It’s no secret that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves cornerbacks that can play the run well, and we’ve seen CBs in the past (most namely Darius Butler) unable to cut the mustard for the Patriots due to major issues on run defense. Part of the reason why Belichick likes these kinds of CBs is likely because it puts less of a strain on having to put a safety in the box, which is something the Patriots rarely did last season. The New England Patriots also favor physical corners a la Alfonzo Dennard and the recently drafted Logan Ryan, and those are corners that are also usually adept at stopping the run.
Kyle Arrington received a four-year contract extension this offseason, and he is the ideal slot receiver due to his physicality and great run defense. Although his lack of long speed makes him a huge liability in coverage on the outside (as we saw last season), Arrington is easily one of the better slot cornerbacks in the NFL.
The Pro Football Focus recently released the top ten cornerbacks in their ratings of the past ten years, and these ranking releases are always a must-read. Although it was no surprise to see that the Patriots did not have a top ten cornerback overall, it was also equally unsurprising to see that the New Engalnd Patriots placed a pair of corners on the top ten list of CBs against the run.
Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington both cracked the list at sixth and eighth respectively, and one of the staples of Arrington’s game is his ability to play the run. A truly great slot corner (not that Arrington is one…at least not yet, but he does have this going for him) is a standout in run defense, and that’s apparent when you look at PFF’s list. Antoine Winfield is far and away the best corner in run defense of the past five years, and the top ten list also has another heralded, veteran slot corner against the run in Charles Woodson.
It’s a shame Devin McCourty lost one spot to his twin Jason, but both are about evenly-skilled in run defense anyway. McCourty has always been great against the run, and that tackling ability has translated well to the free safety position. D-Mac has all the tools at FS with his coverage skills from CB, his tackling ability, his range, his run defense, and his ball skills.
The New England Patriots certainly do have a knack for adding cornerbacks that can shut down the run, and I wonder if this is one of those small, under-the-radar things that the Patriots do that has a significant affect on the team’s defense. The one thing I do know is that it is special to have a player like McCourty or Champ Bailey who is elite against the run and is great in coverage.
Maybe the best part of McCourty and Arrington being ranked in the top ten among CBs in run defense for the past five years is the fact that neither of them have played every season of the past five. Aqib Talib is another notable run-stopping safety on the New England Patriots, and it seems like this is something Rutgers rookie Logan Ryan can also provide to the team.