I struggled mightily with which picture to put up here. Was it Rodney, dualing like a warrior with NYG's Tyree, during the final minutes of XLII? Was it any number of interceptions or hits against opposing receivers? In the end, I chose this one because I think it's what it's all about. Whatever you think of the guy, he means a great deal to New England and the fans. A 5 year Patriot, 14 years in the league, HE...DAH...MAN.
Part of playing this position is a sense of swagger. The final line of defense against all manner of offensive attacks, safeties need to play with an abandon not found with a lot of other players. And they need to carry themselves with an attitude that says, "You want some? Come and get it! Try to get past me. I'm gonna bust you up." Often times they do. They make receivers pay for their mistakes. They make those acrobatic leaping gazelles remember they were in safety territory. If a safety can't make an interception, he'll wait until you're stretched out, pulling down a pass, and then get him some. Yeah, the good ones dare you to cross the line they've drawn on the turf. The great ones want you to.
Rodney Harrison - Rodney owns this position for the Patriots. He is the franchise safety and will be for the next few years. With 14 years in the league, he's approaching that time when his body just won't be able to keep up with the position. He's the mentor - teaching the younger dudes or passing on the system to the more experience free agents. At any rate, starter is not even a question for this guy. Someone will have to rip that position from his cold, dead fingers.
Brandon Meriweather - The heir apparent to Rodney's throne, Brandon will simply not see a lot of playing time until Rodney moves on. There is, however, much talk of him playing a role at CB. This could be an interesting one to watch.
Tank Williams - Tank's been around. With 6 years in the league, he's still young enough to have an endless motor, but experienced enough to come up-to-speed very fast. Plus, I like his name. I see him starting along side Harrison in 2008.
Mark Dillard - There is almost no information on Mark. What little there is, projects him to be to guy most likely to be cut.
James Sanders - James emerged as a player in 2007 and jumped in for Harrison when necessary. In 2008, look for the 2 to split time to keep them both healthy. They both play on the edge and, consequently, suffer because of it.
Raymond Ventrone - Raymond has had limited success with the Patriots and has been moved from active roster to practice squad a number of times. That, in and of itself, does not bode well for him. Look to see him cut if Belichick needs to make decisions about the roster.
To me, this is fairly obvious: Harrison with Sanders rotating in and out. Brandon, and then Tank filling in when needed. Dillard and Ventrone are either heading to the practice squad or chopping block.