(This is another entry into the ‘positional breakdown’ feature on Musket Fire.
Under Contract for 2013: Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
After McCourty switched from cornerback to safety, the Patriots defense performed much better. McCourty had a great rookie season at cornerback in 2010, but since that time he really struggled at the cornerback position. The only real reason he was moved to safety was because of depth issues, but, as it turned out, moving McCourty was a very good move by the Patriots coaching staff. Despite his struggles at cornerback, McCourty has always shown good ball skills when defending the pass. He may not be that great in keeping with guys in man coverage, but he is great at locating the ball and making a play on it. This serves him very well at safety, as he is not called upon to play too much man coverage and he keeps everything in front of him. He helped the Pats limit the big plays, and allowed the cornerbacks to be much more aggressive. I expect McCourty to only get better next year, and I think the Pats have a cornerstone at safety for the years to come.
Gregory was brought in before the 2012 season began to try and bring a veteran presence to a young position on the Patriots roster. Overall, I thought Gregory did a very solid job for the Pats. He did struggle quite a bit in run defense, but in the passing game I think played well and made a lot of plays. He is best suited in my opinion to be in the intermediate part of the field, reading the quarterback and going and forcing some turnovers. I believe that Gregory was at his best in the Thanksgiving bashing of the Jets, he made a lot of big plays for the Pats in that game. When he is forced to play deep and limit the big plays, I think he struggles. However with McCourty now in the fold at safety, I think it allows the Pats to keep Gregory up closer to the line of scrimmage and make big plays in the middle of the field.
After the Pats loss toSeattlein week six,Wilsonwas getting a ton of hate thrown at him, including myself. However after watching him settle into a nice role for the Pats in the last few weeks of the season I have changed my mind on him. I believe thatWilsoncan be a very solid player for the Pats down the road. He has good instincts and very good ball skills as he had four interceptions in his rookie campaign. If the Pats give him time to develop, I think they have a guy that can start for them in the future.
Ebner is a convertedRugbyplayer and is not going to make any impact for them except on special teams. He is a very solid special teams player, and I think he will remain there for the Patriots.
I think the main need for the Pats at the safety position is get some depth behind McCourty and Gregory. If they add a solid backup to go along with Tavon Wilson, the Pats will have a solidified safety position. Safety Matt Elam is somebody in the upcoming draft, that I think the Pats may go after to help out them out. I think Kenny Vacarro out of Texas is a better safety, and would love if Pats drafted him, but I do not think he will fall to pick 29 in the draft. I believe drafting Elam is a much more likely scenario. With Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory as starters, I think the Pats have a solid starting rotation at safety, and if they add some quality depth then I think they will have a very good group at safety for 2013.