How Patriots’ Latest Crop Of Rookie Defensive Backs Is Different From Others

FOXBORO, Mass. — Patrick Chung likes what he’s seen from the New England Patriots’ rookie defensive backs.

Speaking after Wednesday’s training camp practice, the veteran safety praised his young teammates’ work ethic and commitment to learning the defense — attributes Patriots rookies evidently don’t always possess.

“I think we’re coming together a little bit,” Chung said on the eve of New England’s preseason opener. “The young guys, they work hard. They work hard, and they’re trying to get in the playbook. A lot better than a lot of rookies we’ve had in the past, with the exception of a few. But they’re trying to work hard, man. It’s really up to them to get on the same page, and it’s up to us to get them on the same page. So we’re working to get there, but I think it’s pretty good right now.”

The Patriots selected cornerbacks Duke Dawson (second round) and Keion Crossen (seventh) in the 2018 NFL Draft and signed corner J.C. Jackson and safety A.J. Moore as undrafted free agents. All four should see extensive action Thursday night against the Washington Redskins.

Jackson has been the most impressive of that quartet thus far, excelling in organized team activities and minicamp and continuing to make plays in training camp, albeit with less frequency than he did during the spring.

Chung has been impressed with Jackson’s play thus far, though he noted the Maryland product still has a ways to go.

“He can play,” Chung said. “He can play. It’s not anywhere close to where we need to, because we have a high standard here, but he can play, man.”

Jackson also received a positive review from safety Devin McCourty.

“Young guy, very eager to learn,” McCourty said. “… And obviously, he’s been a guy that’s been out there since the spring competing well, showing up. So I’m sure he’s excited to get out there and play in the game, to go out with all those young guys.”

Though there is young blood in the mix — the aforementioned rookies, plus 2017 practice squadders Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz and Damarius Travis — the Patriots’ secondary as a whole is a very experienced group.

Seven current Pats defensive backs have played five or more NFL seasons, including starting safeties McCourty, Chung and Duron Harmon, top cornerback Stephon Gilmore and potential starting corner Jason McCourty. And McCourty’s main competitor for that spot, Eric Rowe, is a fourth-year pro who’s played in two Super Bowls.

“Whether it’s (Jackson), Keion, Duke, all those guys are being surrounded by veterans that have played a lot of football,” Devin McCourty said. “I think we have a unique situation. You look at guys like E-Rowe, Steph and Jay (who) have all played in other places. So they have an understanding of how the league works.

“E-Rowe and Steph (know) how to be successful here, and they’ve tried to pour that into (the rookies). … I think as older guys, all these rookies, we try to continue to talk to and kind of spread our knowledge to those guys, passing it down.”

Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN

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