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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Changing face of Pats at corner

By Mike Reiss

Three years ago, when discussing what the Patriots look for in cornerbacks, then-VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli touched on the importance of change of direction.

“Part of it is that the bigger a player gets – the taller or longer sometimes a player is – the less fluid they are in changing direction," Pioli said at the time. "When you’re looking for a corner, they have to be reactive athletes – to see changes, know what’s going on, plant their foot, and drive toward the football. The longer, taller bodies have more difficulty being reactive-type athletes.”

The Patriots' approach at the position has been changing. Size is now viewed as more important, as evidenced by the projected top four players on their depth chart, all of whom joined the team since 2009:

Devin McCourty -- 5-foot-10, 193 pounds
Leigh Bodden -- 6-foot-1, 193 pounds
Ras-I Dowling -- 6-foot-1, 198 pounds
Kyle Arrington -- 5-foot-10, 196 pounds

One point Bill Belichick made after the second day of the draft is that big, physical corners also add value on special teams. When that is combined with matching up with opposing pass-catchers on early downs, it makes those big, physical corners more desirable. 

"It seems like every week, we’re going up against big, physical receivers in this league, whether it’s Braylon Edwards or Brandon Marshall or you can go right down the line, the San Diego receivers, Pittsburgh receivers ...," Belichick said. "Everybody’s got them and being able to tackle and being physical and being able to jam guys and things like that, playing the kicking game, I think those are all good qualities for a corner to have. Certainly coverage is a big part of it as well, but having physical corners out there is … I think every defense likes that."

The same point was made by Bills GM Buddy Nix after the team selected Texas' Aaron Williams (5-11, 7/8, 204 pounds) at the top of the second round.

"This league has gotten big at wide receiver, and it gets bigger and faster every year," Nix told Clark Judge of CBSSports.com. "So you better get big corners. If you've got 5-8-1/2 or 5-9 corners, you're in trouble. They can't jam, and they can't disrupt the route."