Pro Football Weekly's staff picks one player from each team in the AFC East as a "breakthrough" candidate, and decides that third-year safety Patrick Chung is the right choice.
"Chung might be ready to take his play to the next level, assuming he can improve in coverage," PFW writes. "The Patriots need to improve upon last year's 30th ranking in pass defense, and a breakthrough campaign by Chung could help make that happen. He is generally better in the box and has been used on blitzes, but Chung could take the athleticism he has displayed near the line of scrimmage and on special teams to the passing defense as well ... Someone on New England's defense needs to take the next step to get New England back to the Super Bowl, and it could be Chung's turn."
Chung, who was selected with the 2009 second-round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs in the trade for quarterback Matt Cassel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel, has seen his role expand gradually in his two seasons with the club.
A look at his snaps-played breakdown:
2009: 20.5 percent
2010: 72.3 percent
Often times, a player talks about how having a year in a system helps from a confidence standpoint. The increased knowledge and comfort leads to them playing faster, and that seemed to be the case with Chung.
In 2009, safety Brandon Meriweather led the Patriots by playing 95.5 percent of the defensive snaps, although Meriweather dipped to 80.0 percent in 2010, which one could say reflects the team's depth at the position. The Patriots have Meriweather, Chung and James Sanders atop the depth chart, and the position would be bolstered further if Jarrad Page returns in 2011 (his free-agent status is contingent on a new CBA).
Today's question: If you were to pick a "breakthrough" player for the Patriots, who would it be?