We’ve already previewed the Patriots safety position, one in which Bill Belichick says could be the strongest on the team. But what about their fellow teammates in the secondary?

Devin McCourty and Pat Chung certainly can’t do it all back there. In order for the safeties to succeed, they need skilled cornerbacks with them who they can trust.

The Patriots have those in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, who will return as the No. 1 and No. 2 cornerbacks, respectively.

Butler followed up arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history with a Pro Bowl season in 2015. The Patriots haven’t been able to lock him up with an extension, and there’s a real chance he goes into next offseason a restricted free agent.

But perhaps that’s not the worst thing. Butler has had to work for everything in his career, including a roster spot after not being drafted in 2014. With still little to show financially, he’ll definitely be looking to prove to the Patriots and the rest of the NFL that he’s worth the big bucks after this season.

Butler and the Patriots cornerback corps get their first real test with Drew Brees, Brandon Cooks, and the Saints in town this week.

 

Locks

Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones

With Darrelle Revis going back to the Jets last year, Butler was thrust into the top cornerback spot. It’s safe to say he rose to the occasion in his second NFL season. The uncertainty surrounding him last year at this time is no more – Butler is the guy.

Ryan may have been one of the more unheralded players for the Patriots last season, but the truth is he’s become a reliable option, one that the Patriots didn’t hesitate to put on players like Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins, both of whom he won those battles against. After a summer working out with Devin McCourty, Ryan should only continue to improve.

The Patriots took Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones with their first pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and they have plans to use him not just at cornerback but in the kicking game as a returner. Belichick is close with University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that he nabbed Jones with the first pick.

 

Everybody else

Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones, E.J. Biggers, Darryl Roberts, V'Angelo Benley, Cre'von LeBlanc

Two years ago an undrafted rookie cornerback made the Patriots roster out of camp – Malcolm Butler. Now, another undrafted rookie cornerback is trying to do the same thing. Auburn's Jonathan Jones has turned plenty of heads in camp as he fights for one of probably two roster spots. If he continues to trend in the right direction, he could crack the roster.

“He’s a tough kid,” Belichick told reporters of Jones. “We saw that at Auburn. He tackled well. I’d say he plays big for his size, he’s not afraid, he’s a tough, competitive kid that’s willing to support in the running game and in the kicking game, very competitive on the ball. Again, his speed and overall awareness puts him in position to have the opportunity to play some balls.”