Aqib Talib was all the rage of the Patriots until his hip became a problem. He's been sidelined for the past three weeks, practicing for the last two before being ruled inactive. Despite his absence, he is still tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with four and is tied for 11th with passes defensed (9). He most notably broke up a potential game-tying touchdown pass to Roddy White against the Atlanta Falcons with seconds remaining.
His counterparts have had a mixed time without him. Alfonzo Dennard is playing with confidence, despite getting roasted for only his second touchdown of the season this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is allowing only 50.9 percent of passes completed when thrown in his direction, putting him in the top tier of the NFL. But he has struggled in run support. He has nine missed tackles this season, tied for third most of any cornerback in the league.
Kyle Arrington is one of the most targeted corners in the NFL. He's allowing 59.3 percent of those passes to be caught and has given up four touchdowns, tied for fifth among corners. But he's been resilient, batting away eight passes this season, good for third in the league at his position.
Rookie Logan Ryan has improved immensely since the start of the season and has been given more opportunities with Talib out, working from both the slot corner and right cornerback position. He has allowed two touchdowns, but also has an interception returned for a touchdown. The Patriots surprised everyone when they called Ryan's number twice against the Miami Dolphins and he came away with two sacks, marking the best game of his young career.
Safeties Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory have been every down players for the Patriots. McCourty has played 664 of the team's 671 snaps, while Gregory, who suffered a thumb injury in Week 9, has played 558. Both have been good, helping the Patriots turn the tide from a team that was one of the worst in pass defense to one that is now in the middle of the pack, allowing 233 yards per game (13th in the NFL).
McCourty in particular has been great, accounting for 40 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, an interception, and five passes defensed. He has allowed no touchdowns thrown in his direction. Gregory's numbers are similar, allowing only one touchdown this season, while recording 44 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss.
Add in safety Duron Harmon, the other rookie out of Rutgers, and the Patriots have been solid deep. Harmon has two interceptions. Year over year, and with essentially the same core group in place, this unit has been the biggest bright spot for the Patriots.