Until we see the Patriots’ secondary in Week 11 with newly acquired CB Aqib Talib (he remains suspended for Week 10), there’s a lot of conjecture about what the secondary will look like. Talib is sure to be starting at corner, but will he be opposite Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington or rookie Alfonzo Dennard? If McCourty goes to safety and Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung are healthy, who is the odd man out?
The trickle-down impact of acquiring Talib could have the greatest long-term impact on Chung, if McCourty makes a permanent move to safety — something that the coaching staff has not, and likely will not confirm. A fourth-year safety, Chung is in a contract year and has not played since Week Six because of a shoulder injury. He has never been known for his cover skills, but Chung’s struggles in that aspect have been noticeable this season. Durability also continues to be a concern — he played in eight games last season and missed two in 2010. Known as a playmaker, Chung has only one tackle for loss and two passes defensed this season.
One source indicated Chung was thought to have a good market for his services before the season, especially with a premium on safeties, but that likely has diminished. Gregory, who signed a three-year deal, has some position versatility, and he could rotate with Chung, who is better in the box, in the scenario that has McCourty at safety. For the Patriots, the flexibility in the secondary is a good thing, but for Chung, it doesn’t help his value if he loses snaps in a new-look secondary.
In addition to the defensive side of the ball, Chung has been a key special-teams contributor in his career, but similar to trying to guess how Bill Belichick will utilize his new personnel, observers remain unclear on Chung’s long-term future with the Pats.