A hot question that ha resulted from the New England Patriots acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib is, “How will the Patriots utilize him?” Head coach Bill Belichick has shed light on the issue, and it lends itself to even more discussion.
WEEI writer Mike Petraglia wrote that Bill Belichick stated Aqib Talib has been mostly playing at LCB on the same side of the field as Devin McCourty (McCourty is at SS due to the injury to Patrick Chung) thus far.
It was initially thought that the Patriots would keep Devin McCourty at safety in order to make room for Talib at corner, and this is something that will happen- at least until Patrick Chung comes back from his injuries. However, the interesting note is that McCourty and Talib will be playing on the same side of the field right now.
There were rumblings that the Patriots would start Alfonzo Dennard on McCourty’s side in order to have both of them cover the opponent’s top wideout, with Talib on an island against the No. 2 receiver. It will be interesting to see if that happens in the future when Chung comes back, or if the Pats decide to move McCourty back to corner and play Dennard in the slot.
I would rather see Talib and D-Mac on the outside with Dennard in the slot, because I view Kyle Arrington as a worse player than the safeties. However, neither Steve Gregory nor Chung have been good in coverage this season, but it makes sense to start one of them alongside Tavon Wilson (the Pats best coverage safety) at the back.
It’s all extremely interesting, and the debate is pretty heated. It is also difficult to project where the defensive backs will play, due to the week-to-week uncertainty of the health of the safeties (namely Chung with the return of Gregory).
I love this excerpt from Belichick, “Some guys flip easily, some guys don’t. I don’t think there’s any set formula. Some guys don’t care which side they play on. Footwork’s obviously different on one side than the other, same thing with the receivers. Some guys flip, some guys don’t. Some guys it bothers, some guys they don’t have any problem with it. I don’t think we can set our boundaries on that. To a degree, we have to take it how it comes and have to see how adaptable they are or aren’t.”
The question is, is Talib flexible? We know McCourty is, but it’s going to be interesting to see if the New England Patriots have to switch where the other DBs play in order to account for Talib’s ability to play on a certain side of the field.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.