Patrick Chung didn’t start his Patriots career in promising fashion. But since he returned for a second stint in 2014, the safety has developed into one of Bill Belichick’s most reliable defensive players.
And Belichick admitted that, at first, he got it wrong.
Speaking in his Wednesday press conference, Belichick was asked about Chung’s versatility that he’s shown in recent years since he moved him to strong safety. Belichick usually says he needs to coach better when the Patriots lose or play poorly on Sundays, but he rarely admits mistakes with individual players. He gave a surprisingly contrite answer on Chung.
“I mean, we recognized [Chung] when we had him the first time we drafted him. We took the guy in the second round,” said Belichick. “But just for a combination of reasons … it’s a big part of mistakes that I’ve personally made. That didn’t work out the way that we hoped it would, but we got it right the second time. And i think we’ve been able to utilize him [better].
“I wish we’d been able to do that when we initially got him, but it didn’t work out that way. But like I said, I think we finally got it right.”
On The Move
Chung played one season with, coincidentally, the Philadelphia Eagles before re-signing with the Patriots just in time for the 2014 season. So this marks the safety’s third Super Bowl since returning. And now, against Philly in Super Bowl LII, he has a chance to show his much-improved skills against the team that had him for a cup of coffee.
During Chung’s first stint with the Patriots, from 2009-12, he played more free safety in the deep part of the field. It partially led to some ugly coverage in the Pats secondary during those seasons.
But when Chung returned, Belichick had moved former cornerback Devin McCourty to free safety. That move, which helped McCourty develop into one of the best in the NFL at his position, facilitated the decision to shift Ching down low to a strong safety/nickel cornerback role.
And with that simple change, with Chung closely covering tight ends and running backs more than deep receivers, he’s mostly flourished.
Besides one glaring mistake against the Jaguars in last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game – a wide-open touchdown to tight end Marcedes Lewis – Chung played well within his roles. And he has a wide range of those, which Belichick finally figured out how to use when Chung came back in 2014.
What To Expect from Patrick Chung In The Super Bowl
Belichick described Chung last Friday, before the AFC Championship Game, as “one of the best players in the league.” Even if you don’t agree with that, it’s clear that Chung has become a pretty good strong safety – definitely much better than he looked in his first four years.
So Belichick’s obviously quite confident in Chung’s ability to do his job as well as anyone on the team. He’ll really need him to excel once again when he faces the Eagles.
Defensively, one of the top priorities for Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be to stop Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. He’s a versatile, tough pass-catcher who’s deceptively quick and agile for a player his size (6-foot-5, 249 pounds). Chung will likely be responsible for covering Ertz frequently throughout the game, and it could be one of the most important player matchups when the Eagles have the ball.
But there’s reason to be confident that Belichick will have Chung ready to perform for the Patriots against Ertz and others in Super Bowl LII. Like the coach said, he finally got Chung right. It’s certainly showing on the field.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.