If Patrick Chung is healthy this year, the Patriots safety corps will be significantly improved over 2011.
A few days ago, we reflected on Ryan Van Bibber's rankings of all 32 cornerback tandems in the NFL. Now, Van Bibber is back, ranking all 32 safety tandems in the league. The Patriots once again graded out poorly, landing at the 22nd spot:
Health has been spotty for Patrick Chung, who is an important contributor when he is in the lineup. This is the walk year of his contract, so a 16-game season could make him a very rich man. Free agent Steve Gregory is an upgrade. The decision to draft Tavon Wilson in the second round shocked most draft watchers, who had him ticketed for the later part of day three.
Simply based off the 2011 season, it's not hard to see why the Patriots were ranked so low on this list. But just like the cornerback position, the safety position has a lot of room to grow for the team in 2012.
The key to the Patriots safety group will be the health of Pat Chung. If he can stay healthy for 16 games, he could very well be one of the league's top 10-15 safeties in 2012. He will likely be paired with veteran Steve Gregory, whom the team signed to a three year contract this offseason.
While I don't expect the Patriots safety corps to be an elite group next season, there is a ton of room for improvement, and a lot more reliable depth. The Patriots made a series of moves to overturn the safety position in training camp in 2011, then were hit with a bizarre string of injuries that would be extremely unlikely to hit again in 2012.
With 2nd round pick Tavon Wilson and strong safety James Ihedigbo in the fold, the Patriots could actually have something at the position that they could only dream of by the end of last year: depth.
While I'd hesitate to place this group any higher than Van Bibber's ranking of 22, it wouldn't shock me if this group was to be ranked around 14-18 by the end of the season.