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Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty have “high level of versatility” to lead Patriots defense

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The Patriots safeties are exceptional at what they do, according to head coach Bill Belichick.

The New England Patriots are going to face one of the more productive tight end duos in the league in the Houston TexansC.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin. That usually means more three-safety packages for the Patriots secondary, for which New England is uniquely prepared with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon.

“Those three guys, there’s a lot of value to all three of those players, what they can do and how they mix together,” Belichick said. “They’re not all the same, but they can do enough things that they’re somewhat interchangeable. They’re smart, they work well with each other, they have a good chemistry and a good system of communication, and ability to make adjustments, and trade off where they need to trade off, things like that. They’re all three valuable, they’re all three critical.”

McCourty and Chung are the cornerstones of the Patriots defense, with McCourty a sideline-to-sideline coverage talent and former cornerback and Chung arguably the best tackler on the team, able to mix it up in the trash at the line of scrimmgage.

“Pat has a lot of position flexibility,” Belichick said. “Devin has a lot of position flexibility in terms of the fact that he’s played corner at a high level. We don’t use him in that situation a lot, but there’s times where it comes up and it’s certainly handy to be able to put him into those types of situations; extended tight ends, or extended backs, or things like that, or it could be an extended receiver in certain situations that you know that he can do that.

“It takes away some of the – if you didn’t have that – you’d have to figure something else out. That just starts the wheel spinning faster for everybody else. It’s nice to be able to have those match-ups. But yeah, they’re all important.

“Pat does a great job in the multiple roles that he fills between safety, nickel back, linebacker, if you will. It’s a lot, plus I mean and all three of those guys play in the kicking game, too. So they’re not only defensive players, but when they go home at night and prepare for the games there’s significant roles for them in the kicking game as well. They bring a lot of value to our team.”

Both Chung and McCourty are able to cover tight ends and running backs, with McCourty better able to cover players flex to the sideline and Chung better able to cover in the box. Harmon steps in as the free safety over the top.

Belichick credits Chung’s and McCourty’s ability to play multiple roles at a high level as what separates them from other players that handle different jobs.

“There are a lot of players that are versatile, but to be able to do it at the level that he’s done it at pretty consistently,” Belichick said about Chung. “I mean we’ve seen a lot of good tight ends. He’s out there against pretty good guys every week, not to mention practice. To be able to play at that level without having to help the guy on every play, yeah.

“I wouldn’t say the versatility is as big of a deal as it is the high level of versatility. There’s a lot of guys that can go out there and take up space, but they really can’t perform against that level of competition the way you need it and make some of the tackles that he’s made, like some of the tackles that Devin’s made against some premier receivers, premier backs in space, one-on-one situations. I mean those don’t look like big plays on the stat sheet, but they’re huge plays.”

If the Patriots need Chung and McCourty to cover the two Texans tight ends, they will be up to the task. If they’re asked to play their standard coverage roles, they will be ready, too. The Patriots safety duo ranks among the best in the league and their ability will be on display on Saturday afternoon.