Outside of a one-year sojourn with the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung has spent a decade with the New England Patriots.
Strong safety Patrick Chung may very well go down as one of the premier New England Patriots of the Bill Belichick era.
He certainly doesn’t have the name recognition of contemporaries like Devin McCourty or Stephon Gilmore — or even previous Belichick secondary stars like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Asante Samuel, and Rodney Harrison — but he’s been just as valuable and important to this New England dynasty in his own fashion.
Chung is not only a three-time Super Bowl champion, he’s also a member of the New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team — and with good reason. He’s played 10 of his 11 NFL seasons with New England — every year from 2009 to 2020 except 2013.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Chung had one of his worst seasons in the NFL that one year he spent away from Belichick and the Patriots. While it was by no means a disaster, it wasn’t enough to stop the Philadelphia Eagles from cutting him just one year into his three-year contract there.
Philly’s loss was New England’s gain, however.
Chung returned to Foxborough and immediately it was as if nothing had ever changed. After tallying just 59 tackles, three passes defended, and zero interceptions in 2013 with the Eagles, Chung had 85 tackles, eight passes defended, and one interception in 2014 (albeit in four more regular season games of action).
The former Oregon Duck is probably best known to a nationwide audience as the unlucky member of the Patriots to exit back-to-back Super Bowls with an injury.
In 2017 against Chung’s old team (the Eagles) in Super Bowl 52, he left with a concussion. Then in 2018 against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53, Chung memorably left the game early in the second half with a broken forearm.
He did, however, return out to the field after the game to join in the victory celebrations, even with his arm in a cast.
That very moment probably demonstrates who Chung is best as a New England Patriots. He has a gritty toughness that Belichick clearly adores, and a real ability to bounce back from adversity and take his game to the next level as a competitor.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
There’s not much more that Chung needs to accomplish from a team-level. Obviously, it doesn’t matter how many Super Bowl rings you have — you’re always going to want more. Just ask our old friend Tom Brady.
Still, Chung doesn’t have anything left to cross off his bucket list as an NFL player in that department, having now played in five Super Bowls (winning three) over the past 11 years of his career.
The best-case scenario for Chung in 2020 is that he finally gets some individual recognition as far as NFL hardware is concerned. Chung, like his fellow starting safety Devin McCourty, will turn 33 before the 2020 season begins — he’s not going to play forever.
Before he retires, it’d be nice to see him get a Pro Bowl nod or at least a First-Team/Second-team All Pro accolade.
Worse-case scenario projection for 2020
The worst-case scenario for Chung is always going to be injury now, given his advanced age (by NFL standards) and the fact that he’s made it through a full 16-game regular season slate only four times in 11 tries. Add in the high-profile Super Bowl mishaps, and it’s clear why this reason tops the list.
Outside of injury though, it would be unfortunate for Chung — if not entirely for the Patriots — should he start to play at a subpar level this season.
New England has newly-signed safety Adrian Phillips and first-round draft pick Kyle Dugger waiting in the wings to take that old Duron Harmon role as the No. 3 safety. Either one of those players probably has the chops to take Chung’s job, too, should trusty No. 23 struggle in 2020.