The New England Patriots get a week of rest before facing the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, and it’s time to take stock of the Patriots during the bye week.
1. Patrick Chung
The trade to acquire Aqib Talib could make Devin McCourty play at the safety position full time, which would likely mean a significantly diminished role for safety Patrick Chung. Currently in a contract year, Chung hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has been the least productive safety on the Pats so far this season. Primarily a run stopping safety, the Patriots have a greater need for coverage safeties and may not re-sign Chung this offseason.
He needs to improve, even if McCourty stays at cornerback. Chung is becoming more expendable with each and every week, mainly because rookie Tavon Wilson has already been a better player in coverage than Chung. The difference between them is pretty significant in terms of coverage, and Wilson is also a sound tackler. He barely gives up any yards after the catch, while Chung is somebody who struggles in deep coverage. I’m not saying Chung’s time is up with the Pats, and I do like the guy since he’s a former Oregon Ducks star. But he hasn’t been productive this season and needs to improve quickly.
2. Brandon Lloyd
Lloyd was able to catch two touchdown passes against the Rams and badly burn rookie corner Janoris Jenkins on both of them, but I get the feeling that the connection between Lloyd and Tom Brady still isn’t there. Lloyd and Wes Welker have both dropped six passes, but I feel like that statistic is misleading for both of them in different ways. Welker has caught everything else in his path and is targeted so heavily that six drops mean nothing ,especially since most of them came early in the year when he was probably just shaking off some rust. Lloyd’s drops have come on almost-there circus catches, so that’s not of concern to me.
What is concerning is the lack of separation from Lloyd, and that’s going to need to improve.
3. Jermaine Cunningham
I have always loved the solid pass rushing presence that Jermaine Cunnigham brings to this team, and he has had three quarterback hits while mostly playing in a sub-package role on the inside. That suits him perfectly, and Cunningham is the second best pure pass rusher on this team. That’s an important role, and I love watching him, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich on the field at the same time.
4. Shane Vereen
After a big week against the New York Jets, he fell flat against the St. Louis Rams and had just 22 rushing yards on seven carries. Or did he truly fall flat? The numbers are misleading, because he lost seven yards on one ill-fated carry and punched in a one-yard run on a crucial third-down at the goal-line for a TD to make it 14-7. Vereen broke a big 14-yard run on third down as well, so he was clutch and could be replacing Danny Woodhead at the end of the year.
Both running backs have shown their clutch ability in situational downs, but I’m a bit hesitant on saying that Vereen is better than Woodhead in this role. Vereen has been consistent this season, but I haven’t seen enough of him as a pass-catcher to warrant placeent over Woodhead in that sort of a role. Woodhead has been underrated all year and has 200 receiving yards to boot. But Vereen has definitely closed the gap.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.