Quick-hit evaluations of safeties

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
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Concluding our scouting reports of the Patriots' 53-man roster with a look at the safeties:

Patrick Chung (5-11, 210)

Strengths: Very physical player who loves contact. Is effective as a run-stuffer, a reliable tackler and very good athlete for the position. Can handle tight ends and some slot receivers as a coverage player. Has good ball skills, a leader in the secondary and a confident communicator. Important, versatile piece that makes the secondary click.

Limitations: Not a real big guy, and looks lighter than he is listed (210 pounds). A guy who delivers a lot of big hits but also takes a few of his own. Durability has been a concern, as he needs to prove he can stay on the field for a full season (he's done so once in three pro seasons).

Steve Gregory (5-11, 200)

Strengths: Fluid player in space who reads the quarterback well and can roam in the deep half of the field. Has ability to cover in the seam and also as an occasional slot player over flexed tight ends. Smart, dependable and can also contribute on special teams. Consistently productive in his role.

Limitations: Not very physical. Doesn't play with a hammerhead mentality. Not a real big guy and one who can struggle against sizable receivers in man-to-man coverage. A good athlete, but not elite speed or quickness.

Tavon Wilson (6-0, 210)

Strengths: Plays with good force, and a good proactive athlete and run-stuffer. Has good speed and can be a key contributor on special teams. Has improved already through just training camp. Looks to be a sufficient player in coverage who can play in the middle of the field.

Limitations: Better moving forward that in his reactive movements. Not dynamic in coverage, and looks to be still learning the position in his rookie campaign. Seems like a player best served as a sub-defense safety and a linchpin on special teams, rather than a full-time starter.

Nate Ebner (6-0, 210)

Strengths: Underrated athlete who has good speed, quickness, agility, toughness and fluidity. Has shown good-to-very-good ball skills and instincts. Can be a free-range coverage player over the middle. Not afraid to be a run-and-hit defender against the run. Has unique special-teams value because of his skill set. Looks like a very quick learner who has improved rapidly.

Limitations: Has very limited playing time in his career. Learning the nuances of the game. Has just a sufficient frame for the position. Can struggle in sticking with tight ends in man-to-man coverage in the red zone. A player who could end up being the latest diamond-in-the-rough find by Bill Belichick.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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