State of the Position: Safety

State of the Position is a new weekly Foxboro Blog feature that will examine the post-draft status of each position and take a look at what needs still need to be filled before the season opens up.

Today we will examine the safeties.

While the Patriots appear set at tight end and running back, the safety group is also one of the team’s strongest areas.

Led by two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather, the steady James Sanders and the emerging Patrick “Pat” Chung, the group boasts both talent, youth and experience.

Drafted 24th overall in 2007, Meriweather has been a full-time starter since the middle of the 2008 season.

After leaving “The U” with the most tackles by a defensive back (293), Meriweather was expected to be the next great Hurricane safety.

Despite his Pro Bowl selections, his play hasn’t always matched his hype.

While he has recorded 12 interceptions during the last three seasons, he has also been burned for big plays and frequently takes poor angles and isn’t a great tackler.

However, he also played the most snaps of any Patriot safety in 2010, which could be a sign of trust by Bill Belichick.

2011 could be Meriweather’s last season with the Pats unless he becomes more consistent in coverage and run support.

As hot-and-cold as Meriweather runs, Sanders is a steadying presence.

The former Fresno State standout is a consistent player who makes up for his lack of elite athleticism with smarts and leadership.

He doesn’t post great statistics (his career high in tackles is 71 back in 2007), but he has a knack for making timely plays as evidenced by his interception against Peyton Manning last season.

Sanders is an underrated player who is a key cog in the back end.

One reason the future looks bright at safety is Pat Chung.

The team’s top pick in 2009, Chung emerged as a valuable playmaker after a nondescript rookie season.

The 5-foot-11, 212-pounder recorded 96 tackles and three interceptions and was part of a historic performance against the Dolphins in week four when he recorded five tackles, two blocks, an interception and a touchdown.

Chung is an aggressive player who will also need to become more consistent, but could have a Rodney Harrison-type impact.

The Pats have a few intriguing players rounding out the depth chart in Bret Lockett, Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett who can contribute on special teams.

State of the Position Grade: B+