It was reported yesterday by Albert Breer of NFL.com, that New England Patriots’ safety Steve Gregory, suffered a broken thumb in the Pats win over the Steelers, and it will force him to miss some time on the football field. However as Breer points out, because of the Patriots bye week and their Monday night tilt the following week, Gregory may not miss a game for New England.
This may not seem like a big injury for the Patriots, but in reality it is just another sucker-punch to a depleted defensive unit. They have already lost their top two defensive tackles, in Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, as well as one of the NFL’s best linebackers in Jerod Mayo. With these guys out, Gregory was starting to play a bigger role not only football-wise, but also stepping up as a leader, as he took the “green dot” in last week’s win over the Dolphins (the green dot basically designates the leader of the defense for that particular game, as he will receive the defensive calls from the sideline).
I was very critical of the Patriots sticking with Gregory for this 2013 season, as I thought that his 2012 campaign was downright awful, and warranted New England’s interest in a new starting strong safety. Gregory’s tackling angles were high school bad, and he frequently was beat deep because of he simply did not realize where the ball and the receiver were. However Belichick once again proved his genius, giving Gregory another shot, and he has more than lived up to expectations. Along with rising star Devin McCourty, Gregory has helped anchor a New England secondary that is currently ranked 13th in the league. While McCourty is usually responsible for playing deep zones, Gregory is terrific at creeping up towards the line of scrimmage and making plays in the run game. He also has proven time and time again, that he is capable of sitting back and reacting to what the quarterback does, which is an extremely important skill-set to have, if you are going to be a top safety in this league.
If Gregory does in fact miss some time with this injury, rookie Duron Harmon would be the guy that would have to step in at strong safety. I like how Harmon has progressed in his first year in the league, and who knows, in a couple of years, he may be the starting safety for the Pats. But as of right now, Gregory is a couple of steps ahead of him, and New England’s pass defense will struggle as a result of this change.