EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty hasn’t been in this position since his rookie season. And no, we’re not talking about playing safety. Then we’d have to go all the way back to Pop Warner.
We’re referencing McCourty not being a lock for the 53-man roster. McCourty said he hasn’t played in a fourth preseason game since his rookie year. That was before Thursday night, when he played all the way into the second half of the Patriots’ 17-12 preseason win over the New York Giants, manning his new position, free safety.
Patriots roster cuts are Saturday, and he’s far from a sure thing to make the 53-man roster as he competes with JC Jackson and Keion Crossen at cornerback and Jordan Richards at safety. But McCourty isn’t sweating the looming cutdown date.
“No concern at all,” McCourty said. “I think I’ve played this game long enough to know that you control what you control. Whatever they decide is up to them, but I felt like throughout training camp, preseason like I’ve done my best. I feel like I’ve been able to execute, pick up the defense and do those things. But the ultimate decision whether I’m here or not is not in my hands. …
“I really don’t concern myself with what goes on, especially this being Year 10. I probably exceeded every expectation I had for myself going into my rookie year what my NFL career would be, so whatever happens here, happens. You put it in God’s hands. You play your best, and then however it goes down, it goes down.”
Don’t look too deeply into McCourty playing into the second half. McCourty had shed his helmet late in the first half and was hanging on the sideline comfortably with quarterback Tom Brady, safety Duron Harmon, wide receiver Julian Edelman and his twin brother, safety Devin McCourty. Then he was thrust back into the game in the second half.
“At halftime, they were like, OK, you’re going back into the game,'” McCourty said. “A.J. Moore had got dinged up a little bit, so I went back in for a series.”
McCourty’s versatility to play cornerback or safety might be his key to a roster spot. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick served up some supportive words about McCourty’s play at safety after Thursday night’s game.
“I think he made a big jump this week,” Belichick said. “He did a good job last week, made some good tackles and I think just overall more comfortable this week. That showed up on the practice field and looked like it tonight too. That was encouraging.”
McCourty’s had plenty of help from his brother in the transition from cornerback to safety, a move Devin made back in 2012.
“That’s just been big through the whole process,” Jason said. “He’s been like my coach. Just coming over and being able to watch film with me, help me to understand. I know the defense well enough at corner to know what the safety’s job is on every play, but actually going out there and executing it, he’s been big of ‘make sure you get to your landmark in Cover-2. … You should be looking for this characteristic from the quarterback.’ Different small things of playing the position between Dev and Du, they’ve been very helpful to me.”
McCourty certainly hopes to play a full season with his brother in 2018, but he sounds comfortable with whatever decision the Patriots ultimately make. That the Patriots were willing to pull him off the field in the first half seems like an encouraging sign.
Thumbnail photo via Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports Images