We have entered the quiet parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while mandatory minicamp and training camp won't start until Tuesday and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at starting safety Patrick Chung.
Name: Patrick Chung
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 23
Size: 5'11, 215 lbs.
2015 review: Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung has played seven seasons in the NFL; 2015 was his best. Chung appeared in all but one game and played 83.5% of New England's defensive snaps, fifth highest on the team. He also played the seventh most special teams snaps of his team: 47.9%.
As his statistics show, Chung has made the most of his time on the field. He finished the season with 96 combined tackles in the regular season and playoffs, while allowing only 46.6% of passes thrown his way to be completed (27 of 58). Overall, Chung gave up only 291 yards, one touchdown and a 67.5 passer rating – all while breaking up 10 passes and forcing a fumble.
While his stats are stellar, they do not tell the whole story of Chung's performance. Over the past two seasons and especially in 2015, he has become one of the best safeties in the NFL. He has shown an ability to play close to the line of scrimmage, while also being competitive in coverage against tight ends, running backs and wide receivers (just ask the Indianapolis Colts' T.Y. Hilton).
2016 preview: Chung, who will still only be 29 years old once on opening day, is an integral part of New England's defense – and will continue to be in 2016. Not only because he allows fellow safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon to do what they are best at, but also because he gives the team a versatile and effective defensive chess piece.
As such, he is once again projected to play a majority of defensive snaps this upcoming season. And as usual, he will line up as the strong safety closer to the line of scrimmage (almost like an additional linebacker), helping against both the run and the pass due to his abilities in both areas.
Furthermore, Chung will also once again see substantial time on special teams as a member of the Patriots' kick and punt coverage units. While his play on special teams is not as stellar as his defensive play, his past snap numbers still indicate that the coaches view Chung as one of the team's best players in this phase of the game.
When Patrick Chung left Foxboro after the 2012 season to join the Philadelphia Eagles most Patriots fans did not consider him a big free agency loss given that he was unable to live up to the expectations that came with his draft status. Three years later, Chung's career has been revived as he is now one of the best safeties in the game – hopefully for New England, he will continue his stellar play in 2016.