Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Big Decision: Play Edelman at DB?

By Mike Rodak

The day before each game this season, this space will feature one big decision facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff, in terms of the game plan.

This week's decision: Bangers and mash, or fish and chips for the pregame meal?

RamsPatriotsOK, maybe that's not the most important decision for Belichick.

Let's try that again: Who are the sub package defensive backs?

The Patriots enter Sunday's game with a critical health situation in their secondary. Starting safeties Steve Gregory (hip) and Patrick Chung (shoulder) are out for a second straight game. Reserve cornerback Ras-I Dowling landed on injured reserve on Friday.

The starters are expected to be the same from last week: Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson at safety, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington at cornerback.

But last week, Dowling served mostly as the nickel back, and also moved to "money" (a linebacker-type role) in the dime package. Wilson started at the season in that role, but is now required to patrol the deep part of the field with Gregory out.

If Sterling Moore steps in at nickel back -- possibly moving Arrington to the slot -- who plays the "money" position? Rookie Nate Ebner saw late-game action in the preseason in that spot, but the feeling is that the Patriots likely want to avoid using him in the defense right now.

The under-the-radar option here is wide receiver Julian Edelman. He played in sub packages on defense later last season when injuries squeezed the secondary as they are doing now.

Edelman will likely have a role in the offense with tight end Aaron Hernandez out for the game, but even if his hand injury isn't fully healed, Edelman could still be valuable on defense, where he wouldn't need to catch a pass (aside from a possible interception).

Veteran Marquice Cole could factor into the mix, but his playing time has mostly come on special teams in recent games. For the sixth defensive back spot, Edelman would seem to be the favorite over Ebner or Cole, from this perspective.

What do you think? Could Julian Edelman return to the Patriots secondary on Sunday? Join the discussion in the comments section below.