New England Patriots: Resetting the Secondary After the Talib Trade

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New England Patriots: Resetting the Secondary After the Talib Trade
Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

The New England Patriots made the biggest splash this past week at the NFL's trade deadline, acquiring talented cornerback Aqib Talib and a 2013 seventh-round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round pick.

Talib's addition to the secondary should make a sizable difference for a unit that has struggled mightily thus far in 2012. The one problem with the trade is that the Patriots will have to wait an extra week after their bye to utilize Talib's services since the troubled corner has to serve one more game of a four-game ban for using Adderall, a drug known mostly for ADHD treatment.

Once Talib does return in Week 11 for New England's matchup with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, what will the Patriots' defensive backfield look like?

The safest bet at this point would be for the team to stick with the players that it knows the most about, if they are healthy of course, and ease in their inexperienced backs in sub-packages. The most likely lineup at this point will probably be:

Right Cornerback: Devin McCourty
Free Safety: Steve Gregory
Strong Safety: Patrick Chung
Left Cornerback: Aqib Talib

5th Defensive (Nickel) Back: CB Kyle Arrington
6th Defensive (Dime) Back: FS Tavon Wilson

Devin McCourty is the one player who throws the biggest wrinkle into this mix right now. If the coaching staff feels that he brings more value to the field playing at the safety position then the lineup could be:

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Right Cornerback: Alfonzo Dennard
Free Safety: Devin McCourty
Strong Safety: Patrick Chung
Left Cornerback: Aqib Talib

Nickelback: CB Kyle Arrington
Dimeback: FS Steve Gregory

Scenario 1 still has to be considered the one that has the best chance of being seen, with McCourty being a player that Bill Belichick has a lot of faith in. It would be a surprise if he were already given up on at cornerback in just his third season. Perhaps with Talib, McCourty would be able to get more comfortable in a No. 2 corner role and excel a bit more.

A player who may get the short end of the stick despite his recent rise in stock could be the rookie Dennard. Dennard may not be a player that can be utilized in the slot role, a spot Arrington has extensive experience playing in. That being the case, if he is not one of the team's two starting outside corners, he could be seeing a lot of time on the bench.

His fellow rookie, Wilson, will likely keep a role in dime packages despite his poor play filling in as a full-time safety. Belichick gave him a "money" linebacker/safety hybrid role earlier in the season before injuries forced him back to safety. Belichick obviously liked Wilson's versatile skill set in that limited role, so there is no reason to believe he will not keep that job.

Barring injury, Dennard may be the one Patriot who gets majorly displaced for the rest of the season with Talib's arrival. Nothing is certain though, and with so many pieces to the puzzle, it will be interesting to see how they all fit together when the Colts come to Foxborough in two weeks.

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