Based on these few practices, who are the favorites to start at cornerback? – @mariglen_mjesh
Although Malcolm Butler got more opportunities in Monday’s practice, the first four days saw a clear trend where Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell were the leaders in the clubhouse to start at outside corner. Mills is having a solid start to camp, breaking up several passes, and consistently having tight coverage on everyone. Mitchell looks like a steady option similar to Mills, or someone like Jason McCourty, holding his own thanks to great instincts and a high IQ. Butler had a back-and-forth battle with DeVante Parker on Monday where he did break up a pass on an end zone fade, but the rust still seems to be there with him at times. Rookie Jack Jones has a chance to contribute to this season, but it might not be until the second half of the year. Lastly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to unseat Jonathan Jones in the slot.
How will the Patriots match up against teams with multiple receiving threats without a true number one corner? – @James27152778
This is a question that I’ve been thinking about while taking in training camp practices over the last week. Mills and Mitchell have been competitive to the point where you feel good about them functioning within the system. But what happens when they play the Bills or Dolphins? They can’t provide safety help to everyone. We could see more two-deep safety shells this season, where they play bracket-style coverage to each outside corner. The two-deep coverages would leave them a man short in the box against the run, but that’s a trade-off they might need to live with until someone proves they can take elite-level receivers on an island. We also saw the Pats transition to more zone coverage during their seven-game winning streak a year ago, which is another option to keep guys out of single coverage.
Any surprise players you see making the final roster? I think Wilkerson definitely deserves a shot on the 53-man roster. – @KSRealmKyle
Wilkerson has a battle on his hands with Tre Nixon also fighting for a roster spot at wide receiver, and I’d currently give a slight edge to Nixon, who is trying to carve out a special teams role as well. Regarding surprises, I’ve liked what we’ve seen from undrafted rookie LaBryan Ray through five practices. We’ve only seen one padded practice, but Ray found his way into the backfield a few times, and he looks like a sturdy early-down option against the run. Sixth-round pick Sam Roberts has also popped with an explosive first step and good pad level. I also thought former CFL All-Star Drew Desjarlais held his own at guard in the first padded practice, and vet Ty Montgomery is trending towards roster lock.