CB Talib making strong impression

FOXBOROUGH -- While the Patriots offense endured some struggles during Monday night's practice inside of Gillette Stadium, the work done by the defense, particularly the secondary, should not go unnoticed.

Specifically, cornerback Aqib Talib was a top performer, snagging two interceptions, one on a throw delivered by Tom Brady that he returned to the end zone for a score. Talib has been a solid performer throughout training camp, and the Patriots' top trio of cornerbacks -- which also includes Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington -- has looked sharp as a unit.

Talib is an interesting player on a number of fronts, and his play will be closely monitored this season as he faces the prospect of hitting unrestricted free agent for the second time in as many offseasons.

After being acquired at the trade deadline last season, Talib did enough in a short period of time for the Patriots to reinvest in him for a season (his contract totaled $5 million), setting up another opportunity for him to play for a new deal.

The 27-year old didn't want to talk contracts or free agency in a recent chat with reporters, but a strong campaign in 2013 could lead to a handsome payday given the position that he plays.

Talib didn't fit into the long-term plans in Tampa Bay, the team that initially drafted him in the first round in 2008, though he has seemed to find a comfortable home with the Patriots. He was an immediate starter when acquired last season and his offseason efforts this year were enough to land one of the coveted offseason award winner parking spots (10 players earn such an honor).

With Devin McCourty now firmly planted at safety, Talib is among the most seasoned cornerbacks on the Patriots roster. According to his position coach, Josh Boyer, he's become more of a leader of the group, something that can be witnessed during practice.

It didn't take long for the Patriots to thrust heavy responsibilities onto Talib's plate last season, as he was at times aligned opposite of an opponent's top receiver. Given the strides he appears to have made and his understanding of the defense entering his second year as a Patriot, it would be no surprise to see the team lean heavily on Talib again this season.

If he proves up to the task, he could land a long-term deal offering financial security on the open market or with the Patriots