Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO – Some years, the pressure on a position coach is modest. Relatively. He could have a veteran group of guys who’ve been in the program and everybody coming in healthy. Just roll out the balls and let ‘em play.

Other years, it’s bound to be a little harder.

Josh Boyer, the Patriots cornerbacks coach, has had one of each the past two seasons. In 2014, he had a future Hall of Famer, Darrelle Revis, at one corner and veteran Brandon Browner at the other. Veteran Kyle Arrington was the slot corner and the younger players in the program like Logan Ryan and rookie Malcolm Butler had supporting roles.

This year, a different crop.

Revis, Browner and Arrington were gone. Butler was elevated to the No. 1 spot less than a year after having to make the team in a three-day tryout. Ryan had been an up-and-down performer and the team imported veterans like Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown to see if they’d be able to carve a niche. Meanwhile, safety Patrick Chung was mixing in at the slot corner as were Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon.

For Boyer, the heat was on. And he’s had a very good season, judging by the results of the Patriots secondary players. Butler was named a Pro Bowler on Tuesday; Ryan’s had some brilliant games and is a bona fide NFL starter. Chung has been very good in the slot when he’s been in there. The Patriots have also mixed in rookie Justin Coleman fairly successfully.  

On Wednesday, Bill Belichick discussed the job Boyer’s done, highlighting the switch in the room from 2014 when it was a veteran crew to this year’s younger group.

“There’s no question Josh has done a really good job with that group,” Belichick said in response to a question from Mike Giardi of Comcast Sportsnet New England. “Any time you coach a unit, there is a dynamic in who you’re coaching and your coaching style is somewhat altered or affected by who is in that room. When I was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and coached the secondary, Everson Walls had been in the league for whatever it was – 10 years, 50-some career interceptions. There were certain things he did that as a coach you didn’t want to change because he had so much success doing it that way and maybe he wouldn’t be comfortable doing it another way, but that wouldn’t work for a younger player . . . Revis would be another example of that. Not every player can play like Revis, but Revis played very good the way he plays, so you’re kind of coaching Malcolm one way and you’re coaching Revis another way. And a guy like [Brandon] Browner is different from Revis, different from Malcolm, but he also was a productive player.

“This year we’re looking at a lot different makeup on that group – younger players who can be instructed more in the basic fundamental way to play that haven’t been in other systems, that don’t have other habits, that don’t have other things to change that you can build it a little bit more from the ground up rather than from the top down,” Belichick added. “Josh has done a good job of that, including [Justin] Coleman, [Rashaan] Melvin, Leonard [Johnson] – the guys that have come in here, the way that the whole group has evolved, even [Patrick] Chung who has played really a lot of if you will corner for us and played it well, so it’s been a different dynamic.”

Belichick also veered off from Boyer to single out Ryan as deserving of some credit too.
 
“Logan [Ryan] has a done a great job of . . . taking leadership of that unit, in terms of their preparation, their communication, their on the field adjustments, helping guys like Leonard, Malcolm, working with the safeties,” Belichick offered. “Logan has been a big part of the development of that whole unit as well. But again the growth of Malcolm from somewhere in the middle of last year to probably somewhere in the middle of this year was pretty steep.”

So it’s been a group thing. It’s not just Boyer who’s worthy of praise among the assistants. Ivan Fears has had a revolving crew of running backs under his watch. Dave DeGulglielmo has had to very challenging seasons with the offensive line thanks to turnover, youth and injuries. And Chad O’Shea who coaches the wideouts has been up against it trying to get guys up to speed and ready to do what Tom Brady wants.

The Patriots have a small staff relative to the rest of the NFL, but it’s a good one. And Boyer’s had a standout season among them.