The New England Patriots have a bye week after their first loss of the season to the Baltimore Ravens. The extra time should allow them to regroup and recover. During the bye week, Last Word on Pro Football will be evaluating all of the Patriots’ position groups. The Patriots’ secondary is easily the best unit in the NFL right now. Safeties Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, and Terrence Brooks are all key contributors to their success.
New England Patriots Bye Week Report: Safeties
Free safety Devin McCourty is having a career season. Despite playing as a safety, as opposed to a cornerback early in his career, McCourty is on pace to shatter his career-high of seven interceptions in a season. Only nine weeks in, he already has five. Five is also the number of receptions he’s allowed all season.
Devin McCourty with 4 picks in 4 weeks pic.twitter.com/c7z1GVL8Vv
— Sunny Kapadia (@SunnyKapadia4) November 10, 2019
The strong safeties are holding their end of the bargain up as well. The Patriots have allowed the third-fewest yards per game to tight ends this season, only behind the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. Of the 288 yards they’ve surrendered, 63 of them came against the Ravens. This phenomenal performance comes despite Patrick Chung being largely sidelined for three weeks due to a chest injury suffered against the Giants.
One of the most pleasant surprises from New England’s off-season acquisitions has been the play of safety Terrence Brooks. Most people, including the Jets, had Brooks slated primarily as a special teams ace and not much more. However, he’s played 178 snaps (32.19 percent) on defense this season, all but filling in for Patrick Chung in Week 7 against the New York Jets. Of course, Brooks, along with safety Nate Ebner, does happen to be a special teams ace; Brooks has played 48 percent of special teams snaps while Ebner has played 59 percent.
Because the Patriots play a lot of nickel and dime defense, the defensive backs get a lot of playing time. While they have performed excellently against the pass, the Patriots defense as a whole has struggled against the run. If they want to continue playing a lot of defensive backs against strong running teams like the Ravens, the box safeties may have to step up in terms of playing the run.
Team captain Patrick Chung is facing off-the-field trouble for potential possession of cocaine. Although he denies the allegations, it may still be having an impact on his locker room presence.
All in all, there is not much bad to say about any of the safeties.
Overall Grade: A