Patriots Free Agent Primer: Secondary

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Patriots Free Agent Primer: Secondary

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comThis is thelast in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position:Secondary.Who's here?
Corners: Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Tony Carter, Thad Turner, Jonathan Wilhite. Safeties: Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Brandon Meriweather, Bret Lockett, Ross Ventrone, Jarrad Page, Malcolm Williams, Sergio Brown. Who's out there?
Corners: Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders), Jonathan Joseph (Bengals), Chris Carr (Ravens), Ike Taylor (Steelers), Antonio Cromartie (Jets), Josh Wilson (Ravens). Safeties: Eric Weddle (Chargers), Dawan Landry (Ravens), Quintin Mikell (Eagles), Michael Huff (Raiders), Donte Whitner (Bills), Darren Sharper (Saints). What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it a 2.The Patriots have three corners who have established they canplay the position well in the NFL:McCourty, Bodden and Arrington. Butler and Wilhite have shown flashes of competence and incompetence.Dowling, one presumes, should be good, but we presumed the same about Butler, Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley. It's a tough spot to predict. Still, you have to like the way the Patriots are stocked and the demand for a free agent pickup here is minimal. At safety, I'm going to be fascinated to see what the team does after this season with Brandon Meriweather, whose contract expires. Chung was clearly their best safety in 2010. Sanders was very consistent. Page had his moments. But despite the spotlighted ineffective andor stupid plays, Meriweather brought more aggressiveness and attitude to the position than he had in any previous season. 2010 was his best season. He may be a good player still. This is a very big season for him. That said, the Patriots need for anything more than roster-filler is minimal.
Who do they chase?
Whether it be at corner or safety, the only free agents I could see the Patriots chasing would be Jarrad Page-type players. Experienced, looking to get into a better situation than the one they're coming from or wanting to chase a ring. Darren Sharper, for instance.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.