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Patriots training camp preview: How will New England use all its safeties?

Related: Patriots training camp preview: Who will emerge as the new No. 1 cornerback?

NFL: AUG 25 New England Patriots New York Giants Joint Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2022 training camp is right around the corner. On Wednesday, the team will reconvene at Gillette Stadium to kick off its next level of preparation for the upcoming season — and all that goes with it: full-contact practices, camp competitions, joint sessions, you name it.

Leading up to this year’s camp, we will take a look at all position groups on New England’s roster to give you some idea about the key actors, battles and storylines at each of them. Today, we will continue at safety.

Position group

As opposed to the other position group in the defensive backfield, the cornerbacks, the Patriots’ safety depth chart is one of the deepest and most stable in the league. All in all, there are currently seven players under contract even though the “safety” label is a non-exclusive one and cornerbacks such as Myles Bryant or Jonathan Jones have also seen reps at the position in the past.

The Patriots’ cornerback group can be divided into two groups: roster locks and special team candidates. The first group consists of Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers, who are all safe bets to be on the team come the regular season and to see regular action as starter-level or at least key rotational players within New England’s secondary.

As for the others, they are not guaranteed to make the roster. Cody Davis appears to have a pretty good shot given that he has been with the team since 2020 and is a five-unit special teamer. Joshuah Bledsoe and Brenden Schooler, meanwhile, are youngsters who arrived in 2021 and earlier this year, respectively; Bledsoe has some intriguing versatility while Schooler projects exclusively as a kicking game presence.

Camp competitions

Cody Davis vs. Brenden Schooler: Davis has been a valuable member of New England’s kicking game operation for the last three seasons, serving, among other roles, as personal punt protector. He again appears to be a realistic candidate to make the team, but potential $1.8 million in salary cap savings might lead to the Patriots turning their attention to Brenden Schooler if the undrafted rookie can show his talents in training camp.

Joshuah Bledsoe vs. depth cornerbacks: The Patriots keeping more than 11 defensive backs on their 53-man roster seems unlikely, which means that as little as one spot might be open. Bledsoe will be competing for it against New England’s projected depth cornerbacks: Myles Bryant, Terrance Mitchell, Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade are expected to compete with him for that one spot; Bledsoe’s experience playing both inside and outside might help him get an edge over his competition if he is able to deliver the goods in camp.

Stories to watch

How will all the safeties be used? If the Patriots’ safety group can be described with one word it would be “versatile.” Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers in particular have shown throughout their careers in the NFL that they can wear multiple hats. It will be fascinating to see how New England employs all of them, especially considering that there are some serious questions at the cornerback position.

Will Kyle Dugger take the next step? Dugger developed nicely over his first two seasons with the Patriots, but the former second-round draft pick still has room for growth in one area in particular: leadership. He did focus on becoming more active of a leader within the defense during the offseason, and training camp will show whether or not he is able to take that next step and eventually even come out of Devin McCourty’s shadow in that regard.

When will Jabrill Peppers take the field? The Patriots signed Peppers to a one-year free agency contract a little over five months after he tore the ACL in his right knee. His recovery limited him during offseason workouts and has now also landed him on the physically unable to perform list last week, and it remains to be seen how quickly he can come off of it and turn into the regular contributor he is expected to become.