With one day remaining until the New England Patriots welcome the Buffalo Bills to Gillette Stadium, the Patriots have an important decision to make regarding a key defender. Injuries have limited the Patriots defensive secondary this season so there has been talk about cornerback Devin McCourty playing safety Sunday against the Bills. It would be more beneficial for the Patriots to move their Pro Bowl cornerback to safety this week rather than waiting one more.
Starting safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung have been hampered by injuries most of the year creating this problem in the secondary. Rookie Tavon Wilson has had a few starts at safety this season because of this problem. With a lack of personnel at the position it would seem that moving McCourty to safety would be a no-brainer except that cornerback Kyle Arrington left the team’s last game two weeks ago with a concussion and had a non-contact red jersey in his locker on Friday meaning he may not be ready to play Sunday.
Still, the Patriots do have quality backups that could take Arrington’s place without forcing McCourty to stay at cornerback. Those backups are rookie Alfonzo Dennard who would’ve likely been a first round draft pick had he not had a court case hovering over him and veteran Marquice Cole who is more than capable of replacing Arrington or McCourty. In London the replacement was Sterling Moore who has played primarily nickel corner this season after breaking onto the scene during last year’s AFC championship game. Moore is unavailable because he was moved to the practice squad after the team’s last game.
Another issue to consider is that McCourty will likely move to safety next week anyway. Arrington’s concussion will not keep him out for many more weeks and then he’ll be back at cornerback. In addition to Arrington, newly acquired cornerback Aqib Talib’s suspension will end Monday and he’ll likely be starting at the position next week. That will push McCourty back to safety where his presence is greatly needed.
The Bills are not enough of a passing threat to not make the move this week. The only big play receiver the Bills have is Steve Johnson and he is listed by the Bills as questionable after leaving their game last week against the Houston Texans with an injury. The only legitimate threat other than Johnson is running back C.J. Spiller who leads the league with 7.2 yards per carry. But that shouldn’t be an issue for the secondary as the Patriots possess one of the league’s top rushing defenses.
With the Patriots defensive secondary unlikely to be tested too much Sunday against the Bills weak passing game, this week would be an ideal time to move McCourty to safety. McCourty will most likely play safety the following week with the return of Talib and possibly Arrington. This way McCourty will have a full game at safety before the Patriots face a more potent passing attack.