The New England Patriots started reshaping the defensive backfield as soon as the offseason started and then continued to overhauling the 2008 defensive burnfield, I meant, backfield via the 2009 draft. After a number of wheeling-and-dealing on the draft, they finally drafted their top pick on the second round.
The Patriots drafted fourth year senior safety from Oregon State, Patrick Chung, as their top pick but a lot of so-called experts were not enamored with this guy. But if you examine this guy closely, you would see a lot of similarities, in terms of game style, with Steeler's Troy Polamalu.
Here is an analysis from NFLDraftScout.com on Patrick Chung
Positives: Well-built, versatile athlete who has seen time at cornerback and as a returner. ...Flashes explosive hitting ability. ...Reads the action quickly and is seemingly always around the ball.
Good lateral quickness, acceleration and smooth change-of-direction agility while in zone coverage. ... Attacks underneath routes and rarely allows the receiver to cross with the ball unscathed. ... Closes quickly on the ballcarrier.
Receivers are cognizant of him when going over the middle. ... Quick enough to hang with receivers for a few seconds in the deep half. ... Among the more reliable open-field tacklers in the country and should be an excellent last line of defense at the NFL level. ... Accomplished blitzer.
Few have Chung's ability to explode into ballcarriers while wrapping their arms securely. ... Whether deep in coverage or attacking the line of scrimmage, he limits the yards gained at the point he meets the ballcarrier. ... Consistently swarms to the ball. ... Durable, consistent performer. ... Instinctive defender. ... Should be a leader on defense and special teams.
Negatives: Questionable deep speed and is a bit shorter than scouts prefer because of their coverage duties against tight ends. ... Physical player who can get a bit grabby while in coverage, leading to some holding calls. ... Attacks the line or underneath routes too quickly, leaving room for the deep ball behind him. ... At his best facing the quarterback and running downhill toward the ball.
Here is Profootballweekly.com's take on Troy Polamalu on the 2003 draft
Positives: Strongest player on the team on a pound-for-pound basis. Has a 600-pound squat. Real warrior who is totally dedicated to getting better. Good football intelligence and flexibility. Great motor and competitiveness. Excellent in run support and tackling.
Will wrap up. Can backpedal and cover. Gets a good jump and can adjust to the ball. Has good range.
Intense, physical and tough with a high motor. Strong. Good planting and driving. Can cover tight ends and backs. Very good punt blocker. Explosive. Big 10 1/4-inch hands. Can cover man-to-man. Big-time hitter who has receivers hearing footsteps. An extra linebacker vs. the run.
Excellent speed and suddenness to close. Showed improvement every year. Special-teams captain as a junior and senior. Can cover most slot receivers. Instinctive and can accelerate.
Negatives: Short for the NFL and is not a real ballhawk. Misses plays because he is out of position. Does not read keys well and diagnose. Struggles covering man deep. Plays out of control and lacks great change of direction. Skills will translate to the NFL, but measurables might not. Gets carried away. Prefers setting up a well-timed hit to break up a play over going for an interception. Does not have great playing speed and range.
Given that Troy Polamalu took at least a couple of years to become the player that he is known now, it would be fair to give Chung the same leeway. And it if turns out to be just like Polamalu, then the Patriots' backfield could finally put some semblance of fear once again in the opponent's heart, much like the good ole Harrison wham-bam, smash-mouth football days. Then the sight of a tight end getting 16 yards on a 3rd-and-15 (the 16 yards that cost the Patriots the playoffs) would never again occur!