Chung, Gregory challenge each other to bolster defense

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Chung, Gregory challenge each other to bolster defense

FOXBORO -- Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory haven't been playing together for long, but they're engaging in friendly competition with one another like old friends.

When Gregory intercepted a Chase Daniel pass in the third quarter of New England's 7-6 win over the Saints on Thursday night, Chung let him know that the next one was his.

"That's just the nature of the beast," Gregory said with a smile. "He had to get one, too. He had to keep up, you know?"

Chung did keep up with a pick of his own in the same quarter. Saints quarterback Sean Canfield made it easy on the Patriots safety when he plugged one into the breastplate of Chung's pads.

Though Gregory's interception seemed to provide more of a challenge -- he bobbled the ball several times before finally securing it -- Chung was happy to snag a turnover of his own.

"I'm taking any interception," Chung said. "Easy, hard, kind of hard -- I'm taking all of them. It felt good."

Keeping the Saints out of the end zone on Thursday felt even better, though, he said.

"We played good," Chung said. "We have to watch some film, obviously. I can't really give you a full explanation on that but for the most part we played good. We held them to six points so that's always good."

Gregory said that this current iteration of the Patriots defense is "taking pride" in trying to erase the stigma of being ranked 31st in the league last season. If they are to get better, the improved play at the back end of the defense will be one of the reasons why.

Both players feel like they're well on their way to getting there because of the strong bond they've already formed this preseason.

"He's been amazing," Gregory said of Chung. "He knows the scheme, knows the system so he's been helping me a lot with that. We've just been communicating, talking a lot, trying to learn each other's ways of playing so it's been great so far."

"We kind of help each other," Chung said. "He's a veteran he knows a lot of things that I don't know and he helps me out. I've been here for a while so I kind of help him out. It's kind of like a relationship. Relationships can only get stronger so we're going to see how that goes. But yeah, I love playing next to him and he helps me out a lot."

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

If you're hoping to help lead the Patriots defense from the middle of the field, No. 51 wouldn't be a bad jersey to wear in that pursuit.

Those are the digits that were worn by longtime Patriots captain (and Quick Slants co-host) Jerod Mayo during his run with the team from 2008-15. Taking the torch from linebackers like Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel, Mayo was the defensive signal-caller and quarterback of the Patriots defense for the better part of a decade, eventually handing the reins to his understudy Dont'a Hightower. 

With Harris now in the mix, the defense will still be led by Hightower, who was a captain for the first time in 2016. But Harris figures to serve as a leader in his own right for the Patriots. The 33-year-old 'backer has been one of the game's most durable players at his position while with the Jets, and over time he established himself as a savvy communicator at the second level. 

Comparing Harris to Mayo comes easily because of their reputations as coach-on-the-field types. Back in 2014 when Darrelle Revis called New England home, he explained that what Mayo did for the Patriots defense reminded him of what Harris did in New York.

Now Harris has Mayo's old number, and in training camp he'll make a play for some of the duties Mayo held later in his career. How Harris will handle his new role, and how he may help his teammates take their games to new heights, is something we touched upon in this space earlier today

Harris wore No. 52 during his 10 years with the Jets. That number has belonged to Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts since he came into the league last season as a rookie, and it looks like Roberts will hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

No. 51 has bounced around to a couple of different Patriots since Mayo's retirement. Last year it was claimed by Barkevious Mingo, who has since moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent. Through this year's spring workouts No. 51 was worn by undrafted rookie linebacker Brooks Ellis, who now shares No. 47 with fullback Glenn Gronkowski.