- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ninth in an ongoing series looking at each position on the Patriots roster and how it is viewed when compared to the rest of the NFL:
Projected starters: Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung
Top backups: Brandon McGowan, James Sanders, Bret Lockett
NFL chatter: With the Patriots devoting their top draft choice to the position in two of the last four years -- Meriweather in 2007 and Chung in 2009 -- the performance of this unit will play a large part in judging the team's draft acumen of late. The Patriots hired Corwin Brown this offseason to work specifically with the safeties, a move which Meriweather said has already benefitted him.
Overall depth chart: Meriweather played a team-high 95.5 percent of the defensive snaps last year. He's part of every package and is locked in to be the "center-field" presence in the secondary, so the question then is what safety complements him best for the other starting spot. Chung and McGowan would seem to be the top options as players who fit playing closer to the line of scrimmage at times, to help in run support and as a blitzer. Sanders is a calming presence, and more of a center-field type, while Lockett is a fiery special teams contributor who will vie for more time on defense.
Final analysis: This is one of the deepest groups in the NFL when combining draft status and starting experience. If Chung emerges as projected, this unit has a chance to be in the NFL's top-5. But based on where the players are at this point in their career it is premature to put them in the upper tier at this time.
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