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Devin McCourty (left) and Patrick Chung provide the Patriots leadership in addition to strong safety play.
Devin McCourty (left) and Patrick Chung provide the Patriots leadership in addition to strong safety play.Michael Dwyer

Ninth in a series on the Patriots' status at each position group heading into training camp.

The Patriots' safety group is versatile and valuable, with the three main players — Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon — forming one of the top trios in the league.

McCourty is a smart, strong, and rangy free safety. He is extremely instinctual and quick. The longtime captain is rarely out of place and is the stabilizing force in this secondary.

A valuable special teams player, McCourty is a vocal leader on and off the field and is beloved by his teammates. As a bonus, he can play cornerback in a pinch.

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Another team leader, Chung is as tough as nails and might be pound for pound the best tackler in the league.

Though he's at his best close to the box providing rough-and-tumble run support, Chung is an underrated cover guy. The man shadows Rob Gronkowski in practice every day and the benefits of that are huge. Literally.

Harmon is a rangy, ball-hawking center fielder. He's instinctual with good closing speed and his play has improved every season. There's no reason to think that won't continue.

Jordan Richards is smart, strong, and solid. He was a regular part of the rotation as a rookie and his role will no doubt expand this season.

Fellow sophomore Brandon King's biggest value came as a special-teamer last season. He has the speed to play safety and the size to play linebacker.

Nate Ebner provides depth and outstanding special teams play. He may open the season on the reserve list as he pursues his Olympic rugby dream.

Cedric Thompson, Brock Vereen, and Vinnie Sunseri will compete for depth positions.

Thompson was drafted by the Dolphins in 2015 and spent time on the Patriots' practice squad last season. Thompson was a versatile player at the University of Minnesota, playing both free and strong safety.

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Vereen also spent time on New England's practice squad last season. Shane's brother also played at Minnesota and was a fourth-round pick of the Bears in 2014. He played in 19 games with an interception in Chicago.

He's athletic and smart and could be one of the camp surprises.

Sunseri, a former Alabama star, is considered an instinctual player. A former Saints draft pick, he may lack athleticism but makes up for it with smarts and a high motor.

Thompson, Vereen, and Sunseri will have to contribute on special teams to have a shot at making the 53-man roster or practice squad.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.