Going into this draft I did not feel the Secondary
was a primary concern. I was likely in the minority on this but it has me
more comfortable than many with the Pats lack of real pursuit into improving
this in the draft.
Certainly I would like to always improve every
position and I remain concerned at LB that we have too big an uncertainty
present. So why not this level of worry with the Secondary?
Our best player in the Secondary is Rodney Harrison
and unfortunately he is a question mark at present due to the severity of his
injury. Brady spoke recently to affirm what many already know, Rodney
Harrison was the MVP of the 2004 season. Brady similarly reports great
progress for Rodney which is encouraging but obviously until July we aren't
going to be aware of his real progress and until September 10 we are likely to
have some justified concerns. If Rodney should not be able to return it
will be a serious blow but we now know Hawkins can rudimentarily man the
position. By the end of last year he was playing acceptable within the
system. He will be challenged by Tebucky Jones who while previously a free
safety for us has the potential to play very wellat Strong Safety for us.
He has the physical tools for the position and Belichick thought enough of him
at the reduced price to have him here backing up the position and being a
special team stud.
At Free Safety Eugene Wilson was lost without
Rodney. His play was very disappointing for most of the season and then in
the late rally he acknowledged his need to step up and did so with more emphasis
on his role of player than on the 'stress' of trying to lead the group.
THis was a combination of Hawkins work, experience and probably scheme
manipulation as well. He ended the season with five games in which he
showed he could and should be playing at the level we expect.
At Corner we endured a rash of injuries as
well. A position with considerable depth became marred by injury and
roster turnover. No doubt we missed Ty Law though he'd been gone since his
injury the year before but more notably from that last group we had Gay take an
injury while running stride for stride with Steve Smith in Carolina. Gay
and Samuels had manned the corner with good but not excellent performance the
year before and though he tried Gay never did get his ankle ready to play - he
in fact forced the attempt because of need and did his play a disservice.
Gay will be an immediate improvement if healthy and there is little reason to
believe his ankle will not now be healthy.
Samuels was very disappointing and there is little
excuse save perhaps the impact of Rodney. When Tedy and Seymour returned
that certainly made the work for the CBs improve but Samuels did not improve
until the last five games. Roster turnover can impact these guys but
Samuels was just flat out failing on critical aspects of his game which involve
when to jump and when to look back for the ball. In those last five games
he seemed to have all this corrected and given his stellar prior season and
strong finish I see him as sufficiently talented to be part of the lunch pail
team mentality which has served us so well. He's not a shut down corner
but has shown more than good enough talent and big game potential
Ellis Hobbs was the surprise of last season.
Rodney Harrison said he believes Hobbs to be pro-bowl type talent if he can work
hard enough and the signs last year were that he was ready to do just
that. He was our best corner for much of it and I expect to start as a
much better than average performer while still not yet having proven or
indicated shut down type talent. He easily showed me he is starting
quality on this team and I only expect improvements from last year.
Hobbs, Samuels and gay represent what some like to
term our 'midget' mistakes. In the new era of officiating the illegal
contact, speedy and quick corners are the crucial aspect and Belichick is ready
for this change with this trio. They are not ideal but work well enough
within our system to do the job. Teams will throw many more passes as
receivers are given more freedoms and there is much more judgement ahead but
learning to avoid the automatic first downs is going to impact allt he
Chad Scott is the more physical corner with the
size to match up when that is required. He had the better pre-season
showing but was also victimized by injury. Certainly likely to get flagged
more than Hobbs and less than Law, he has something to add which I feel is equal
to most of the draft prospects available when we were selecting.
Eric Warfield arrives with a world of talent and a
few serious off-field concerns. He is saying the right things to entice
the staff but really there is no way to know if he's the first hyear Corey
Dillon or the Ricky Williams. His talent is there but dependingon him is a
risk at best - a calculated risk but likely one which still puts him ahead of
Starks whom is addition by subtraction.
This groups is not the Steel Curtain but they are
designed into the team role and there are enough bodies there to work with the
3-4 pressure we provide and make it a successful group. There were not
many bodies taht would have challenged them for playing time when we picked and
certainly not so much as to replace the impact Maloney and Johnson are likely to
have on the team. We could have gambled on some late round 'finds' or we
could gamble on the crew which already knows the system has shown they can play
within it enough for two superbowl wins already. Ideally Harrison comes
back to cement the group and if he is unable we are dramatically worse - such is
the nature of injuries and hopefully they are enough without him to work with
the other defensive and offensive benefits.
I'm glad for our day 1 trio and while there are
things I think remain question-marks, corner is lower on that than linebacker,
wide receiver and if Light or Koppen aren't ready, offensive line.