Devin McCourty Shines in Patriots Training Camp Practice in Return to Safety, Shedding Non-Contact Jersey (Notes)

Devin McCourtyFOXBORO, Mass. — Devin McCourty had an eventful scrimmage on Saturday.

The fourth-year safety shed his red non-contact jersey and moved back to safety, after spending all of Friday’s practice at cornerback. McCourty showed why he should be playing back deep at safety, too.

McCourty picked off Ryan Mallett on an underthrown ball and covered the back half of the field very well. He struggled at times on Friday while playing cornerback, especially against some of the team’s top receivers. Of course, he hasn’t played cornerback much lately. He participated in some drills on Thursday, but has mostly stayed at safety since the beginning of last season.

The Patriots split up their team into blue and white jerseys on Saturday to play a scrimmage. There’s not much to take away from a scrimmage without pads for the offensive and defensive lines, but it’s valuable to watch the quarterbacks, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs.

Having McCourty covering the deep half of the field helped the Patriots’ secondary tremendously last season. It was his move, along with Aqib Talib coming in, Kyle Arrington moving to the slot and Alfonzo Dennard taking a starting role that boosted the passing defense midway through last season.

The last piece to fill in the defensive backfield is at strong safety. Adrian Wilson was playing with the first team on Saturday, though Steve Gregory has also taken plenty of reps next to McCourty.

-Dennard and Shane Vereen were in uniform, but did not participate. Dan Connolly was in uniform, but was limited. Elvis Fisher, Tyronne Green and Matthew Slater all spent time on the bike.

-Michael Jenkins, Mark Harrison and Rob Gronkowski were in sweats, but did not participate.

-Lavasier Tuinei, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Marcus Cannon, Kevin Haslam, Jake Ballard, Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead were not spotted.

OFFENSE

-Saturday is Tom Brady‘s 36th birthday. Pepper Johnson wore a shirt wishing Tom a happy 40th.

-Zach Sudfeld, Stevan Ridley, Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount all took snaps split out wide or in the slot. It’s still very obvious Sudfeld is the most athletic tight end on the field. It’s not even very close.

-Brady was only in on two drives during the scrimmage. He threw touchdowns to Danny Amendola in both.

-Tim Tebow showed flashes of brilliance, but most of his scrimmage was spent taking too much time to get rid of the ball and overthrowing, underthrowing and missing receivers. He was keyed in on Josh Boyce and Quentin Sims, but rarely looked Aaron Dobson‘s way. It was clear that it takes longer for Dobson to get open than other shiftier receivers on the roster. Sims had a nice day, going up and over Justin Green for a touchdown. Boyce had a very good practice, even with Tebow throwing to him.

-Kenbrell Thompkins continues to shine and caught another pass up and over Arrington and Logan Ryan.

-Ridley flashed his hands on a wheel route out of the backfield. Chandler Jones was no match for the running back in coverage.

-Julian Edelman looks back to his shifty ways. He had a couple drops, but overall has been solid in his return.

DEFENSE

-McCourty, Duron Harmon and Jamie Collins all had interceptions. Collins’ was after Dane Fletcher had interfered with Michael Hoomanwanui.

-Without a backup long snapper, Rob Ninkovich was snapping to Zoltan Mesko during the scrimmage.

-Harmon looked very good playing deep safety on the second team. He broke up a pass intended for Daniel Fells from Tebow.

-Ryan has been up and down while replacing Dowling on the field. He’ll allow some big receptions deep, but looks solid in the shallow part of the field.

-Talib was rarely targeted out on the field. He’s been extremely productive throughout all of training camp. He struggled at times last season after coming over the Buccaneers, but it seems like his time in the program has been extremely helpful

-Marcus Benard was playing with the first team and lining up at defensive tackle. It’s possibly he wouldn’t be getting those opportunities if Cunningham were healthy, but he’s making the most of them and has been a standout player during training camp.

-It’s unfortunate Brandon Spikes has limited athleticism and mobility. He has a great nose for the football, and shows off great ball skills in coverage. His issue is getting to the receiver on time.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.

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