FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots were shockingly well prepared for starting safety Patrick Chung’s decision to opt-out this offseason.
The Patriots signed Chung to a contract extension this offseason but also added veteran Adrian Phillips via free agency and Kyle Dugger in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Phillips and Dugger will compete with Terrence Brooks, a 2019 defensive reserve for the Patriots, to replace Chung.
Phillips should be viewed as the favorite for the role, but Dugger and Brooks will each have their own opportunities to replace Chung in what’s become a roster battle for the starting strong safety position next to free safety Devin McCourty in the Patriots’ secondary.
“I think everyone realizes the opportunity is there,” Brooks said Monday after practice. “Iâm very close with Patrick, actually. I wish him all the best with his decision. As for us, weâre literally all trying to go out and get better each and every day. You are friends, but once you step on the field, there is competition against the guys who are in your position, as well as the guys across from the ball. I donât think anybody is acting different because Patrickâs gone. I think mostly, everyone is excited for the opportunity to go out and compete. I canât worry about the next man, I just gotta wake up every morning and go out there and get it, like Iâm supposed to.”
Brooks acknowledged he feels some extra motivation knowing he could score a starting job this summer.
“Definitely, man. I mean, honestly, everybodyâs in competition,” Brooks said. “I think we just love competition. I feel like thatâs why weâre here. If you donât love it, youâre in the wrong place. In the back of your mind, you know youâre competing against the next man for the job. But you also got to go out there, and make sure youâre taking care of your job, because if youâre too worried about what the next man is doing, youâre not going to be able to handle what youâre doing. So my mindset is, Iâm eliminating all those distractions and all those things. Iâm just going out each and every day and trying to force coaches to put me in the game.”
Each player has their own individual edge for the job. Phillips has the most career defensive experience, having played 2,278 snaps over six NFL seasons. Brooks, also a six-year vet, is the most experienced in the Patriots’ defense after getting on the field for 274 snaps last season. Dugger comes with the highest pedigree and upside as a rookie. He’ll be solidly in the mix despite being one year removed from playing at the Division II level.
The Patriots had their first padded practice Monday. They’ll have two weeks of training camp and no preseason games to get ready for the 2020 NFL season. Brooks, Phillips and Dugger will continue competing until the Patriots’ season opener Sept. 13 against the Miami Dolphins.