Resetting Patriots depth chart in secondary
|03.18.14 at 1:42 pm ET|
To this point in the offseason, no position in New England has undergone more of a change than the secondary. The Patriots have lost cornerback Aqib Talib and strong safety Steve Gregory, but they’ve added Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Here’s a look at New England’s current depth in the secondary.
Darrelle Revis: The veteran corner, signed earlier this month, figures to fundamentally step into Talib’s old spot as the No. 1 corner who will face off against the lead pass catcher on the other side of the ball. If Revis is that guy, he will face an impressive roster of receivers over the course of the 2014 season, including Mike Wallace (Miami), Reggie Wayne (Indy), Keenan Allen (San Diego), A.J. Green (Cincy), Demaryius Thomas (Denver) and Brandon Marshall (Chicago).
Brandon Browner: As of this point, the veteran figures to be in the mix for the No. 2 cornerback spot. Because of suspensions and health problems, he’s only played 20 games the last two seasons, and so he could be a little rusty out of the gate, especially considering that he’ll be getting adjusted to a new team, as well as the fact that he’ll sidelined the first four games of the 2014 season because of a ban for violating the league policy on PEDs. However, providing he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be a part of the rotation by the midway point of the season.
Alfonzo Dennard: He’s currently in the home stretch of his jail term in Nebraska, and his future when it comes to playing time could be fluid, with much of it tied to Browner’s situation. With Browner out for the first four games, however, he figures to be the No. 2 corner, at least for the short term.
Kyle Arrington: Many of his critics were hopeful that with the acquisition of Browner and Revis, the Patriots were going to get rid of Arrington. No dice — he remains one of the better slot corners in the game, and the pickup of Revis allows him to stay in the slot, a position he’s become suited to over the years. Barring injury, look for him there again in 2014.
Logan Ryan: For the most part, the Rutgers product had a very good rookie season, finishing with five picks (best on the team) and looking very comfortable over the course of the year. (He was overwhelmed a bit in the AFC title game against the Broncos, but even with his maturation, was probably playing a little over his head in that contest anyway.) With Revis and Browner in the picture, he figures to get most of his work as the nickel back and in sub packages, at least early on. The good thing is that the Patriots spent the majority of the season with five defensive backs on the field, so he should still get some significant snaps, even if he is bumped down the depth chart.
Devin McCourty: Despite the fact that Revis has arrived, McCourty is the acknowledged leader of the secondary. Set to enter the final year of his rookie deal, the Rutgers product has become absolutely integral to the success of the New England defense — his steadiness and consistency at the safety spot likely should be enough to eventually make him only one of a handful of defensive backs to make the Pro Bowl at two positions.
Duron Harmon: A key year for Harmon, who now might have the opportunity to step into the strong safety spot that was vacated by Gregory. Harmon, who just put the wraps on a pretty good rookie year, played well in spots when Gregory went down with a finger injury in 2013. It’s one thing to be a short-term fill-in, but it’s another to be a long-term starter in the league. Strong safety certainly is a position worth watching when the draft rolls around, and what the Patriots do (or don’t do) will tell you a lot about their comfort level with Harmon at this stage of his career.
Nate Ebner: A defensive back in name only (or in case of extreme emergency), the former teenage rugby star really made his bones last year as a key special teams contributor and should be an important part of the special teams unit in 2014.
Tavon Wilson: At first glance, it appears Wilson needs a good spring and summer to stick around Foxboro. The second-round pick out of Illinois in 2012 had a terrific start to his rookie year with four picks in the first half of the season. Then, he dropped off the radar screen. To be fair, some of that was due to the arrival of Talib. Talib allowed the Patriots to move McCourty to safety full time, which took most of Wilson’s playing time. But while he got consistent special teams snaps, he didn’t register much if at all as a regular contributor in 2013, leaving him a sizable question mark heading into 2014.
Adrian Wilson: The veteran technically is under contract for one more year to the Patriots, and according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, he’s expected to be ready for spring workouts. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Wilson, who went on season-ending IR with an Achillies injury at the end of last summer, could be a fascinating prospect to watch when it comes to 2014. If he’s healthy, he certainly could be in the mix to get some snaps at strong safety.
Kanorris Davis: A Troy product who spent the bulk of the 2013 season on the practice squad, he projects as a special teams contributor in 2014. But it is impressive to watch him fling his body around on kick coverage with a near reckless abandon. One guy worth watching this year.
Justin Green: A depth addition who figures to be a back-end-of-the-roster contributor in 2014.