Steve Gregory, the Surprise of New England's 2012 Free-Agent Class
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When the Patriots announced the signing of Cincinnati DT Jonathan Fanene, did you get excited about it? Were you curious to see how RB Joseph Addai’s veteran presence would fit into a young New England backfield? Did you have visions of deep balls falling into the hands of WRs Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth?
Did you pump your fist in celebration after S Steve Gregory signed with New England?
Maybe not on that last one. Gregory was the spare safety San Diego felt it could afford to lose. Just last year, the Chargers made Eric Weddle the highest-paid safety in the NFL. With Weddle as the centerpiece in the secondary and Atari Bigby next to him, Gregory was the odd man out.
After a very active free agency, many of the players New England signed didn’t make it out of training camp. Some players didn’t even get that far, as a few were released before camp officially began.
As one of the few that made the final cut, Gregory is having a solid season, making plays from a problem position last season.
James Ihedigbo performed well on special teams, but was a liability in the secondary. Sergio Brown will be remembered for his pass interference that set up the New York Giants for their game-winning touchdown at Gillette Stadium.
By the end of the year, it was Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, who was converted from cornerback to safety. It was good enough to help the Patriots to the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t a permanent solution.
To say anyone was an upgrade over Brown and Ihedigbo isn’t an exaggeration. But to reel in Gregory was a smart move, even though it wasn’t celebrated like some of the other free-agent signings.
With two interceptions, five passes defended, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, Gregory’s signing has become the latest under-the-radar signing that is producing better than expected results.
And when compared to the signings that received more fanfare, Gregory looks even better:
Fanene had 6.5 sacks last year for the Bengals and was expected to provide an inside pass rush. He didn’t make it out of camp and New England went after the signing bonus for failing to disclose a preexisting knee injury.
With New England expected to run the ball more, fullbacks Tony Fiammetta and Spencer Larsen were signed from teams with productive ground games. After one regular-season game, the Patriots were down to zero fullbacks, depending on an assortment of tight ends to open holes for ball-carriers.
Even Lloyd, who is doing a fine job as a complementary receiver after the Chad Ochocinco debacle, isn’t producing up to the expectations as a receiver that can stretch the field.
Gregory doesn’t have a long list of memorable plays this season, but he did have an unforgettable night against the Jets, as he registered an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries—including one returned 32 yards for a touchdown.
And so far, every Gregory turnover has resulted in a New England touchdown:
|Steve Gregory's Turnovers|
Int – returned 36 yards to Bal 6
|Three plays, 2-yard TD run|
|New York Jets||Int – returned 1 yard to NE 16||16 plays, 3-yard TD pass|
|New York Jets||Fumble returned -2 yards to NE 17||1 play, 83-yard TD pass|
|New York Jets||Fumble returned 32 yards for TD|
He can’t take credit for all 28 points, but the Patriots certainly hope Gregory’s turnover-to-touchdown ratio continues.
Not bad for an under-the-radar free-agent signing.
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