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New England Patriots: Aqib Talib Return May Be Close

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COMMENTARY | For a while, the New England Patriots lacked an elite presence at corner.

Ty Law and Asante Samuel served this role for back in the day, but the team was unable to fill the void for a few years. This began to change last season when the Patriots acquired Aqib Talib.

During the first six games of the year, Talib was as good as anyone in the league at his position. The New England defense was a completely different unit while he was in the lineup. Need proof? Here are some statistics for receivers that faced Talib this season:

- Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills: 3 receptions, 39 yards, 1 touchdown
- Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3 receptions, 34 yards
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals: 5 receptions, 61 yards
- Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: 0 receptions

That averages out to 2.75 receptions, 33.5 yards, and .25 touchdowns per game.

Everything was great until Talib suffered a hip injury, which has kept him on the sideline. Since the Patriots have lost defensive leaders Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork for the rest of the season, Talib's return will be huge.

We might not have to wait too much longer to see him on the field. Talib spoke about his progress, and despite the fact that he didn't commit to playing this week, it seems like he'll be on the field some time in the near future. He considers himself day to day, although Talib did say that the team's bye week came at the perfect time.

The Patriots will face off against the Carolina Panthers this week on Monday night. Having Talib on the field to cover Steve Smith would be huge, or else Cam Newton and Smith may be set for a big day. Carolina has one of the league's top defenses, and an offense with plenty of big play ability.

Even if Talib doesn't come back this week, it's good to see that he's fairly close. The Patriots need his services for the postseason, where they will surely be facing some pretty dangerous receivers.

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering New England sports for various blogs over the past 4 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.

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