The New England Patriots appear to be keenly aware of their need for help in the secondary. In the wake of trading former star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, the Pats have struggled to find productivity at the position beyond starters J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills.
On Wednesday, the Patriots indicated that they are not done addressing the potential of upgrading their defensive backfield.
According to agent Drew Rosenhaus, veteran cornerback Brian Poole was in town to work out with the Patriots, as they prepare to face his former team, the New York Jets, on Sunday. Though a workout does not always manifest an imminent signing (to either the practice squad, or active roster) Poole’s presence in Foxboro on Wednesday shows that the team is clearly keeping their options open at cornerback.
Poole first entered the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Florida. He spent three years with the Falcons, appearing in 52 games (both regular season and playoffs), compiling four interceptions and four fumbles. In 2019, he signed with the Jets as a free agent, where he would play 23 games, notching three interceptions.
During the offseason, Poole signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints. However, he was moved to injured reserve in August for undisclosed reasons and eventually released by New Orleans last week.
Poole is at his best while playing out of the slot. However, with the Patriots’ seemingly more-than-satisfied with the prowess of Jonathan Jones in that role, Poole could be an option as an all-purpose defensive back. It should be noted that Jones, who briefly left Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with an injury to his ribs, was not spotted at practice on Wednesday.
Beyond Jackson and Mills (along with Jones in the slot) the Patriots depth at cornerback is suspect. New England’s 2019 second-round draft choice Joejuan Williams has yet to emerge as a match with New England’s press coverage schemes. Following a dismal performance against the Houston Texans in Week Five, the Pats made Williams a healthy scratch for Week Six. Rookie Shaun Wade has potential, though he has missed the last two weeks while recovering from a concussion. Despite being officially listed as a corner on the team’s depth chart, Justin Bethel’s contributions to the team are primarily on special teams. D’Angelo Ross, Elijah Benton and Sean Davis remain options via the practice squad.
On Tuesday, New England promoted defensive back Myles Bryant to the active roster from the practice squad. The hard-hitting defensive back has continuously played a versatile role with New England for the past two seasons. He has taken snaps at free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback, perimeter cornerback, and even along the defensive line. With the Pats expected to heavily employ multiple defensive backs against some of the league’s top quarterbacks in the coming weeks, Bryant should provide some versatility to the Patriots defensive backfield.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick offered the following on Bryant’s potential impact on the team’s roster in 2021 when speaking with the media prior to Wednesday’s practice:
“Myles is always ready to go. He’s a versatile player for us in the secondary. I’m sure he’ll be able to do a number of different things that we need by situation or maybe by game.”
Still, the Patriots realize that adding quality players at positions of need is an essential part of the growth needed to raise the team from the doldrums of their 2-4 record. Adding Poole to the equation could be a quick, cost-effective way of doing so. Whether Brain Poole will be wearing a Patriots uniform on Sunday against his former team remains to be seen.