And so I asked Patrick Chung today if, from a distance, he’s cheering on former Duck teammate Jairus Byrd, the rookie who’s leading the NFL with nine interceptions.
“Come on, man,” he said, “It’s Oregon boys.”
Those Oregon boys stay close — and went close to one another in the draft. The Patriots tabbed Chung with the 34th pick. Eight selections later, Buffalo called Byrd’s name, with plans to convert him to safety.
The two, of course, are pretty different players. The questions surrounding Byrd prior to the draft dealt with his ability to play physical enough to man a safety spot. Conversely, Chung brought the lumber plenty, but his range was in some question.
Each moved around in the Oregon defense quite a bit, and that made it a little more difficult to peg what each guy would become as a pro.
On Chung, Bill Belichick said: “I would say for the most part he played safety responsibilities, let’s put it that way, regardless of how they configured it. There was a lot of sub defense in that conference because of the multiple receivers and spread formations and things like that.
“I think Patrick, for the most part, in addition to returning punts, really played more as a safety than as a corner. And again, regardless of whether he was actually the nickel back or wasn’t, you could evaluate him as a player that would be doing safety-type jobs.”
And on Byrd: “Byrd played different positions. He showed a lot of position versatility in college and he definitely was a playmaker in college as well. I think the issue with Byrd coming out was he was more of a corner in college.
“It was, I would say, a little bit of a projection to safety, which he’s obviously done very well there, even though he’s not a regular player for them. His playing time really comes on their sub-defenses. I think he’s a guy that is obviously a valuable player to have, a valuable player for the defense.”
One thing’s for sure — The guy has a fan here in New England.
“Always,” Chung said. “I see the stuff about him. If I see highlights of him, I’ll watch, and if he sees highlights of me, he’ll watch. I’m gonna support him regardless – He’s pretty good though, huh?”
And is that a surprise to Chung? Guess.
“Not surprised at all,” he said. “I know he has very good hands and very good instincts, some of the best I’ve seen. I mean, that’s from me, and I’ve practiced with him.”