FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots knew Jason McCourty could play cornerback when they acquired him from the Cleveland Browns. But McCourty’s versatility has been a welcome surprise for his new team.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked Monday morning on a conference call if McCourty’s strong performance four weeks into the season is pretty much what the Patriots expected out of the veteran cornerback when they traded for him in March.
“Well, we expected Jason to be able to contribute for us at corner, and he’s certainly done that,” Belichick said. “As we got to the end of preseason and into the early part of the regular season, we had a need for some depth at safety, and he was able to transition into there pretty well, too. You know, for somebody who really has never played that position, I thought he did a great job of adapting to it and embracing the opportunity and working hard to be able to do it, and he’s done a good job for us in there and he’s done a good job for us at corner with Eric Rowe being out.
“He’s moved him back a little bit to corner. When Pat was out, he gave us a little more depth inside. And, he’s shown in a pretty short period of time that he gives us good depth in the secondary at a couple different positions, and that’s really valuable for us. … It might not seem like much to the average fan, but defensively, it makes a big difference who those players are and where they can line up and what they can do. And so, to have a player like Jason or (safety) Devin (McCourty) or (safety) Pat Chung that can handle those kinds of variables and adjustments really helps your defense.”
McCourty began the season fourth on the cornerback depth chart behind Stephon Gilmore, Rowe and Jonathan Jones. When Rowe was benched/injured his groin in Week 2, McCourty stepped into a starting role. He’s allowed just nine catches on 16 targets for 72 yards with a pass breakup in four games. His 4.5 yards per target ranks 11th out of 81 qualified cornerbacks.
He’s provided more consistency at the No. 2 cornerback role than Rowe was giving them through two weeks, but it sounds like he might not be a permanent starter.
“Whatever role I’m in, multiple roles — I think that’s been kind of ongoing from training camp — I think that will be ongoing throughout the season of just moving around whether injuries come up or just whatever personnel’s available,” McCourty said. “Of just being able to play outside, move inside at times, just do whatever kind of we need as a team and always kind of for me mentally staying sharp on what Dev and Du (safety Duron Harmon) and those guys are doing as well as practicing at corner and everything.”
Regardless of McCourty’s role, he’s happy to finally be in close proximity to Devin McCourty, his twin brother. The two haven’t been teammates since 2008, when they both were in college at Rutgers.
“It’s been fun, man. My mom now is down here I think for the next two or three weeks with the back-to-back home games. I think for us, getting to this level and now being able to do this is what it’s all about and what we’ve strived to get to have that family aspect integrated into a game that we love. It’s been a blast, so obviously when you win on Sundays, it’s a little more fun. Trying to keep that trend going.”
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images