January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) in the first of the game against the Denver Broncos of the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Final Report Card: Safeties

January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots safety Steve Gregory (28) against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next couple of days, Musket Fire will be running an end of year, ‘report card’ feature, that will give a final grade to each positional group for the 2013 season. Up next is the safeties.

Final Grade: A-

I don’t think this group gets nearly enough credit for what they did this season, especially considering all of the injuries the front seven endured.

We all know about Devin McCourty, and how he has risen to be one of the top free safeties in the NFL, but the other two guys were pretty damn good this year. Steve Gregory had a bad 2012 season, but he bounced back in a big way, putting together what I think was the best season of his career. His teammates have called him the “smartest player” they know, and based on what he does on the field, I won’t disagree with that. He is good in coverage, but more importantly, he can play down in the box, and his leadership is extremely important to that defense. McCourty is great in keeping everything in front of him, which leaves everything else to Gregory. I think these two players had a great year, and I expect to see more from them in the future.

The other safety that made an impact this year for New England, was rookie Duron Harmon. For such a young guy, I thought that Harmon picked up the defense fairly quickly, and he flashed some real potential while he was on the field. I liked his instincts and athletic ability, and I am confident that as his development continues, he will emerge as a solid young safety in this system.

A lot of people probably think that the Pats should go after a safety this offseason, but I disagree. There are other pressing needs in New England, and wasting money or a draft pick on a safety would be a dumb move. McCourty, Gregory, and Harmon all are good players, and put together a great 2013 campaign. The AFC Championship game was a horrible day for the Patriots’ defense, but it wasn’t because of the safety play. They definitely could have played better, but all things considered, they had a decent game. That is why the problem with the Pats defense doesn’t reside with the safeties. Depth at defensive tackle, and re-signing Aqib Talib are much more important issues, and I hope Belichick and company address them in the coming months.

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Tags: Devin McCourty Duron Harmon New England Patriots Steve Gregory

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