Each week leading up to the draft, the Foxboro Blog crew will spend a week breaking down a position on the Patriots' roster. We'll start with a quick overview and then move onto a discussion involving potential draftees at that spot as well as free-agents that the Patriots may pursue. Up this week are the safeties...
2010 Recap: Perhaps no position had more Patriots fans jumping for joy and also pulling out their hair than saftey last season. Case in point: James Sanders' game-winning interception against the Colts, and Brandon Merriweather running into Devin McCourty, freeing up James Jones for a TD against Green Bay. Even when the safeties weren't playing "safety", they could envoke polar-opposite emotions. For example, Patrick Chung, who elated fans by blocking two kicks against Miami, also botched the fake punt against the Jets in the playoffs. For a threesome that featured a Pro Bowler in Merriweather, a seasoned veteran in Sanders, and the most-improved Patriot from the 2009 rookie class in Patrick Chung, one would have thought we'd have seen more consistency. Yet, all season long we saw the sublime being followed by the stupid.
Returning Players: Sergio Brown, Patrick Chung, Brett Lockett, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Ross Ventrone
Patriots Free-Agents: Josh Barrett, Brandon McGowan, Jarrad Page
2011 Outlook: As tulmultuous as the 2010 season was for the safety position, Pats fans can expect the roster to remain fairly stable. Unless Brandon Meriweather's involvement in two shootings last week lands him in trouble with the law, the Patriots' top three safeties are all under contract and should return. The big player to watch next season is Patrick Chung. A 2nd round pick in 2009, Chung made big strides in his sophomore effort. He was hampered by a knee injury which slowed him down some, but when he was on the field he was arguably the team's premiere safety. If he can continue to move his game forward, there's little doubt he can supplant his fellow teammate, Meriweather, as the Patriots' safety representative in Honolulu. Also worth keeping your eye on are Patrios' free-agent Jarrad Page, who received a tender from New England just before the CBA expired, and Josh Barrett, who Belichick plucked from Denver on waivers last off-season. Either one or both of those players could be back with the team in 2011 and making significant contributions. In terms of rookies, the 2011 Draft is noted to be particularly weak in the safety department and I doubt the Patriots will select one. More likely, the team will look to groom Page and Barrett as potential replacements for Meriweather and Sanders whose deals run out after this year.