There are many new faces on the Patriots compared to last year. The Pats acquired four guys from trade, fifteen from free agency, and nine from the NFL Draft. They also lost nine players from trade and free agency and had three players retire.
In this new series, I will be looking at every player from each position leading up to training camp. For this installment I will talk about the safeties. The Pats have kept their main group of safeties in tact while adding two via free agency.
Devin McCourty #32 (2010-Present):
Devin McCourty is the leader of the Patriots defense. He is now heading into his ninth year in the NFL and for the Patriots. McCourty started his career in New England as a cornerback. In his rookie season he had 73 tackles, 17 PBUs, and 7 INT. The next season saw McCourty start in all 16 games, all the while earning a pro-bowl nod and second team All-Pro honors. McCourty spent his next two seasons at cornerback where he had 159 tackles, 25 PBUs, and 7 INT. He was selected as a second team All-Pro in 2012.
McCourty changed his position to free safety in the 2013 offseason due to the departure of Patrick Chung. He spent his next six seasons at his new position, playing and starting in 77 games. In those games, McCourty had 393 tackles, 35 PBUs, and 6 INT. This span included 2 selections to the second team All-Pro team, and one selection to the Pro-Bowl. He had also performed in the playoffs, and in the 19 games he had played he had 84 tackles and 2 INT.
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) October 15, 2017
With McCourty being the leader of the defense over his career, the Pats had a big decision to make. It was either resign Darelle Revis or keep Devin McCourty. They went with McCourty; he signed a five-year 47.5 million dollar contract that offseason. With him being the vocal leader for the Patriots, I don’t see anyway of getting cut.
Duron Harmon #21 (2013-Present):
Duron Harmon is now entering his sixth season in the NFL and for New England. He is a former third-round pick out of Rutgers University and has played in almost every game in his career. Over his five-year career, Harmon has missed one game and played in 79 games. Harmon has racked up a total of 114 tackles, 20 PBUs, and 11 INTs thus far. He also has 13 tackles and 3 INTs in his 13 playoff games. Harmon was a key part in the 2014 Super Bowl team. He helped cap off the comeback against Baltimore with a game-sealing INT.
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) February 5, 2018
Harmon got himself into trouble this offseason by getting arrested for trying to smuggle marijauna into Costa Rica. That being said, Harmon has been the ball-hawking safety the Patriots needed all these years. With guys like Chung and McCourty excelling at open-field tackling, Harmon brings something different. He has come up in the clutch so many times and has evolved into a defensive leader alongside McCourty. Harmon is more than likely going to make the roster this upcoming season.
Patrick Chung #23 (2009-2012, 2014-Present):
Patrick Chung is now in his tenth year in the NFL and ninth for New England. Chung was the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. His first four years in the NFL were successful. He played in 50 games, amassing 231 tackles, 19 PBUs, and 7 INT. Chung became a free agent in the 2013 offseason and signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Chung’s time in Philly was uneventful; he had 63 tackles and 3 PBUs, and later was released by the team. Chung came back to New England after his release and played in 63 games. He had 345 tackles, 28 PBUs, and 3 INT.
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) November 13, 2017
Chung has split time at strong safety, nickel corner, and linebacker in his recent years in New England. He is a very versatile defensive player and superb at open-field tackling. Overall, Chung is a key-piece in the Pats secondary and he has a very good chance of making the team.
Jordan Richards #37 (2015-Present):
Jordan Richards is entering his fourth-year in the NFL and for the Patriots. Richards was the 64th overall pick by New England in the 2015 NFL Draft. Richards’ first two years saw him appear in 25 games, in which he had 20 tackles and 2 PBUs. He found a bigger role last season, playing in all 16 games and piling up 22 tackles and 1 PBU. He started in Super Bowl 52 against Philadelphia due to the Malcolm Butler benching. Richards was awful in this game. He missed numerous tackles and let up big plays.
As a hybrid safety, Richards brings some value to the team. However, he did let up so many plays last year and missed so many tackles. A lot of Pats fans cannot wait to see him gone, but he may have a legitimate chance of making the team yet again.
Eddie Pleasant #26 (2018-Present):
Eddie Pleasant was signed by New England on July 24, 2018 as an unrestricted free agent. Pleasant is entering his seventh season in the NFL and first for New England. Pleasant spent his first six years in the NFL for the Houston Texans, playing in 78 games. During that time, Pleasant had 99 tackles, 17 PBUs, and 3 INT.
Pleasant will head into training camp competing with strong safeties like Chung, Richards, Ebner, and others. It will be tough for him to make the team, especially after getting signed so late into the offseason. The odds are stacked against him.
Damarius Travis #39 (2017-Present):
Damarius Travis is entering his second year in the NFL and for the Pats. Travis was picked up by New England in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota. He had a good career for the Gophers, playing in 39 games and notching 189 tackles, 13 PBUs, and 4 INT. He went on to have a successful preseason for the Patriots last year, playing in all four games. Travis had 19 tackles, 1 FF, and 1 FF, which secured him a spot on the practice squad.
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) August 31, 2017
Travis is a sleeper to make the team next year. Travis very well could make the roster, especially with the disappointment Richards has been.
Nate Ebner #43 (2012-Present):
Nate Ebner is entering his seventh year in New England. Ebner was picked up in 2012 by the Pats as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. He has proven to be one of the best special-teamers in the NFL since then. He has played in 82 games over the course of his career, mostly as a special-teamer. Ebner has lead the team in special teams tackles numerous times in his career. He was recognized as a second team All-Pro behind teammate Matthew Slater in 2016.
We see you, Nate Ebner.pic.twitter.com/edpiYM1WVp
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 26, 2017
Ebner’s ability to be coachable and excel in his role as a special-teamer has caught the eye of Bill Belichick:
“His development has really been outstanding. I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top-five percent all time of players that I’ve coached, from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL. [He] has adapted in a relatively short amount of time to the knowledge of our defense, to the understanding of opponents’ offenses, to instinctiveness and reading and recognition at a position that he plays right in the middle of the field, which is among the most difficult – inside linebacker and safety – where the number of things that can happen is the greatest.”
Ebner missed all of 2017 with a knee injury. But he will most likely make the team next year due to his special teams acumen.
A.J. Moore (Rookie):
A.J. Moore was picked up by New England as an undrafted free agent this offseason. Moore spent his college days at Ole Miss, playing in 39 games in four years. He totaled 132 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 PBUs.
Moore is at a disadvantage because he is an undrafted rookie. His ability to cover receivers has never been that good, yet he is a solid tackler. With guys like Chung, Richards, Travis, and Pleasant all vying for roster spots, there is virtually no chance he makes the team.
The Pats will have a few tough decisions to make with this safety group. Guys like Richards, Ebner, and maybe even Chung could be gone by Week 1.