The New England Patriots are fortunate in comparison to most other NFL teams in that they have at least three starter-quality safeties on their roster: Patrick Chung, James Sanders, and Brandon Meriweather. While all three are quality starters, only one has been ranked amongst the best safeties in the NFL. Brandon Meriweather consistently pops up on lists that rank the top 10 safeties of the NFL. He hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft, has 12 interceptions in four years and has been to two Pro Bowls. However, there are several detractors to Meriweather’s status among the NFL’s best safeties, and they’re not who you might think. Patriots fans themselves question Meriweather’s name being mentioned among the best.
In ESPN’s power rankings of the top ten NFL safeties, Brandon Meriweather was ranked 8th. In USA Today’s rankings, Meriweather was tied with the Titans’ Michael Griffin as the 7th-best safety in the NFL, while former Saints safety Darren Sharper put together a list of his own, listing Meriweather as the 6th-best safety. NFL fans, players, and coaches provided enough votes to send Meriweather to his second Pro Bowl this past season.
Meriweather’s Pro Bowl selection this past season had a lot of Patriots fans scratching their heads. I criticized the selection back in December when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced. It’s not that Meriweather isn’t a good safety, but last season he was inconsistent and was even sat down at times due to his play. Not only was he not one of the best safeties in the NFL, but many Patriots fans feel that he wasn’t the best safety on the Patriots. In a poll posted on ESPN Boston asking fans to vote for the best safety on the Patriots, Patrick Chung won in a landslide. Chung garnered 67% of the vote while Meriweather came in at a distant second with 22% of the vote.
Perhaps Meriweather receives some extra criticism because of his constant mention among the NFL’s best safeties (or his hat). Being mentioned with the best brings with it some more scrutiny. However, Belichick decided Meriweather was inconsistent enough to sit him on the bench for stretches of games, so there must be some validity to the criticisms. I strongly believe that if Pat Chung had not been injured, he would have been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Can Meriweather live up to his hype this season? Patriot fans certainly hope so.