|New England Patriots' Devin McCourty|
Prior to entering the bye week, the New England Patriots biggest issue was clearly their inability to cover opposing receivers. The Patriots had been repeatedly gashed by receivers with two big touchdowns from Sidney Rice, of the Seattle Seahawks, and Chris Givens, of the St. Louis Rams, in particular highlighting their lack of quality at the safety position.
Because the trade deadline had been delayed by two weeks this year, the Patriots' bye week and the trade deadline coincided with each other last Thursday. When you give Bill Belichick extra time to go through his thought process, the likelihood of him taking a proactive approach to fixing a problem is always going to be high. Belichick did just that by trading for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cornerback Aqib Talib.
The Patriots gave up a fourth round pick for Talib, a long with a seventh rounder. For the physical talent, that cost represents overwhelming value, however Talib comes with many issues. Talib is coming off of a suspension, has character issues and will be a free agent after the season. However, Belichick has never feared taking on a player with perceived problems if there is a chance of improving his team's play on the field.
Talib definitely offers that chance. After being drafted 20th overall in 2008, Talib made an impressive start to his career as a Buccaneers' defensive back. His first three seasons saw him real in 15 interceptions in just 28 starts. His play dropped off somewhat last year, before underperforming in the first four games of this season.
At his best Talib is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the whole league. That physicality alone offers the Patriots something completely new. With Ras-I Dowling's injury issues permeating through his career to this point, the Patriots don't have another player who can match up to bigger receivers. Talib has been very inconsistent, but he has previously shut down Roddy White, which is something no other Patriots' defensive back would be capable of.
With Talib coming in to play cornerback, the Patriots have seemingly decided to instantly move him into the lineup and start Devin McCourty at safety. Talib will be trusted to cover the opposing offense's second best receiver, while they double team the starter with a safety and cornerback. Having McCourty at safety means that one of Alfonzo Dennard or Kyle Arrington are likely to start at the other cornerback position. Arrington is the veteran of the two, but Dennard replaced him this season due to his poor play.
That leaves the Patriots with two decisions to make regarding starters in the secondary. Choosing the second safety should be significantly easier though as Patrick Chung is a better fit with McCourty over rooke Tyler Wilson. Chung hasn't lived up to his draft stock throughout his career, but is more likely to start than veteran Steve Gregory. Whoever is starting with McCourty, they will need to improve their own personal level of production.