We debate the question: Is the Patriots' secondary a top-5 unit?
FIELD YATES -- YES
When the Buccaneers acquired Darrelle Revis last offseason, the move was viewed as a Calvin Johnson trade would be. That is to say that Tampa Bay had picked up the best player at his position, bar none.
I believe the signing of Revis has actually been underplayed locally, as my perception of him is as the best defensive player in football, not just the best cornerback.
Devin McCourty emerged as an elite free safety, Duron Harmon can ably man the other safety spot, and the Patriots have unique cornerback depth.
Ultimately a top-flight secondary has to have playmakers, which leads me to the player that deserves watching closely: second-year cornerback Logan Ryan. He might not even be a starter, but Ryan has uncanny on-ball production that makes him a turnover-inducing player.
With five capable cornerbacks in total, this group is ready to take flight into the top five in 2014.
MIKE REISS -- NO The Patriots’ secondary should be better than last season, and I’d be surprised if we see a defense that ranks 26th on third down again. But I’m in pump-the-brakes mode when it comes to ranking the New England secondary in the top five of the NFL.
I’m sold on 50 percent of it -- cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Devin McCourty. They are two of the best in the NFL at their positions.
My questions come at the other two spots. Who plays safety next to McCourty? And with cornerback Brandon Browner, who is suspended the first four games, lingering in the back of the mind is how the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks elected to let him walk in favor of 2011 sixth-round draft choice Byron Maxwell.
In March, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised Browner but also said of his suspension, “Under the circumstances, he’s going to have to bounce back. It’s been a difficult time for him. He was really stressed by the whole thing.”
So would I be shocked if the Patriots ultimately become a top-5 secondary?
No, because two of the pieces are elite. But when there are questions with the other 50 percent of the starting group, I lean more toward cautious optimism than a sure-fire top-5 ranking.