Pressure to perform: Patrick Chung has the ability to be one of the biggest playmakers on the Patriots’ defense, and there’s no doubting that he is their best safety. The problem has been with injuries. Chung was held out of eight games last season, which could have been a breakout year due to the turnover at the safety position. He added some explosion to the back end of the defense during his return in the playoffs, and the Patriots need more of that in 2012. It’s an even more important season for Chung due to the fact that it’s a contract year. If he plays well and stays healthy, he could earn a nice deal. But if he succumbs to injuries, it will be more difficult to negotiate a big paycheck.
Breakout candidate: There are some question marks at safety, but Steve Gregory is getting the biggest chance of his NFL career. While Gregory started 28 games in the last three seasons, he was either out of place as a strong safety or stuck in the shadow of Eric Weddle (or a combination of both). Plus, to be realistic, it’s not as easy to garner the same type of spotlight in San Diego as it’s been for players in New England. Gregory can break out in that sense.
Key role player: Nearly a year ago, the Patriots added James Ihedigbo for his special teams contributions. Due to injuries and other roster moves, Ihedigbo turned into the Patriots’ one constant at safety throughout the season. His coaches and teammates were impressed by his leadership and work ethic. It’s unclear what Ihedigbo’s role could be in 2012, but due to his size and strength, the Patriots could use him in sub packages to get him on the field on defense, assuming Chung and Gregory are the starters.
Best depth-chart battle: As previously mentioned, Chung, Gregory and Wilson will be locks. Ihedigbo might not be a lock, but he’s got a good chance to make the team. That leaves Barrett, Sergio Brown, Nate Ebner and Ross Ventrone for — maybe — one last spot. They’ll need four or five safeties depending on health and performance. This might not be a riveting roster battle, but these are some players the team has held in nice regard in recent seasons. Ebner and Ventrone will be candidates for the practice squad, so Ihedigbo, Barrett and Brown will compete for one or two spots. (More...)
- Jeff Howe examines the team position by position: Safeties.
- Jen Slothower believes Wes Welker deserves a new deal and says he should get a contract offer from the Patriots this week.
- Field Yates scouts the Patriots roster: 4-3 ILBs.
- Mike Rodak analyzes players on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012: S/CB Will Allen.
- Boston.com takes a close look at the Patriots opponents in the upcoming season: Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Richard C. Dujardin recounts Tom Brady's visit to the Woonsocket, RI CVS where he made the YouTube video for Unreal Candy.
- Obnoxious Boston Fan posts the video of Tom Brady's other commercial, for the Dodge Dart, that aired during the All-Star game.
- Mark Farinella squeezes in another pre-vacation column to opine about Kraft's 'curious' video, making sure to insinuate Kraft is somehow being unfaithful to his late wife Myra.
- ESPNBoston posts a piece on Patriots owner Robert Kraft explaining his presence in a video making the rounds on the Internet.
- Rich Levine says Robert Kraft's audition tape is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Margery Eagan goes all 'Church Lady' on Robert Kraft, calling his video pathetic and demeaning to his family. Yeesh.
- CSNNE Sports Tonight tells us why Robert Kraft gets a pass in the wake of the leaked audition tape. (3 min. video)
- Justin Aucoin (Wicked Good Sports) wrote a piece last October about 'the many non-controversial Patriots controversies'. Ricki Lander is Kraft's Bibi Jones.
- ESPNBoston notes Rob Gronkowski is expecting some harassment from his teammates for his ESPN Magazine cover shoot.
- Field Yates reports Gronkowski came up empty-handed at the ESPY's, despite being nominated for two awards this summer.
- Marc Sessler (NFL.com) Warren Moon believes Tom Brady is NFL's top QB.
- James Walker (ESPN) Can anyone catch the Patriots?
- James Walker (ESPN) Cole Beasley is no Wes Welker.
- Jon Machota (Dallas Morning News) Cowboys WR Cole Beasley: I get tired of the Wes Welker comparisons; I have a little more speed than him.
- Adam Rank (NFL.com) Six predictions for the AFC in 2012.
- John McTigue (ESPN Stats & Info) Little payoff from unbalanced draft classes. Consequences to teams that draft for one side of the ball.
- John Clayton (ESPN) Saints running out of time with Brees; Mailbag.
- Tony Pauline (SI) Ex-Baylor Gordon tops 2012 Supplemental Draft prospects.
- Alex Marvez (Fox Sports) Top 10 recent TomKat-like NFL divorces.
- Jack Bechta (Nat'l Football Post) Three (or more) mistakes NFL players make with their money.
- Andrew Brandt (ESPN) Power at the core of franchising issue.
- Mike Freeman (CBS Sports) Players hating Goodell? Most lean more toward acceptance, even apathy.
- Josh Alper (ProFootballTalk) Judge David Doty agrees to hear collusion arguments.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) League files grievance against Vilma for pursuing defamation case.