Jason McCourty a top candidate to fill Malcolm Butler's void

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick sometimes says that every team is in the same place at this time of year -- 0-0, with a fresh slate and steep mountain to climb.

But there is one category in which his New England Patriots have a decisive edge.

“Two sets of twins -- I think we’re in the lead on that,” the Patriots coach joked at the NFL’s annual meeting in late March, referring to Devin and Jason McCourty and Jacob and Cody Hollister.

One part of one set of twins, cornerback Jason McCourty, is scheduled to meet with Patriots reporters on Tuesday (approximately 11:30 a.m. ET) as the team continues its work in the fourth week of its voluntary offseason program.

The brother of longtime Patriots safety/captain Devin McCourty was acquired in a March 15 trade and could be the answer to one of several intriguing questions in 2018: Who will fill the significant playing-time void created by the free-agent departure of cornerback Malcolm Butler?

Jason McCourty, 30, is the most experienced option among the candidates, with Eric Rowe -- who started in place of Butler in Super Bowl LII -- another strong possibility to win the job opposite Stephon Gilmore.

Meanwhile, second-round pick Duke Dawson (Florida) is a lock to make the roster, but he might project more to a slot role. His presence could help offset the health status of Jonathan Jones, a special-teams maven who played quite a bit in the slot last season but is recovering from a January foot/ankle injury that could affect his availability for the start of training camp.

Cyrus Jones, a 2016 second-round pick who could be fighting for a roster spot, headlines the remainder of the depth chart that also includes 2017 seventh-round pick Keion Crossen, practice-squad players Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz and 2018 undrafted free agents J.C. Jackson and A.J. Moore.

Butler played 98.8, 96.7 and 97.8 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the past three regular seasons, and his departure -- coupled with Jason McCourty looking for a fresh start after one season in Cleveland -- led the Patriots to acquire him along with a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

In doing so, it sets up a situation in which the McCourty brothers could become just the second set of twins ever to play regular-season games on the same professional football team. (The Hollisters don’t count because Cody spent all of last season on the practice squad.)

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the only other time it happened was in 1926, when Gene and Tom Golsen suited up for the Louisville Colonels.