FOXBORO, Mass. — When safety James Ihedigbo was with the Jets, he said he admired Patrick Chung's playing style from afar. Ihedigbo thought they each played with a similar type of passion and tenacity, and he was excited to get an up-close look at it when he signed with the Patriots this summer.
On Sunday, the two safeties started alongside each other for the first time — it was the first start of Ihedigbo's career — and they raved about their on-field chemistry.
"He's good," Chung said. "He's a smart guy, and I'm confident with him out there, period. He knows what he's talking about out there, and we can look at each other and make signals on the sidelines with the corners and disguise things. He's definitely a smart guy."
The Patriots had previously used Josh Barrett alongside Chung, but Barrett and Sergio Brown each struggled against the Raiders, which might have pushed Bill Belichick to lean toward Ihedigbo against the Jets on Sunday. Ihedigbo had gotten some snaps at safety this season, but his primary impact had come on special teams.
Ihedigbo said he'd prepare this week like it's any other, and there's really no telling whether or not he'll get the start against the Cowboys. As Belichick said Monday, the guys who perform the best on the field will get rewarded with the most playing time.
If that means it's going to be Chung and Ihedigbo, the latter will certainly be happy to pair up with a player who has helped him progress in the new system.
"He's a very, very smart player," Ihedigbo said. "He knows this defense inside and out, and I've learned a lot of things from him ever since I've been here. Anytime you have someone you work with and you can communicate on a high level with, it only benefits the team."