James Ihedigbo #44 of the New England Patriots celebrates after sacking Joe Flacco (not pictured) #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Ihedigbo, 28, had his finest season as a pro with the Patriots in 2011. In 16 games (12 starts), Ihedigbo recorded 69 tackles and 12 passes defensed. While he was a bit inconsistent in coverage, he was one of the better run-support safeties in the league last season.
Near the end of the season and in the playoffs, due to his deficiencies in coverage, Ihedigbo was used primarily on first and second downs, and in running situations. The Patriots replaced Ihedigbo at free safety with Devin McCourty on third downs and passing situations.
In 2012, I could see Ihedigbo playing a similar role. While he isn't a lock to make the roster, I think he will ultimately make the roster due to his expertise on special teams, ability in run support, and the team's lack of depth at safety. While he may not start, due to the addition of veteran Steve Gregory, Ihedigbo should have an opportunity to carve out a niche for himself on the Patriots in 2012.