BOSTON (CBS) — In adding free agent Stephon Gilmore to Malcolm Butler this offseason, the New England Patriots have an extremely talented pair of cornerbacks heading into the 2017 season.
All of New England knows what Butler can do on a weekly basis, and he’s done a solid job whenever thrown into the fire against the league’s elite receivers. Now with Gilmore in the mix, Bill Belichick has a bigger option in the defensive backfield to toss against the opposition’s biggest receiving threat. So who will draw the task of covering an opponent’s best receiver on a weekly basis?
Mike Reiss joined Steve Burton on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final on Sunday night to discuss the 2017 Patriots season, and said the addition of Gilmore will give the Patriots plenty of options to mix and match on defense.
“It depends what kind of receiver it is [you’re going up against]. You have Gilmore, your free agent import who is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and Butler, who is a smaller guy. So if you’re going against Pittsburgh and Antonio Brown, I want Butler on him. If you have a bigger receiver, I want Gilmore on him,” explained Reiss. “I think now, they actually have the ability to match up a bit.”
If you’re worried that Butler, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, is focused more on earning a new contract, Reiss said that the corner is locked in on the upcoming season and not next offseason.
“That guy was at the stadium last week, July 4th week, and he is checking in, one of the only players working out there behind the scenes. To me, that’s the answer to your question. He’s putting that to the side and it’s all work for him. I think there is a lot to respect about that approach,” said Reiss.
While there is already some extremely premature 19-0 chatter out there given how stacked the Patriots are throughout the roster, they are not without their areas of concern. Veteran David Harris was a nice addition, but there is a rather large question mark at linebacker depth behind Dont’a Hightower, and the same can be said at tight end with Rob Gronkowski and newcomer Dwayne Allen both owners of a lengthy injury history.
“While the Patriots are loaded, there are going to be issues that come up over time, and tight end is an interesting one to start off with,” said Reiss. “You want to build your roster with a solid player behind [Gronkowski] if he goes down. They did that last year with Martellus Bennett …. so is Dwayne Allen, is he going to be a comparable to what they got from Bennett? It’s a fair concern, because what we saw in spring practices from Allen was not great and Dwayne Allen himself said he has to play better and knows he can play better. Let’s put that on the radar and watch it during training camp.”
Watch Mike Reiss’ full interview on Sports Final here, as he also hits on New England’s depth at running back and linebacker. Tune in to Sports Final and Sports Final Overtime every Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. on WBZ-TV!