FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots safety Patrick Chung has become as important to the defense before each snap as he has between the whistles. Therefore, if he can't play Sunday against the Bills, New England's less-tenured safeties will have to step up in the communication aspect.
Without Chung, Sergio Brown, who was undrafted in 2010 and didn't debut until Week 7, would become the most experienced safety in New England's system. The Patriots also have Josh Barrett and James Ihedigbo, who have each played for other teams but didn't take a snap for New England until this season.
It's a young group with potential, but there's not a ton of experience. Yet, they've grown comfortable with one another in their short time together.
"We've got a nice chemistry," Brown said. "We're real energetic, and we really work hard to get everything done. I feel like if we continue to really give that care and effort into everything, we'll be OK."
"It's going real well," Ihedigbo said. "They're very knowledgeable about the game, situational football, being in the right place when needed and communicating the call across the board. [We're] getting better at it each day."
Chung, who practiced Friday for the first time this week after suffering a thumb injury against the Chargers, is responsible for the pre-snap checks, and his teammates have spoken highly about his ability to get everyone in place before the play. His role took on even more importance after the Patriots released safeties James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather.
The safeties help organize coverage between the cornerbacks and linebackers, and those calls typically change if the offense sends a player in motion. While the call can change as a reaction to motion in the offensive backfield, Barrett said it's beneficial to see the offense's set and then anticipate what they'll be doing. That's the type of knowledge that is gained through film work and experience.
If Chung can't play, Barrett and Brown would be the likely starters with Ihedigbo coming off the bench. It's a challenge they're prepared to encounter.
"All of us are ready, and everyone is taught to be ready," Brown said. "And everyone prepares to be ready for each and every game and each and every play. Whatever happens, whatever we do, we've just got to be ready to play."