Patriots still working it out at cornerback

Patriots still working it out at cornerback

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Darius Butler was in time out on Sunday.

The cornerback had a rough night at New Meadowlands Stadium versus the Jets in Week 2, missing half-a-dozen catches, giving Braylon Edwards a touchdown, and later letting Edwards catch a conversion over his head. Back-to-back pass-interference penalties added to Butler's troubles and earned him a seat on the bench this Sunday. Instead, second-year player Kyle Arrington got the start opposite rookie Devin McCourty. And when the Patriots used a nickelback, it was Jonathan Wilhite.

Butler only saw three plays in the game and neither helped his cause.

During Buffalo's second drive of the second quarter, the CB promptly surrendered a nine-yard completion to Roscoe Parrish that was good for a first down. It could have been worse had Brandon Meriweather not turned the juking receiver back toward Butler's direction.

Butler failed to set the edge again just two plays later and allowed C.J. Spiller to rip off a 19-yard run. Belichick yanked his struggling corner immediately.

And so Arrington -- who learned he would start just late Friday -- and McCourty were left to shoulder the load. They did all right. Right after Butler left the game, Arrington played a little jump ball against Lee Evans in Buffalo's end zone to successfully keep the ball away and six points off the board.

But the Bills got those points on the very next play. After showing such great awareness, Arrington got blocked next time out and allowed the Bills to run a touchdown in along the edge.

Belichick said after the game that divvying up minutes was simply about going with what works. "Kyle has been practicing well, so we thought we'd give him an opportunity there to get in the game," the coach said. "He made a couple plays, so we kind of stayed with it.''

Some things were definitely working for McCourty. The CB had a physical first half. As the clock ticked down in the second half, he posted a solid open-field tackle of Evans after a gain of four.

If nothing else, the Patriots needed to make sure there were no big gains after a Buffalo reception and McCourty did well to read routes and stay on his man to ensure this. A thunderous hit on Marshawn Lynch in the fourth quarter for no gain further asserted his skill as an open-field tackler. Only linebacker Jerod Mayo and safety Patrick Chung had more tackles than McCourty's five.

So while it's not surprising that Darius Butler was a no-show for the post-game media scrum, it's surprising that McCourty dodged reporters as well. Belichick praised the first-year player, however cautiously.

"Devin's playing hard," Belichick said. "He's a tough kid, really studies the material and tries to play the defense the way we want it to be played. There are things he or any rookie needs to learn but . . . he tackles well, runs well. He's done a good job, but there's a lot to learn and a long way to go."

The Patriots coach might have been thinking of Buffalo's fourth-quarter touchdown. It was McCourty, with Chung, whose coverage of Steve Johnson got blown for 37 yards and six points. Arrington agreed that he and the other corners have plenty of work to do this week.

"Our offense can't score 38-40 points a game so we'll just have to work hard this week, even harder than we have in the past weeks,'' he said. "Miami is a good team. They have good backs as well, they're going to run the ball and try to take their shots on us as well. ''

One place for the young defense to turn when looking to improve game-play is to veterans. Arrington said that, though Leigh Bodden can no longer lead by example, the veteran corner has given out advice.

"Bodden just told me the most important thing I could do is relax, let the game come to me and told me I've been doing this since I was in little leagues,'' he smiled. "At the end of the day it's still football. It was definitely great words of encouragement."

And Belichick is there for his guys as well, "We have confidence in all those guys; Darius, Jonathan, Devin, Kyle,'' the coach said.

I'm sure they're happy for the public approval, but Darius Butler and Kyle Arrington both know that a coach's confidence is truly translated into field time. Ask both who is really feeling the love and you'll probably get two different answers. The cornerbacks certainly had very different days.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

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Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue won't hit newsstands until July 8, but Vince Wilfork gave people a not-so-little preview of what to expect this week.

The former Patriots defensive lineman, who is listed at 325 pounds but said he's weighed as much as 350 pounds, sat down for an interview about his size that landed on ESPN.com on Thursday.

"I just think it's a good idea for people that are bigger-boned," Wilfork said when asked why he posed nude for the Body Issue. "If people can look at me, a guy that's 325-plus, doing an issue like this, I'm pretty sure that they might have a little confidence.

"There will be critics, just like with everything else. I think a lot of people will get a laugh out of it, I'll tell you that. I'm looking forward to what the locker room's going to say. But at the end of the day, I'm perfectly fine with who I am as a person and what I have accomplished. It shows a lot of my personality."

You can read the full interview here, as well as watch a video that shows Wilfork in all his modeling glory.

Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

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Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

Ask a football fan in New England, and he or she might tell you that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are the top two players in the NFL. A random NFL player might not be as generous, but on balance, Brady and Gronkowski's peers consider the Patriots stars to be among the top 10 talents in the league. 

The NFL Network announced the final 10 players to be included in their annual Top 100 list, a list voted on by players, and both Brady and Gronkowski made the cut.

The order of the top 10 has been determined, but has not yet been announced. Brady and Gronkowski are in the running for No. 1 alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt. 

The weekly series, which has counted down Nos. 100-11, will end on Wednesday, July 6 with two, one-hour episodes on NFL Network at 8 and 9 p.m. Highlights of each player will be featured, as will interviews with some of their teammates and competitors. 

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder he’s always had," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said of Brady, "that really separates him."

Of Rob Gronkowski, Texans corner Charles James II said, "He's a glitch on Madden."

The only other Patriots players included in the Top 100 were Julian Edelman (who came in at No. 87) and Chandler Jones (No. 48). Jones, now a member of the Cardinals, was the only Patriots defender involved. 

Corner Malcolm Butler, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty all had an argument to be included but were left off. 

NFL.com contributors Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor put together their own individual Top 100 lists to supplement the one voted on by current players. Rosenthal included Collins (No. 64), McCourty (No. 73) and Butler (No. 99) in addition to Edelman (No. 84). Wesseling included Collins (No. 43), McCourty (No. 88) and Hightower (No. 91), but not Edelman. Jones-Drew included both Edelman (No. 62) and Butler (No. 95). Taylor included only Edelman (No. 89).