Patriots building a secondary that has an answer for everything


FOXBORO - The Patriots are collecting defensive backs like a janitor collects keys.

You come into Foxboro with, for instance, a short but lightning-quick receiver? The Patriots have a guy to cover him. Come in with an accomplished tight end? The Patriots got a guy. Come in with a treetop wideout that towers over most corners? The Patriots now have a cornerback who can look him straight in the eye.

With the 45th pick in this draft, the Patriots took 6-4, 211-pound JoeJuan Williams, a defensive back from Vanderbilt. That’s about the biggest cornerback in captivity and it really completes the Patriots array of corners.

Bill Belichick talked about this in his pre-draft press conference.

“If teams are going to be three-receiver sets in the majority of offensive formations, then you better be ready to put five defensive backs on the field and be ready to have a slot corner,” said Belichick. “If you want to have a slot receiver, then you need to have a slot receiver if you want to put three out there. Somebody’s got to play in the middle. …

“Usually, you sit there at the end of the year and say, well, we had a lot of trouble blocking this player or defending this type of player or whatever it is, and then that kind of becomes a need for you,” Belichick added. “Either we have to change our scheme to do this, which probably isn’t that easy or you would have already done it, or we have to have another certain type of player on our roster that we don’t currently have that has a certain type of skillset. So, this is another year where there’s a lot of big receivers – 6-4, 225, 230, whatever they are – I mean, somebody’s going to have to cover those guys one of these days.”

Williams, clearly, is a player the Patriots hope can be groomed to do that.

It’s interesting to see how the Patriots are building their secondary.

Stephon Gilmore can match up with anybody. Jason McCourty, same thing and J.C. Jackson is being groomed to succeed McCourty.

Then there are the specialty corners. Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen are smaller and can deal with fast guys as they did in the AFC Championship Game with Tyreek Hill.

Patrick Chung gets tight ends and slot receivers which Williams might be able to also do at some point. Same with Duke Dawson. Devin McCourty can cover anything from a waterbug to a tight end.

Whatever an offense brings, the Patriots want to be able to say, “We got a guy…” With Williams, they got a guy at corner unlike anybody else in the league.

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