Safeties about more coverage, less stuffage


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
INDIANAPOLIS -- Like many clubs, the New England Patriots could stand to upgrade their secondary.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, breaking away from player evaluations to meet with reporters at the NFL scouting combine, shared his thoughts on the crop of defensive backs available in this year's draft.

Belichick responded with an interesting take on safeties turning more into a cornerback lining up in a different spot than that of a run stopper.

Maybe safeties like Rodney Harrison and John Lynch are being overtaken by the Ed Reed types.

"I think that the safety position is becoming more and more of a corner position in the National Football League," Belichick said. "There were times when some of the safeties, particularly the strong safeties, fit more almost like linebackers than they did as defensive backs.

"I think that's changed gradually, but now to the point where your defensive backs a lot of times either have to cover wide receivers or they have to cover tight ends who are very, very good in the passing game -- not little guys that are running 5-yard hook routes and stuff like that.

"The tight ends in the league, which it seems like just about every team has one, can get downfield, make athletic and acrobatic catches and get open and beat tight coverage. I think the demands of that position have changed, and I think that has changed the evaluation a little bit.

"So maybe some of those hybrid guys that have played corner, have played safety -- like [Ohio State cornerback Malcolm] Jenkins, for example, is a guy that's played both -- what his best fit will be for a team, where he would be most valuable is certainly an interesting discussion for all teams."