The Patriots have acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a trade deadline stunner. Belichick has given away picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds of the upcoming draft, which means you can bet the team will be trading down to grab back some picks they're currently missing. The question now is how will the Patriots use the player they just spent their fourth round pick on?
Talib is a top 20 cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus, and he has been a shadow on the #1 receiver during his time with the Buccaneers. He plays both sides of the field and will line up wherever asked.
The Patriots have set sides for their cornerbacks, meaning the cornerback will line up on the same side the entire game, regardless of match-up. Kyle Arrington has historically played right cornerback, while Devin McCourty has lined up at left cornerback his whole career. So what now?
Arrington is apparently dinged up and rookie Alfonzo Dennard has earned his time on the field. You can expect Dennard to have at least one of the three main cornerback spots locked up. In my opinion, Talib will be expected to hold down the side opposite of Dennard, allowing Arrington or Marquise Cole to remain in the slot.
This all means that McCourty, the team's current #1 corner, will have to make the full time switch to safety. Pat Chung has struggled to cover the deep ball his entire career and Tavon Wilson has shown little deep ability during his rookie campaign. Steve Gregory has been dinged up and, while the best of the trio of safeties, leaves a lot to be desired. McCourty making the move to safety allows the Patriots to keep their best defensive backs on the field, while having a more competent last line of defense.
Additionally, the usage of McCourty as a deep safety will allow Pat Chung to assume his more natural role as an in-the-box safety, as Talib at left corner will allow the Patriots more leeway with the strong safety. Chung has played out of his element as Arrington and Sterling Moore have required constant help with their receiver, forcing Chung to play further back than is his strength. If Chung can move back to the box, outlet receivers will have less success against what has primarily been the Patriots linebackers.
So the new line-up?
RCB: Aqib Talib
LCB: Alfonzo Dennard
Nickel: Kyle Arrington/Marquise Cole
SS: Pat Chung
FS: Devin McCourty
Money: Tavon Wilson (vs TEs)
Immediately, you can see the best players are on the field in the base defense and, more importantly, they're playing in their optimal roles.
While Talib has yet to take the field, and will be unable to do so until the end of his suspension, there is plenty to speculate on how he will impact the Patriots secondary. How do you think he'll be utilized?