The New England Patriots defense ultimately did enough in the second half of Sunday's Week 5 game against the Houston Texans to help the team escape NRG Stadium with a 25-22 win, but there were some concerning signs in that performance.
One of them was pass defense.
Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills carved up the Patriots secondary, completing 21 of 29 pass attempts for 312 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry talked about one position in particular that struggled against the Texans.
"The one area where I would say I left with a lot of concern Sunday is specifically at cornerback," Perry said. "J.C. Jackson is a good player. I think he's going to get paid this offseason. I don't know if it's going to be as much as when I spoke to one NFL exec right after the Stephon Gilmore trade -- so what are we talking about in terms of AAV for Jackson if he hits free agency? I was told $16-17 million -- that's right around where Byron Jones and Tre'Davious White are, per year. Those are easily top 10 guys, and I think White is a top-five guy. Jackson is not going to get to that level if he continues to have games like he did yesterday, but the larger concern is the No. 2 spot."
With offseason signing Jalen Mills inactive on Sunday due to injury, the Patriots had to use third-year cornerback Joejuan Williams more than they might have wanted. It didn't go well, to say the least.
"No Jalen Mills Joejuan Williams is out there and he's a disaster," Perry said. "He gets spun like a top at the line of scrimmage on a slant that ends up going for 40 yards. Devin McCourty was the last line of defense, he gambles to try and make a play on the ball and doesn't get there -- the Texans are off and running. He's easily targeted and probably was in the game plan that week by the Texans, who have familiarity with Joejuan Williams. Maybe they know he wants to be physical against the run game, if we do a flea-flicker and Mark Ingram sells it -- and he did a great job -- that's just the kind of thing you get an inexperienced guy (like Williams) on.
"They have no depth at cornerback, so Jalen Mills, who, I thought was going to be an outright disaster to start the season, he hasn't been. He's made me eat my words on that, so tip of the cap to him. But as soon as somebody gets hurt, you're where you are at tackle, which is you don't have all that much behind your best guys. Those are really valuable positions and good teams are deep at those positions. The Patriots, when they've been good, have been deep at tackle and cornerback. That's the issue that could really rear its ugly head in the next few months."
If injuries and/or poor performance continue to plague the Patriots at cornerback, perhaps they look to the trade market to improve the depth and talent at that position.
Head coach Bill Belichick made a trade for Aqib Talib in 2012 when the Patriots needed help at corner. This team isn't as good as the 2012 squad, but the need at the position is similar. The trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Also discussed in this episode: Are the Patriots just not a good team anymore? Why are the Patriots making so many uncharacteristic mistakes? Breaking down Mac Jones' Week 5 performance.