Cole helps cause for roster spot

TAMPA -- Patriots followers might be wise to get familiar with cornerback Marquice Cole.

The little-known former New York Jet, in his first season with the Patriots, earned praise from coach Bill Belichick the day after the team's 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Cole played primarily in the slot Friday night and was credited with two passes defended. He also had a special teams tackle, while playing on the kickoff coverage unit and also as a gunner on the punt team.

In his day-after conference call Saturday afternoon, coach Bill Belichick was asked about the four-year veteran from Northwestern.

"I think he did a number of good things, as he has the whole preseason," Belichick said. "He made plays in the kicking game and made plays on defense."

Cole was a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Jets didn't tender him a contract. That made him an unrestricted free agent and the Patriots signed him to a one-year deal with a $615,000 base salary on March 19. The contract included a $25,000 signing bonus and $10,000 workout bonus, making it one of the more modest deals consummated by the team this past offseason.

At this point, it's looking like a bargain, as Cole has made a strong case for a roster spot.

He'd project as a front-line special teamer on the 46-man game-day roster, while providing depth at cornerback. If the Patriots keep Cole, as it appears they will, it could put the squeeze on seventh-round draft choice Alfonzo Dennard, who made his preseason debut Friday and played later in the game.