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Patriots Position Snapshot: Cornerback

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In the lead-up to 2021 training camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the cornerbacks.

ANALYSIS

There was no sign of Gilmore during any of this spring's organized team activity (OTA) and minicamp practices, and that may have been in part due to his ongoing rehabilitation from a torn quadriceps muscle that he sustained late last season. Media reports also indicate that he could dissatisfied with the final year of his current contract as well. If the latter is to be believed, the natural hope is that both he and the team can come to a mutually beneficial agreement as soon as possible, because even at age 31 (which he'll turn in September), the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year remains – when at full strength – the best cornerback on this Patriots roster and is an instrumental cog in the overall secondary dynamic.

Jackson, meantime, has proven a more-than-solid sidekick to Gilmore, though it remains unclear if he can take that next step and develop into a bona fide No. 1 corner. Regardless, after Gilmore, he's the next best corner on the squad. Mills, the high-priced free agent signing this offseason, could challenge for that distinction, as he saw a considerable amount of reps at corner this spring. He's also a defensive back with proven versatility to play both corner and safety.

Jones is probably still the fastest corner on the team, which makes him an obviously valuable defender to match up against opposing speedster receivers.

So, where does that leave former second-round draft choice Joejuan Williams? Having to compete for a spot, it would seem. Undrafted 2020 rookie Myles Bryant saw considerable playing time last season and should benefit from having a full offseason of work in the Patriots' program. But he'll still have to out-battle the likes of Michael Jackson, a veteran who spent most of 2020 on New England's practice squad.

Ross has been with the club in some capacity for the past couple of seasons. Virgin, meantime, has bounced around the league the past few years and only recently joined the Patriots (he signed on New Year's Day 2021). It should be noted, though, that he appeared to be getting groomed for, or at least experimented with in a special teams role throughout the spring.

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