As part of a preview for New England Patriots training camp (first practice July 30) and to re-familiarize ourselves with the roster, it's time to bring back the "checking the locks" series. Today, we begin with cornerbacks.
Analysis: Butler was in the "trying to get in the door" category in this series last year, which serves as a reminder of how pre-camp perception can quickly change as it relates to on-field performance/competition. As for this year, the feeling here is that this group is currently one player light and that's why free agent Tarell Brown -- who has visited the club twice this offseason -- remains on my radar. This is a major transition area on the roster, with 2014 starters Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Brandon Browner (Saints) now playing elsewhere. Ryan, who led off Peter King's MMQB list of NFL players in the training camp spotlight, enters his third NFL season and played 51.7 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie and 46.3 percent last year. Butler played 16.6 percent of the snaps in the 2014 regular season, so the Patriots are projecting big jumps for both of them. With safeties who have flexibility to come down and line up as a corner in certain packages, such as Devin McCourty, that also factors into the position outlook.