Patriots Positional Preview: Three Biggest Questions Facing Safeties

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Because the Patriots progress via Section 3 of their offseason program, we’re taking a position-by-position take a look at New England’s new-look roster. Subsequent up: safeties.

Essentially the most important change to this place group was the retirement of longtime stalwart Patrick Chung, however he wasn’t within the image final season after opting out. As for additions, the headliner was Jalen Mills, who’s listed as a cornerback however performed all around the secondary throughout his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots additionally added veteran Adrian Colbert late in free company and chosen Missouri’s Joshuah Bledsoe within the sixth spherical of the 2021 NFL Draft. (Bledsoe broke his wrist earlier than the draft and has been practicing with a cast on in organized crew actions.)

Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips all are again, as are versatile nook/security hybrids Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant.

1. Who begins at sturdy security?
Will or not it’s Dugger, who confirmed star potential throughout his spectacular rookie season? Along with his dimension and athleticism, the 2020 second-round decide seems to be like a pure match for Chung’s previous spot if he stays on his present trajectory.

Phillips is one other candidate if the Patriots, as sturdy security is his pure place. The 29-year-old led the crew in tackles final season whereas enjoying as an undersized off-the-ball linebacker. Mills additionally is flexible sufficient to deal with a lot of Chung-type duties.

Many of the Patriots’ beginning protection is comparatively simple to challenge, however that is one spot that has some intrigue. Dugger, Phillips and Mills all ought to see loads of defensive enjoying time regardless.

2. Who backs up Devin McCourty?
McCourty has been the Patriots’ beginning free security for near a decade, however he typically fills different roles within the secondary, as nicely, like enjoying within the field or overlaying tight ends. For years, Duron Harmon would enter because the deep security when McCourty roamed, however his commerce to the Detroit Lions final offseason left the Patriots with out one other apparent centerfield possibility.

New England stuffed that gap by enjoying Jones, Jason McCourty and, ultimately, Bryant in a number of positions. Jason McCourty left for Miami in free company, however Jones and Bryant stay and will deal with comparable security duties this season.

Mills is another choice, as roughly 1 / 4 of his snaps final season got here as a deep security. Colbert isn’t a lock to make the roster, however he’s primarily performed as a free security over his 4 NFL seasons and will present further depth if he sticks.

Devin McCourty’s sturdiness — amongst his quite a few different optimistic traits — has been a significant asset for the Patriots’ protection. The soon-to-be 34-year-old hasn’t missed a sport since 2015 and has performed at the least 94 % of defensive snaps in every of the final 5 seasons.

3. Can Kyle Dugger take the following step?
Dugger was the Patriots’ prime decide within the 2020 NFL Draft (thirty seventh general), and he lived as much as that billing final season, wowing teammates together with his smarts and meting out monster hits whereas enjoying all around the Patriots’ protection.

It was a flawless debut marketing campaign for the previous Division II standout, although. Having never been asked to cowl tight ends man-to-man in faculty — most of his snaps at Lenoir-Rhyne got here at deep security — he skilled some rising pains in that space, permitting completions on 73.7 % of his targets and a passer score towards of 93.4, per Professional Soccer Focus.

These points cropped up once more throughout Thursday’s OTA follow, with teammate Devin Asiasi beating Dugger vertically for a giant acquire. However they need to be fixable as Dugger continues to build up his expertise.

Dugger already is a useful participant for New England. If he cleans up his protection and continues to advance in different features, he may turn into a real game-changer.

Dugger. His ceiling is sky-high.

Bryant impressed lots of people contained in the group together with his play final season. A self-described “Swiss Military knife,” he flashed his versatility as an undrafted rookie, enjoying in all places from slot nook to free security to linebacker in New England’s dime package deal.

A beginning job may very well be in Bryant’s future.

Extra Patriots positional previews: tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs, extensive receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks

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