Meeting the New Patriots: Bradley Fletcher

The Patriots are revamping their defensive backfield, specifically the cornerback position. New England is moving forward with a new depth chart and a new plan, and Bradley Fletcher appears to be a big part of the plan.

When you lose Darrelle Revis, there isn't a lot you can do to fill his hole and appease the fan base. The Patriots didn't have a lot of options at corner after Revis bolted, so they decided to gamble on Bradley Fletcher, the former Eagle that had a rough 2014 but has been productive in the past. Fletcher, who was rated 92nd out of 108 cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus in 2014, played four seasons with the Rams before joining the Eagles in 2013. Fletcher has started 54 of a possible 71 games, a number that would have been higher had he not injured his knee in 2011 (he started four games before going down). Over those 71 games, Fletcher has 242 solo tackles, 31 assists, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, eight interceptions, and one touchdown return

Fletcher, 28, looked like a good pickup for the Eagles in 2013, but he wasn't having the best season in 2014. The Eagles faced Dallas in a huge division game last December and Dallas won big because Dez Bryant scorched Fletcher for six catches, 114 yards, and three touchdowns. Although Fletcher had proven in the past that he was an effective corner, the Eagles decided not to re-sign him and the Patriots brought him in to help rebuild their cornerback depth chart. In OTA's this past week, Fletcher was lined up opposite Logan Ryan as a starting corner, so either the Patriots like what they see or they truly are as thin as everyone says (probably the latter).

Fletcher, who stands at 6'0, 200 pounds, hails from Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Liberty High School in Youngstown, Ohio where he excelled in football and basketball. Over his four year high school career, Fletcher racked up 207 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and four interceptions. His senior year was his best- 74 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups. On the offensive side of the ball, he ran 143 times for 815 yards and 12 touchdowns, and also had 17 catches for 314 yards. Fletcher's production and flexibility was recognized as he was voted All-State as a senior (he was also All-State in basketball).

After his excellent career at Liberty, Fletcher took his talents to the University of Iowa. He was redshirted as a freshman, but he got his opportunity as a sophomore. He appeared in all 13 games, starting one, and he finished the season with 38 total tackles, one tackles for loss, and four passes defended. Fletcher had and up and down junior year, starting five of 11 games but also not playing due to a coach's decision in Week One. He finished strong though, piling up 52 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, five passes defended, and one forced fumble. Fletcher came into his own as a senior and took over as the leader of the secondary. He started all 13 games and finished with 60 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, 13 passes defended, and one forced fumble. Fletcher won the Hustle Team Award, which shows he has the traits that Bill Belichick likes in his players.

Fletcher was able to keep his job last year because he showed mental toughness when he was struggling. He started 15 out of 16 games, and in the games he got scorched, he ended up finishing strong and making plays. The Patriots do have excellent coaching and they may be able to help Fletcher get over his brain cramps and make him a more consistent starting cornerback. Fletcher does play press man, so the idea that the Patriots are going completely away from man-to-man defense is incorrect. Belichick will give Fletcher every chance to earn a starting job and recapture the skills he showed in St. Louis.

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