FOXBOROUGH — There’s a lot a young cornerback can learn from veterans like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Both men are new to the Patriots defense, though, so there’s a lot they can learn from the younger guys, as well.
The Patriots hold-over group of defensive backs account for a combined 16 years worth of experience in the system. That’s a lot of brain-picking, says Revis, who was able to get the secondary together for workouts in Phoenix earlier this offseason.
“I remember when we were in OTAs, I said I had to take a step back to learn the terminology and those types of things,” Revis said. “These guys have been here for a couple years, and you’ve got to take a step back. It’s a new system for me. It’s different from what I’ve played in the past. It’s good to be around those guys as much as I can to learn and get feedback from them and also ask them questions. Any question I need to ask I can ask those guys.”
Revis and Browner have a combined 10 years of playing experience, and their talent is evident every time they take the field. But it’s not just about the individual talent, it’s about getting everyone to maximize their abilities and get on the same page.
“I think it’s a give and take relationship,” said second-year cornerback Logan Ryan of both learning from the veterans and helping teach them. “You’ve gotta always respect players of their caliber, but it’s not about what they’ve done, it’s about what they do in front of us [and] in front of myself each and every day. They’re great leaders, they’re great players, and they’re learning from us, guys who have been in the system a little bit as well.”
Ryan is already regarded as a smart, highly instinctive cornerback. His quickness and his ability to read and react helped him intercept five passes last season. Thus far in training camp, he has won all but one of his 1-on-1 matchups against the wide receivers.
He had a successful rookie season, earning seven starts and 600 defensive snaps in 2013 (52.2 percent) according to Football Outsiders. Likewise, third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was firmly entrenched at the top of the order in the secondary, earning nine starts and 716 snaps on defense (62.3 percent).
Of course, the arrival of Revis and Browner likely means fewer snaps for the young cornerbacks. As for any notion that this fact was met with disappointment from Dennard and Ryan, the two young defensive backs were quick to shoot it down.
“That’s a good thing,” Dennard said of the competition for snaps in the secondary. “You learn a lot by being around guys like that. We’re part of a team. Everybody’s competitive on the team, that’s how you’ve got to be.”
“No, not at all,” Ryan said of whether he was bothered by the possibility of being pushed down the depth chart. “Regardless, it’s competition. And I’m just trying to be a better defensive back, regardless of who is on the team. The better players we are, the closer we are to being a better team and winning a Super Bowl.”
If the team is going to reach that pinnacle, which it hasn’t done in nine-going-on-ten years, the secondary is likely to be a big key in doing so. They will need the ammunition in coverage when it comes time for their showdown with Peyton Manning and the high-flying Denver Broncos. That being said, the Patriots’ sheer volume in the secondary gives Bill Belichick ample options when choosing who will cover whom — that goes for the Broncos or any other team.
No matter the matchup, the Patriots only stand a chance if everyone is learning from each other. That process is well under way at training camp.