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The Patriots Secondary is Taking Form; Just One Spot Open

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The New England Patriots are trying to form their starting line-up. Their secondary could be the most game-ready unit on the defense.

For all of the panic surrounding the New England Patriots secondary, the starting line-up is pretty much finalized.

The coaching staff decided to play their defensive starters on just the opening drive against the Packers. After 15 snaps that resulted in a 4th down goal line stop, edge defenders Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones were done for the day. Linebacker Jamie Collins was also done.

So were defensive backs Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Malcolm Butler.

The defensive tackle position is still up in the air as Sealver Siliga remained sidelined, but Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown look to be major players, along with Antonio Johnson and potentially Zach Moore. Linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo didn't play so while their status as top dogs aren't in question, the high usage of five defensive backs will relegate one of the linebackers to the sideline.

But the secondary? That's mostly completed. McCourty and Chung are the starting safeties and Butler is a starting cornerback. Even the nickel back is likely decided, as Robert McClain played a high energy, and team-leading, 66 out of a possible 87 snaps on defense.

All that remains is one open spot and rookie Darryl Roberts is a potential clubhouse leader.

Veteran Tarell Brown can't seem to stay healthy and left Saturday's practice early with a trainer. Fellow veteran Bradley Fletcher allowed two receptions on three targets for just 11 yards, but he was lucky on that third target as the receiver dropped a great pass after slipping behind Fletcher's coverage.

The Patriots longest tenured cornerback Logan Ryan had a roller coaster game against the Packers, with some of the best tackling and the worst coverage- and inconsistency is the easiest way into Bill Belichick's dog house.

Even Roberts, who received the start against the Packers, left with a hand/wrist injury.

The final starting spot in the secondary is up for grabs with four seriously viable candidates competing for the role. Who will win? Likely the healthiest candidate. Who will be cut? Likely the one with the least amount of special teams value.

The competition for this final spot is still wide open- but it's the only open spot in the secondary.