After playing "Safety of the Week" during the latter half of the 2011 season, the Patriots have begun addressing the position with the signing of Steve Gregory.The 29-year-old, formerly with the Chargers, has signed a three-year deal, according to his agent David Canter. Speed is an attribute of Gregory's and that's something that's been lacking on the back end of the Patriots defense. But not the only thing. Angles and a little better comprehension of the fits and responsibilities in the secondary are needed as well. When you consider the moves made at the end of training camp -- the release of bad angle expert Brandon Meriweather and the not-so-speedy James Sanders -- it's clear the Patriots thought Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown could fill the void next to Patrick Chung. But Barrett got hurt and Brown underwhelmed. The Patriots got good work from James Ihedigbo back there but he's a hitter more than a centerfielder and that really overlaps the work of Chung, who is generally better in a strong safety role. Devin McCourty and Matt Slater also got reps back there but Slater was duct tape while McCourty should be able to go back to corner. The free agent class at safety -- and the draft class, for that matter -- is weak. We'll see what Gregory brings. A three-year deal does show a level of confidence that he can contribute. And he has special teams value as well so that makes him appealing. Gregory played 782 snaps in 2011 according to Pro Football Focus. According to their stats, 19 of the 30 balls in which he had primary coverage were completed during the course of the season. According to the PFF grading system, Gregory had a positive impact in half of San Diego's 16 games. He had a negative impact -- sizably so -- in the final three games of the Chargers season. In other words, Gregory is a possible answer to the Patriots travails at safety. But New England isn't counting on him as a definite. LaRon Landry, the injury-plagued big hitter from Washington, is still a possibility as well and we hope to update the Patriots' interest on him soon.
Gregory could be part of the answer at safety
March 16, 2012, 1:10 am