Patriots’ corner market

To wrap up the week, and head for the weekend …

One thing that’s interesting about the way the Patriots have played defense this year is the developing rotation at corner. It’s unusual in the NFL that a team will rotate players in and out at that position, because most would be afraid to create bad matchups by pulling better corners off the field.

Yet, for one reason or another, the Patriots have mixed playing-time patterns with Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite, Darius Butler and Shawn Springs the last four weeks. By comparison, neither of the starting safeties, Brandon Meriweather or Brandon McGowan, has missed a meaningful snap in that time.

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Now, an old Parcells practice that Bill Belichick has used at times is what’s called “churning the roster” — cutting and signing players constantly at the bottom of the roster to keep players on their toes. In a certain way, creating this kind of competition for playing time at the cornerback position has had a similar effect.

“That’s how you have to go into any position, stay on your toes, never get complacent — competition just helps everybody,” Bodden said. “Later on down the road, guys are gonna hurt, maybe for a few games or a few plays, and you’ll need guys to step in and do a good job.”

Another benefit of the emerging interchangeable nature of the secondary, of course. So here, thanks to a great site called Pro Football Focus, which tracks just about everything for every team, are the playing-time tallies for the Patriots’ top four corners over the last month.

Leigh Bodden
TOTAL: 197 of 261 snaps (75 percent)
vs BAL: 60 of 70 snaps (86 percent)
at DEN: 73 of 79 snaps (92 percent)
vs TEN: 10 of 51 snaps (20 percent)
vs TB: 54 of 61 snaps (89 percent)


Jonathan Wilhite
TOTAL: 173 of 261 snaps (66 percent)
vs BAL: 44 of 70 snaps (63 percent)
at DEN: 32 of 79 snaps (41 percent)
vs TEN: 50 of 51 snaps (98 percent)
vs TB: 47 of 61 snaps (77 percent)
Darius Butler
TOTAL: 144 of 261 snaps (55 percent)
vs BAL: 15 of 70 snaps (21 percent)
at DEN: 30 of 79 snaps (38 percent)
vs TEN: 51 of 51 snaps (100 percent)
vs TB: 48 of 61 snaps (79 percent)
Shawn Springs
TOTAL: 128 of 261 snaps (49 percent)
vs BAL: 57 of 70 snaps (81 percent)
at DEN: 57 of 79 snaps (72 percent)
vs TEN: 11 of 51 snaps (22 percent)
vs TB: 3 of 61 snaps (5 percent)
There are trends, of course. Butler’s playing more, Springs is playing less.
But it seems like most of all, these guys are OK with the rotation, and the idea that playing time and roles could fluctuate as the season goes on.
“I came here to win, so whatever takes to win, whatever I have to do, whatever my role is, that’s what I going to do,” Bodden said. “I would like to be out there, as would everyone else. But that’s what coach decides. When we’re in there, we have to make the plays.”