The New England Patriots, as of now, will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season, but they’ll be without Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner for all 16.

Arguably the best corner duo in football last year, Revis signed a five-year deal with the Jets this offseason, while Browner signed with the Saints.

Where does the Pats’ secondary go from here? Are we really going to buy that Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is a starting defensive back?

“They’re buying that Malcolm Butler is – and I think that’s why they were hard on him when he was late for practice (during) OTAs,” WBZ Patriots reporter Levan Reid said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “And he only played 15 snaps (Thursday against Green Bay), which made me think, ‘Okay, they really like what he’s doing.’ He’s got a little bit of swagger, he’s talking the trash – he brings a little bit of a different identity that they have at corner. It’s the other corner I think they worry about. Whether it’s going to be Logan Ryan (or someone else), they have a couple of guys they want to roll out there to see who can get this done.

“But right now, they know at least Malcolm Butler is going to be their No. 1,” Reid continued. “On that other side is what they worry about. Right now I think you start Logan Ryan and you go with Malcolm Butler and you move on from there. . . . They’re not going to be Browner and Revis. It’s obviously going to have a different look than they had last year. But they’re going to have guys that maybe they think can hold on and maybe (have a) bend-don’t-break attitude.

While cornerback is a concern, so too is the Patriots’ schedule, especially – believe it or not – within their own division.

“Honestly, the AFC got better defensively – everywhere,” Reid said. “(Ndamukong) Suh ends up in Miami. The Jets, their defense gets big and bold. And Rex Ryan goes to Buffalo, with already a stout defense and now they bring in attitude. That could be the biggest problem (the Patriots are) going to have. Because we’ve said it before: The Patriots have been able to do whatever they want to do in the AFC East for a long time because the AFC East has been just a hot bowl of garbage. But all of a sudden, defensively – at least for now – the AFC East looks like they’re real stout. And I don’t think it’s a real coincidence that Deflategate happened and everybody was like, ‘If Tom’s going to miss the first four, let’s beef it up. Let’s put them in the hole because we have a chance now.’”

Following a Week 4 bye, the Patriots play at Dallas, at Indianapolis, against New York (Jets) and against Miami.

“That’s a tough (stretch),” Reid said. “Just the war of attrition is going to be tough on that.”


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