FOXBORO (CBS) – Entering his fourth season with the Patriots, safety Patrick Chung is now the elder member in the New England defensive backfield.
Three years doesn’t sound like all that much experience, but Chung is now the longest tenured member of the New England secondary. And while the Patriots made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season, doing so with the 31st ranked pass defense, Chung is looking forward, not back.
The 24-year-old is always looking to improve on all fronts, and this season will be no different.
“You can build on everything. You can never be too good on something; you always have to build and get better,” Chung said after Tuesday’s session. “Whether it’s being quick, fast, strong, smarter, neater, cleaner – whatever the case may be, you can never be too good at it so you always have to keep working.”
Chung On Bigger Leadership Role:
One thing he is working on more this season is being the on-field coach in the Patriots secondary. Jerod Mayo takes the lead with the linebackers, and now Chung hopes to step up to the next level and do the same for the secondary. It’s the one area he wants to improve in the most before the season begins.
“You have to have a coach on the field,” said Chung. “They give us the information, we have to execute it and it’s good to have a couple of guys out there to think as coaches, direct traffic.”
“It definitely helps,” Chung said of his now veteran status, noting that he still has a lot to learn. “You learn a lot more things than the new guys coming in, but like I said, we have some older guys in here — [Steve] Gregory and everybody coming in. They’re smart and they’re learning fast. I’m learning from them so it’s rapid. We can always get better. It’s only the fifth day.”
Gregory, a six-year vet signed from San Diego in the offseason, could slide next to Chung, a spot that the Patriots struggled to find any continuity at in 2011. Following the release of both Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders in the preseason, the Patriots used players like Sterling Moore, James Ihedigbo and even struggling corner Devin McCourty to fill the void to mixed results.
It also didn’t help when Chung went down to injury in Week 7. Mixed with the injury to rookie Ras-I Dowling, it led to a patchwork secondary and high yardage for opposing offenses.
The secondary numbers improved upon Chung’s return at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, but getting consistent play from Chung and whoever lines up next to him will be key to improving New England’s air defense.
Although they have only had five days of practice, Chung says the secondary is starting to bond — both on the field and in the video room.
“We’re working constantly, regardless if it’s out there or sitting in chairs,” he said. “It’s all about if you come in and have the mentality like ‘I want to learn.’ You can make it as hard as you want to. If you come in focused, ready to learn, ready to pick up on whatever we have to pick up on and follow a veteran, follow the lead, take the lead then the sky is the limit.”