Devin McCourty’s Evolution At Safety Earns Bill Belichick’s Praise, Pro Bowl Bid

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have good taste in captains.

Four of the Patriots’ five captains were named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. The only Patriots captain who didn’t earn the honor was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who surely would have if he wasn’t currently on injured reserve.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked about quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater being named to the NFL’s All-Star game.

“They’re all good players,” Belichick said. “They’ve all done a good job for us. Pro Bowl, I mean, it is what it is. I won’t comment on the process and all of that, but all the players that are selected are good players. There are a lot of other good players in the league too. Who gets selected and doesn’t get selected, I don’t know. Talk to the league.”

McCourty’s selection is notable because it’s the second position to which he’s been selected to a Pro Bowl. McCourty was voted into the Pro Bowl at cornerback as a rookie. He began to make the switch to safety in 2012, and it became permanent in 2013.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Belichick said. “It’s a tough transition to make because you’re seeing the game from two different spots. You’re seeing the game from outside in on the perimeter, and then you’re seeing the game from inside out with a lot of people that can get to you from the safety position, and usually he’s in the middle of the field. He’s not a guy that’s in a shorter space, in a down-type space at safety. He’s usually — although he does do that — but he sees the game from the inside out from the free safety position or from the outside in as a corner.

“Devin’s very smart. He has great awareness of the entire concept of the defense, what the defense is designed to do, what the strengths are, what’s taken away, where we’re weak, how to try to compensate for that. Sometimes we have checks that will get us out of situations that we feel vulnerable within certain calls. So, he’s responsible for a lot of that. His leadership, his on-the-field play, his toughness, he’s done whatever we’ve asked him to do — return kickoffs, cover kicks, block the gunners on the punt return team, rush field goals or whatever it is. He’s been not only a dependable player but a good player for us in all of those different areas. He brings great communication, great leadership on and off the field.”

His versatility also allows the Patriots to have more options defensively.

“We wouldn’t be able to do them as well — either not do them or not do them as well,” Belichick said. “To take basically a corner and be able to drop him down in cover situations, that’s definitely a weapon at that safety position. His speed, his range to cover his field and the deep part of the field and also in the running game, close down those alleys when the runners get through those off tackles, sometime bounce plays out, that type of thing, to be able to get to them, and he’s a good tackler. He wraps up. He had the big hit last week in the Denver game on fourth down. He’s a good contact player, but he’s a sure tackler. Some guys come down and they get some, miss some. He doesn’t miss very many.”

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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