Devin McCourty notes change in perception at Patriots' CB spot

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At this time last year, one of the hot-button questions facing the New England Patriots was how things would unfold at cornerback. Gone were starters Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and with that came a lot of uncertainty.

Safety Devin McCourty felt it.

And as he met with reporters Thursday during the team's offseason program, he noted how this year feels a lot different after Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan stepped in and played well in 2015.

"Coming in last year, losing guys and not knowing where guys are going to be. I think now we know," McCourty said, before adding that everyone still needs to re-establish their standing. "That experience, and coming back with knowledge of being out there in big games and seeing things, I think it enables you to start a little further ahead and rely on guys that have been out there to help other guys out. Whenever you have guys out there that have played, it helps your football team.

"Guys like Logan and Malcolm, who have been out there on an every-down basis, those guys come back with the world of confidence knowing that they just have to keep getting better and better. They know they can do the job. I'm excited for us as a secondary, as a unit, going through last year and a phase at this point in time where it was a big unknown. And now having a core group of guys that can help bring other guys along the way ... it's encouraging. Your unit just keeps getting stronger and stronger."

Butler earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2015, his second season in the NFL. He played a team-high 98.8 percent of the regular-season defensive snaps.

Meanwhile, Ryan enters his fourth NFL season and played a career-high 89.3 percent of the regular-season defensive snaps.