McCourty’s move to safety makes the defense better.
It has been quite some time since the New England secondary has had consistent anchors such as Ty Law and Asante Samuel protecting the deep ball. After newcomer Aqib Talib went down last year in the playoffs, it was quite apparent that the Patriots need to establish a solid core of defensive backs moving forward.
The safety position has been a bit of a revolving door, but the Patriots hope this year’s group can aid in the protecting against the pass. Starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory return to a Patriot defense that lead the NFL in Give/Take (+25) and the AFC in Interceptions (21). While it will certainly be difficult to replicate that success, New England is stacked at the safety position.
Let’s take a look at who else is on the training camp roster and their potential for contribution.
Adrian Wilson: This seasoned 13-year Arizona Cardinal veteran is a physical specimen that will have a strong presence in the box for the Patriots. Standing at 6’ 3”, we may also see Wilson drop into coverage against tight ends and larger wide receivers – playing in the box. New England got burned last year by Aquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta pretty badly and you can count on Belichick making sure this does not happen again. After losing Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers, Adrian is hungry to capture that elusive ring. His intensity can only benefit the Patriots this season on and off the field.
Duron Harmon: A suprise pick by to many when drafted in the third round this past April, Belichick nabbed the First-Team all-Big East Rutgers safety. As a junior, Harmon recorded five interceptions and has exceptional ball skills by knocking down seven passes his senior year. Duron has the opportunity to learn under Devin McCourty, who has now officially shifted to free safety. Furthermore, having a second year guy on the squad who has contributed, Tavon Wilson, will help Harmon adjust the Belichick way.
Tavon Wilson: After recording four interceptions in his rookie campaign, Tavon displayed his knack for getting a nose on the ball. There is no doubt about it, the Patriots have defensive weapons. Wilson is just another one in the arsenal. Fans and player personnel should be excited to witness the progression of Tavon in 2013.
Nate Ebner: The former Ohio State rugby star is a straight animal and because of this Ebner possesses a unique field vision. Nate made a handful of impact plays on special teams last year for the Patriots. While his role may increase, he is just another cog in the system. Fortunately for him, our safety depth is strong and he has the opportunity to earn a spot in a highly competitive defensive backfield. Comparing him to either of the Ventrones does not do his talent level justice. I see Ebner creating some turnovers this year for New England one way or another.
Kanorris Davis: Undrafted out of Troy, Davis actually played the LB position undersized and forced 10 fumbles over his college career. Who knows if he will actually make the team; however, there is no denying the fact that Belichick prefers versatile players.
The depth here is obvious and it starts with Devin McCourty who will be the most consistent of the bunch. Patriots fans had their share of dismay with McCourty his second and third seasons at corner back, but he has proved to be a consummate professional and truly thrived when moving to safety full-time. In a recent interview with Sirius XM radio, veteran Adrian Wilson was quoted on his leadership role with the Patriots stating, “Right now, I’m just in the background. They have great leaders here. Devin [McCourty], he’s pretty much the leader in the secondary. I just fall in line with him. I may comment here and there, but overall, it’s his secondary pretty much.”
This secondary is shaping up to be an underrated and dangerous collective unit. Expect the Patriots to keep five, maybe six of the aforementioned players, so it will be interesting when final cuts come around.