New England Patriots neglect “safety-first” approach in 2014

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It has been quite the offseason for the New England Patriots’ defensive secondary. Landing Darrelle Revis in free agency was arguably the biggest NFL news in 2014 outside of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl title. Couple that with the addition of Brandon Browner, and the New England secondary could be the most-improved unit in all of football.

Yet it’s not the cornerback position that was in need of an overhaul. The combination of Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, and Kyle Arrington performed well last season. Despite Talib’s departure, that unit could have been passable again in 2014. While Revis and Browner undoubtedly serve as upgrades, they do not address the one gaping hole in the secondary: safety.

As far as gaping holes go, I’ve seen worse. The emergence of Devin McCourty as one of the NFL’s premiere safeties goes a long way in mitigating the team’s issues at the position. He’s not the problem. The problem is who is going to line up alongside him.

Excluding any offseason additions, there were four safeties on the roster vying for that starting spot. None of them are very high-caliber options.

  • Kanorris Davis was an undrafted free agent in 2013. He made one tackle on special teams last season.
  • Nate Ebner was drafted in 2012 after primarily playing rugby at Ohio State. He has been a regular contributor on special teams.
  • Duron Harmon was drafted in the third round last season. He totaled 31 tackles, four passes defensed, and two interceptions in his rookie season. He was by far the top contributor of the bunch.
  • Tavon Wilson was drafted in the second round in 2012, but saw his role diminish significantly in 2013. His 74-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens was the lone highlight of his season, and that came in garbage time of a 41-7 blowout.

Keeping in mind that one of these guys is going to have to start, you would think the Patriots would make it a priority to bring on a couple more bodies in the offseason. They did. Sort of.

  • Patrick Chung will begin his second stint with the team after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles and re-signed by New England.
  • Jeremy Deering was signed on May 16 as an undrafted free agent.
  • Shamiel Gary was signed on May 13 as an undrafted free agent.

Two undrafted free agents and a former draft bust is hardly the type of attention this issue deserves. None of the seven hopefuls in New England have the talent or track record to inspire much confidence amongst the team’s fan base. All of whom leave the fan base wondering (a) what the front office was thinking and (b) how this dilemma is going to play out.

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