After years of turmoil with a pass defense that at times looked like it would struggle to stop anything apart from a mediocre middle school passing attack, it finally seems like the Patriots secondary is beginning to stabilize. Although still giving up 289.4 passing yards per game, good for 29th in the NFL they have now scored five defensive touchdowns including three in the past two weeks. They have also held there last two opponents, the Colts and the Jets to only 24 and 19 points respectively. If the defense can continue to keep opponents under 24 points they will be hard press to beat this team, which averages 37 points per game and is on pace to break the NFL all time scoring record of 589 points set by the 2007 Patriots.
At corner Aqib Talib and Alfonso Dennard each played in all but one of the Patriots defensive snaps against the Jets on Thursday and seem to be likely to continue to start at corner through the remainder of the season.
With Talib and Dennard playing the corner positions, Devin McCourty has been able to move full time to safety. McCourty started opposite Steve Gregory this week, who was involved in four of the five turnovers that the Patriots forced on Thursday. The former starter, Patrick Chung, who returned from injury this week and played for the first time since Oct. 14, came in on nickel packages and rookie Tavon Wilson saw only eight snaps as the dime back. As the secondary begins to get healthy it will be interesting to watch who continues to get playing time at safety. Four players, Tavon Wilson, Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, and Devin McCourty have all seen significant playing time at the position this season. Presumably McCourty will continue to start and play most of the snaps at one safety meaning three players will be competing for playing time at the second safety position.
Kyle Arrington has also seen his playing time significantly reduced after the Talib acquisition and Chung return. He began the year starting opposite Devin McCourty at corner but on Thursday was on the field for only 31 plays as the other nickel corner.
Aside from the turnovers the patriot secondary has also had more success preventing the big play. Over the first nine games the Patriots gave up 47 passing plays of over 20 yards and six plays over 40 yards. In the past two weeks, since the addition of Talib, the secondary has improved substantially, giving up eight plays over 20 yards and one over 40 yards.
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