads yet. Accordingly, there is plenty of potential for change between now, next week, and ultimately the start of the regular season in September.
Regardless of what lies ahead for the group, Phillips is feeling good about its current composition and what its members are bringing to the equation.
“Even though we have new guys, we know that we’re bringing them along with us and they’re still teaching us new stuff. We still have [Malcolm Butler] teaching us a whole lot of stuff about different coverages and different techniques, and stuff like that,” he said.
“The confidence is there and we build off of that each and every day.”