Chung is part of a small group, which also includes second-year pro Duron Harmon and 2012 second-round pick Tavon Wilson, competing for the starting strong safety role. Devin McCourty is entrenched as the starter at free safety, but he’s seen a rotation of defensive backs playing next to him at training camp.
“We’re all competing,” Chung said Sunday at Gillette Stadium after training camp. “We have a good secondary back there. We’re all competing. … No matter who plays, whether it’s starting, second string, special teams, doesn’t really matter, man. It would be great if we could all get on the field at some point.”
Chung has been able to lead by example for the young Patriots defensive backs, even after being gone for a year with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Pat’s a true pro,” McCourty said Sunday at Gillette Stadium. “He comes in every day, he’s ready to work, he understands the defense. I think he’s another model citizen for the younger guys, someone they can look at and model their game, model what he does to get ready for practice and get ready to know what he’s doing. It’s been great. He’s a friend of mine who was here the whole time I was here. He experienced something different and now he’s back.”
Chung has been impressive so far at training camp, defending passes and pulling in interceptions, and he might be a nice fit for the defense if he can take snaps away from Harmon during the regular season. During Chung’s previous tenure with the Patriots, he was forced to play free safety, where he struggled to defend the deep half of the field. Now, with McCourty playing at an All-Pro level at that position, Chung would be asked to play strong safety, laying the lumber on receivers who challenge the middle of the field.
The Patriots have one of the best secondaries in the league on paper, and Chung said they’re blending well in the meeting room.
“It’s actually a really good group,” Chung said. “Everybody’s funny. Everybody’s smart and they’re learning. We’re just trying to get better. Everybody’s competing with each other and pushing everybody else. It’s good. I’m really glad to be back. It’s a good group of people.”
Chung said “absolutely nothing” has changed since he left New England, but he has noticed a few new wrinkles in the defense that he has to pick up before he starts teaching the younger defensive backs the intricacies of the playbook.
“I just got back and we got some changes, so I’m just trying to mentor myself a little bit,” Chung said. “So stay in the playbook and get right, man. We’re all learning the same things, we’re all in the same meeting rooms, just learning.”
Chung knows what it takes to get down the finer details of the playbook, and as long as he takes his own advice to heart, he’ll have no problem executing the plays if his number is called during the regular season.
“You can make it as tough as you want to,” Chung said. “If you go home, you study, make sure you know what you’re doing, then things are easy. If you don’t, it’s going to be real tough for you.”