Chung enjoying playing mentor role


Chung enjoying playing mentor role

FOXBORO -- Very quickly, Patrick Chung has gone from new guy to elder statesman in the Patriots secondary.

The third year player has seen a lot of imports and exports on the back end of the defense. Out have gone players like James Sanders, Brandon Meriweather, Shawn Springs, Brandon McGowan, Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite.

In have come Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, James Ihedigbo and James Barett.

Now, entering his fourth season, the 24-year-old says he's making a bigger, more commanding role in the secondary.

Asked the one area he's worked on that he feels he's gotten better at, Chung said quickly, "Being a coach on the field. You need to have a coach on the field. They give us the information, we gotta execute it. It's good to have a couple of guys out there on the field that can think like coaches and direct traffic and get everybody on the same page."

There were times over the past few seasons, the secondary was in different libraries, never mind the same page. But as the season wore on and Chung returned from an injury suffered in the regular season game against the Giants, the Patriots defense stiffened some.

The revolving door at the safety spot next to Chung and Devin McCourty's sophomore slump were key factors in the Patriots defensive decline to the 31st ranked pass defense in terms of yards. But Chung, especially by the end of the postseason, played with more confidence and aggressiveness than at any time in his career before that.

He says the camaraderie and willingness to learn are what's helping the secondary look as competent as it has, at least in most of these early training camp practices.

"Guys want to learn," said Chung. "It's all about learning. Everybody wants to learn and get out on the field. It helps. You have a lot more things than you did coming in. But we have other guys with experience I can learn from. Guys like (Steve) Gregory. They're smart and they learn. He comes to me, I go to him. It's a relationship. We're all in the same room and we're like brothers."

Gregory, a free agent signing from San Diego, has six seasons under his belt. But Chung is the more experienced player when it comes to Patriots tenure. They are a sounding board for each other, said Chung - Gregory with advice gleaned from his time in the AFC West, Chung with information about the Patriots' scheme.

He has two first names, I think it's awesome," Chung joked when asked what's been special about Gregory. "He's a smart dude. He's helping me with things. He's in his sixth year in the league, he knows things that I don't."

Throughout Tuesday's practice, the back end of the defense worked on dropping in zone coverage near the goal line. Communication in that quick-developing part of the field is paramount and Chung and Co. were on it.

"You can make it as hard as you want to," said Chung. "If you come in focused and ready to learn, ready to pick up on whatever you gotta pick up on and follow a veteran (you'll be fine). If you follow the lead or take the lead, the sky's the limit."

The Patriots don't need to get to the clouds. Back to ground zero after a tough 2011 would be a start. If Chung can stay healthy - a bugaboo for him the past two seasons, the Patriots should have their heads clear of the sand.

You can build on everything. You can build and get better at everything. Whether it's quick, fast stronger, neater, cleaner. Whatever the case may be you can always get better.

Mayo, Vince, James. Brandon. Everybody has to know what he's doing. It's different coming from a teammate. I'm not trying to be a coach, I'm trying to get guys better.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."