For the last three years the New England Patriots have possessed one of the worst defensive backfields in the NFL. A combination of injuries, inconsistency, and a habit of conceding big plays through the air has led to the Patriots secondary being considered a liability. But over the past few weeks things seem to be getting better. This may be the beginning of a bright future for the young group.
The Patriots have been dealt several key blows to their secondary over the past two seasons. Safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory have missed large amounts of time with injuries. Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty spent time at the end of last season on the sidelines nursing an injury. But it looks as though this young group is finally on the verge of returning to full health which is one reason for optimism.
Another reason for optimism is a change in personnel. With Chung and Gregory out, rookie Tavon Wilson was forced to start at safety. The new professional handled the job well and, while he had some problems, wasn’t as much of a concern as was previously feared. The most significant change was the acquirement of Aqib Talib. The Patriots traded a fourth round draft pick for the shutdown corner and the trade has already provided results.
Along with the addition of Talib, the Patriots moved McCourty to safety and the young Pro Bowler’s transition has been as smooth as they could have hoped for. Through three games McCourty looks like a seasoned veteran providing stability for a once very unstable position.
There are still some injuries such as veteran Will Allen and Ras-I Dowling but now Chung is back and the duo of Gregory and McCourty are handling the safety positions better than expected. Talib’s presence has given the Patriots the ability to give more support to Kyle Arrington trusting that their new star cornerback can handle any receiver on his own. Things are starting to look up for this group.
Over the past three weeks the Patriots secondary have started making key plays. Against the Buffalo Bills Arrington recovered a key fumble at the Patriots one yard line to keep the Bills from scoring. Later McCourty made an interception in the end zone to end the game. Last week against the Indianapolis Colts, rookie Alfonzo Dennard, Talib, and Wilson all had interceptions leading to a big Patriots win. On Thursday night it was the Gregory show. The safety recovered two fumbles and intercepted New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the Patriots win.
There still is work to be done for the Patriots secondary but they are starting to look better. For the first time in a while there seems to be some stability which should continue as they regain their health. The Patriots have the best offense in the NFL and a solid rush defense. If the secondary can halt the opponents passing game, this team is unstoppable. They may not be there yet but they seem to be heading in the right direction.