Patrick Chung is probably the most versatile player that the Patriots have on defense. I think that if he was not injured this year, he would be getting more hype as one of the best safeties in the NFL. He was dinged up again in the game against the Steelers last night, but assuming that he plays the rest of the season relatively healthy, is he a Pro Bowler? I would argue that Chung should be a Pro Bowler this year. There is only a single player in the NFL at the free safety position that has more combined tackles than Chung (combined tackles adds solo tackles with assisted tackles). That player is Michael Griffin of the Tennessee Titans and he only leads Chung by a single combined tackle, 60-59, though he has an 8 solo tackle advantage. Chung has 5 passes defended, 2 interceptions and two blocked kicks on special teams. Compare with that Michael Griffin who has 12 passes defended and 4 interceptions.
Now that I’ve said I think that Chung should be a Pro Bowler, I’ll tell you why he won’t be one. His versatility and various uses in the Patriots defense will prevent him from earning that AFC roster spot. Chung spends far more time near the line of scrimmage than he does in pass coverage. He was in on a sack last night for the Patriots and he played the outside linebacker spot on several occasions. I say he played the outside linebacker position because he was on the field several times with James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather and Chung was the one near the line of scrimmage making the tackles. Whether you want to call it an outside linebacker or just having three safeties on the field, he’s not playing the normal free safety position all of the time. He isn’t getting a high number of pass defenses as a result. Generally, he is locking down a tight end or making a tackle. He is a mismatch for a tight end so the quarterback avoids throwing the ball his way. He also makes plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. The hit and deflection he made Sunday night were the reason that Sanders was able to get his interception and return it for 6 points. Chung is emerging as one of the best safeties in the NFL but this is not his year to go to the Pro Bowl. Ed Reed will almost certainly take a spot on the team because he is the incumbent and Griffin will likely take the other because he plays on a better overall defense and he has better statistical numbers than Chung. Chung’s only chance of making the Pro Bowl rests on injuries. That is, after all, exactly how Brandon Meriweather made the Pro Bowl last year.