During Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots secondary surrendered 373 yards and three touchdowns to Nick Foles in the loss. That performance along with the departure of Malcolm Butler has the Patriots coaching staff on the lookout for a new cornerback to pair with Stephon Gilmore. After recent developments from Patriots training camp, one man is starting to separate from the rest of the pack, Duke Dawson.
Through 4 Patriots practices, a feel for CB spot: Second-round pick Duke Dawson (Florida) in mix to be top nickel option (practiced there a lot Sunday). Stephon Gilmore locks down one side, and then Eric Rowe a bit ahead of JC Jackson/Jason McCourty/Ryan Lewis etc. on other side.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 29, 2018
New England Patriots X-Factors: Duke Dawson
Dawson Leading the Way at Florida
Dawson was a bright spot last season for the 4-8 Florida Gators. During his senior season, Dawson showed his ability to get physical and hit by recording 34 tackles including two for a loss. Dawson also put the clamps on Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk in an impressive performance. He led the Gators in interceptions with four including returning one for a touchdown. Dawson’s season at Florida showed scouts that he has the potential to be a starting caliber corner in the NFL.
Concerns About Dawson
Even though Dawson played well last season at Florida, there are still some concerns heading into his NFL career. Some NFL scouts have said that Dawson is an average athlete. His athleticism has shown the issue of him keeping up with other receivers. This questions Dawson’s ability to cover elite athletes at the NFL level. Scouts also have issues with Dawson grabbing other receivers in coverage. This can lead to quite a few penalties in which the Patriots do not put up with. If Dawson can’t overcome these concerns, his tenure in New England may be short-lived.
How Does Dawson Fit With the Patriots
The New England Patriots drafted Dawson with the 56th overall selection in April’s NFL Draft. Dawson was brought in to help replace former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Eric Rowe looks to have the upper hand in taking Butler’s spot with Dawson getting reps in the slot. Dawson’s athleticism suits him better for the nickel corner position. In the nickel, Dawson doesn’t have to worry about covering a wide receiver on the outside one-on-one. Dawson will have help in the nickel from either a linebacker or a safety in zone coverage. This will help him maximize his ability inside of the Patriots scheme. Dawson will have to adjust to life in the nickel to be a contributor for the Patriots. If Dawson can adjust, expect big things in 2018 for him.
Last Word on Duke Dawson
Dawson has the potential to contribute in 2018. The rookie out of Florida is expected to be the nickel. At Florida, Dawson was a stud. As a result, the Patriots selected him in the second round. Dawson’s athleticism is in question by scouts. As a result, I expect the Patriots to scheme around these faults. Due to scheming, expect Dawson to improve and contribute at a high level. If Dawson can overcome his faults and adjust to life in the nickel quickly, expect him and the Patriots to have a big 2018 season.