Patriots, Dolphins dealing with very different situations at safety

Patriots, Dolphins dealing with very different situations at safety

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick's comments were brief, and to some they may have been obvious. But they highlighted the contrasting situations the Patriots and Dolphins are currently dealing with when it comes to the safety position. 

Touching on the consistency he's seen from Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon -- all of whom have played in all 15 regular-season games this season -- Belichick said, "It’s huge." 

"They’re good players and they have good communication," Belichick added. "They work well together in terms of disguises and they work well with their teammates whether it be the defensive ends, linebackers, the nickel back and so forth, and the corners . . . They can run, they cover the deep part of the field good and they’re pretty consistent tacklers. That’s a really good group."

McCourty has played 98 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season. Chung, whose role can change on a play-to-play basis, has seen 96 percent. Harmon, who typically comes in for nickel packages, has played in 50 percent of the plays on that side of the ball.

On the opposite sideline this week in Miami, the Dolphins will be without both of their starters at the same position. Isa Abdul-Quddus was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, and Reshad Jones played just six games this year before being knocked out for the season due to injury. Both players played 80 snaps when the Patriots and Dolphins met back in Week 2. 

In their absence, Michael Thomas and Bacarri Rambo could see the bulk of the playing time at safety. It will be worth watching to see if the Patriots attempt to take advantage of the personnel changes at those spots -- perhaps using deeper shots down the field, where Tom Brady has been very effective this year -- in the regular-season finale. 

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.