Time for another New England Patriots Roundtable everyone. Things are moving a bit slow right now, but we’re moving closer and closer to the NFL Draft date of May 8-10th. Until then, we will be doing a lot of roster analysis, and the occasional move that happens, like that of the first question…
Q. The Patriots brought back Patrick Chung last week in a bit of a surprising move. What are your thoughts on his return? Will he make the team?
Duncan: The saftey position was definitely a question mark for the Patriots coming into the season, and Patrick Chung, despite having a rocky season in Philadelphia last year, comes to the Pats already familiar with the system. Belichick doesn’t have exceptional talent at saftey (Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson are young, McCourty is inconsistent), so Chung should make the team.
Hal: Chung was brought in as a depth safety at cheap money. A low-cost pickup, Chung has value on special teams and can step in at strong safety if need be. If Chung is starting, the Patriots are in trouble, but he has value as a low-cost depth addition to the secondary.
Cyrus: I didn’t like the move at all. Chung was a horrible safety while he was here, and he didn’t get any better in Philadelphia. I doubt he makes the final roster.
Matt: I was a bit surprised considering how unceremoniously he left New England just a year ago, but taking a second to think about it, it makes some sense. Chung isn’t guaranteed anything right now, and if he doesn’t show some special teams prowess, he’s not making the team. I personally think he’ll end up making it right now, but that could all change with the NFL Draft.
Q. Adrian Wilson ended up being a casualty after the Chung signing. How would a healthy Wilson have helped this team last year?
Duncan: His ability could be questionable, considering his age (34 years old) and the fact that he’s coming off a season-ending achilles injury. But as far as a veteran presence on the team, Wilson, a five-time Pro Bowler and one-time NFC Champion, could definitely help aid some of the younger defensive backs on the Pats.
Hal: Wilson was absolutely terrible in the preseason last season looking slow and ineffective. Bill Belichick did Wilson a favor putting him on injured reserve so he could (and should have) simply cut him. Wilson got paid for the year and based on his showing in Arizona in 2012 and last season he will likely not play again in the NFL. Last season a healthy Wilson would not have helped the Patriots. The 2009 Adrian Wilson would have been a big help, maybe.
Cyrus: Forget last year, can you imagine what the Pats secondary would be like this year with a healthy Wilson? Easily the best secondary in the league, topping even Seattle’s group. But he would have definitely helped in 2013, especially when Steve Gregory was sidelined.
Matt: It was kind of sad seeing what Adrian Wilson was last year. A part of me was holding out hope that he could return to form somewhat this year, but the writing was on the wall all along. I think a healthy Wilson could’ve done something on first and second down, but probably would’ve been more of a liability than anything.
Q. Are the Patriots done tweaking with the Safety position? Or are there still moves to come? Who is the current starting pair?
Duncan: I wouldn’t be surprised with the Patriots drafting a saftey to compete for a roster spot and add some depth. They are most likely done aquiring safties in free agency following the Chung move and taking Brandon Browner’s versatility into account. And I would say that the starting pair is Chung at strong saftey and McCourty at free saftey. Wilson or Harmon could still win a starting job in training camp. Browner could see time at saftey as well.
Hal: Right now Duron Harmon is likely the starter opposite Devin McCourty. Patrick Chung is there for depth behind Harmon. 2012 second round pick Tavon Wilson was an invisible man in the secondary last year and is likely fighting for a job in training camp. I would not be surprised to see last year’s starter Steve Gregory back at a reduced rate either.
Cyrus: I hope they continue to add quality depth, because it is a bit of a weakness as of right now. Devin McCourty is one of the best safeties in the league, and while Duron Harmon showed he can play last year, the thought of him starting makes me a little nervous.
Matt: I feel that their tweaking isn’t done just yet. I’m looking for them to take a safety in the later rounds of the draft, someone like Alden Darby or Hakeem Smith. But currently, the starting pair is Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, but I expect the starting pair to be McCourty and Logan Ryan once the season rolls around.
Q. A popular question always being asked by Patriots fans is “What are they going to do about the offensive line?” What are your thoughts on the current Patriots offensive line?
Duncan: The Pats offensive line will be fine. Dane Scarnecchia was arguably the best offensive line coach in the game, but he’s imparted wisdom to all of New England’s big men. Logan Mankins is a great anchor. Marcus Cannon can play in several spots. Wendell isn’t bad, the same goes for Connolly. Nate Solder has struggled at times, but overall, he’s solid. A rookie could also get in the mix.
Hal: The Patriots brought back the same starting five from last season. With Marcus Cannon seemingly entrenched as the swing tackle going forward, the Patriots still need depth at guard and center. Undrafted rookie Josh Kline flashed some potential, but guard Dan Connolly and center Ryan Wendell were terrible in 2013. Both should be pushed in training camp and New England
should be active trying to find another “Brian Waters” type veteran to scoop up and plug in to shore up the interior of the line. Also, a decision needs to be made with left tackle Nate Solder as he needs to be extended in the near future.
Cyrus: Coming into this offseason, I felt that New England had to upgrade the interior of the line. However they didn’t act on it, and ended up being forced to re-sign Ryan Wendell. The inside isn’t horrible, but it definitely needs to be upgraded over the next couple of years.
Matt: The Patriots offensive line was bad last year, but I feel like it was a bit of an anomaly, considering they were one of the best units the year previous, and injuries really rocked them. They do need some inside depth, and would need another swing player if they were to make Cannon a starter, but right now, I’m not upgrading the interior offensive line unless someone like Xavier Sua’Filo is available at the end of the second round.
Q. We are only a month away from the NFL Draft, and the Patriots are always notorious for moving down in the draft. Do you see them moving down again this year?
Duncan: I could see them doing that again because year in, year out, regardless of the type of talent they already have, the Pats always seem to make that move.
Hal: Definitely. This is a very deep draft with little separation in the players between picks 33 through 100 making those picks all the more valuable to the Patriots front office. I would expect this may be one of those “groan-inducing” drafts where the Patriots move down multiple times to accumulate picks in rounds two, three, and four.
Cyrus: There is no telling what Bill Belichick will do. I personally think they should be aggressive with pass rushers and tight ends, but Belichick will probably trade down for a running back and a punter…
Matt: Absolutely. And I would encourage them to do so. This is a super deep draft, and most importantly, the defensive end/defensive tackle position is loaded in the first two rounds. They could move back into the mid second round, grab Stephon Tuitt, and get an extra two picks. That’s the start to a great draft.
Thank you to Duncan, Hal and Cyrus for helping out on this week’s New England Patriots Roundtable. If you’d like to have a question answered by us on this roundtable, then feel free to send a tweet to @Musket_Fire or @MattyWinPats, or any of the guys personal twitters.