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Patriots 2014 Defensive Backs Preview: Revis, Browner, McCourty, Dennard

Patriots prized free-agent acquisition Darrelle Revis (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Despite the loss of Aqib Talib, the Patriots secondary is their most improved unit going into the 2014 season. With Talib healthy last season, the Patriots secondary, overall, was a strong unit. As evidenced in their the AFC Championship Game loss to Denver, Talib’s injury forced everyone to slide “up” a slot, and in turn, weakened the unit greatly.

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New Blood

When it was first reported that Aqib Talib would be leaving the Patriots to join Peyton Manning in Denver, few thought that the loss of Talib would actually lead to an upgrade at the position. The additions of the league’s best man-to-man corner, Darrelle Revis, and a 6’4″ physical freak in Brandon Browner should give the Patriots a top five secondary in the NFL.

Revis and Browner figure to be the two starting corners for most of the season. Browner will have to sit out the first four weeks due to a suspension, and at that time we’ll likely see Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan compete for the top backup spot (Kyle Arrington will be playing in the slot).

The Patriots also welcomed back Patrick Chung, who will be competing for a spot in camp. A sixth round pick was also used on Jemea Thomas, a safety out of Georgia Tech. Both Chung and Thomas will be competing for one of the final spots on the roster.

Who Makes the Cut?

Cornerback is the easiest position on the Patriots roster to project going into the season. Revis, Browner, and Ryan are locks to make the squad, and it would also be a big surprise if Dennard or Arrington weren’t with the team Week 1, in Miami. Due to his suspension, Brandon Browner won’t count towards the 53 man roster until Week 5, so we may see Justin Green earn the fifth corner spot for the first four weeks.

Things get tricky when looking at the safety position. Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon are the Patriots only locks at the position. It’s likely that the team will keep four safeties, and Chung, Thomas, Tavon Wilson, and Nate Ebner will be competing for the final two spots. Special teams will play an important factor in this decision, and that gives a big edge to Ebner. Both Wilson and Chung have demonstrated solid special teams ability in the past, but Thomas is the biggest x-factor here. Sixth round picks are no sure things when it comes to making rosters in the NFL, but unless the coaching staff puts an emphasis on experience I think he makes the team over Chung or Wilson.

Expectations

Patriot fans should be very excited about this group heading into 2014. Darrelle Revis has been out of the limelight the past two seasons, due to an injury in 2012 and a bad scheme-fit in 2013. People seem to have forgotten just how special he is, and I think Foxboro is going to fall in love with him this season.

His presence should have a trickle-down effect to the rest of the group, and if Brandon Browner can make the same type of impact that he made in 2012, there is no reason to think that the Patriots can’t have a top five defense in the NFL. In today’s NFL, pass-defense is the most important thing besides a franchise quarterback, and the 2014 Patriots secondary could form into the backbone of a Super Bowl run.

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