In the wake of the reality that starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard would be out for an extended period of time, the New England Patriots had some good news today, as safety Steve Gregory returned to practice.
Gregory, in his second year with the team, initially broke his thumb on November 3rd against the Steelers. It was expected that he would be out at least a couple of weeks, so if he were to return against the Broncos, it would be a pleasant surprise for the team.
After the Jerod Mayo injury, Steve Gregory emerged as the communication leader for the defense, as he donned the green dot on his helmet to communicate with coaches on the sideline.
In Gregory's absence, rookie third round draft choice Duron Harmon stepped into the starting line-up opposite Devin McCourty and played 48 total snaps. By all accounts, Harmon was very solid in his debut as a starter.
Going into a game against the Broncos, who feature the best passing attack in the league, it will be critical to have as many healthy bodies as possible. The Patriots will likely match up Aqib Talib against Demaryius Thomas, and Kyle Arrington against Wes Welker. As for Eric Decker, perhaps the Patriots move Devin McCourty back down to cornerback if they feel comfortable enough with Duron Harmon covering a deep half of the field against Peyton Manning.
That scenario might not be likely considering McCourty's strong play at safety. But one thing is clear with the return of Gregory: it gives Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia options.