If Jason McCourty can’t crack the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster as a cornerback, perhaps he’ll be able to do so as a safety.
It was the first time McCourty ever had played safety in a game at any level, he told reporters after the game.
“Last year, when I got to Cleveland, we had talked about it but never got the opportunity,” he said, via the Providence Journal. “For me, it’s exciting to get a chance to just have that vantage point and just see the differences. Over the years, you pick up a lot of football. It’s kind of a new challenge for me to say, ‘Hey, can I do this? Can I excel at it?’ It’s been fun so far.”
In between drives, McCourty sought advice from an obvious source: his twin brother, Devin McCourty, who’s started at safety for the Patriots since 2012.
“It was cool to be back there,” Jason McCourty told reporters, via WEEI.com. “Every time I came off the field, (Devin) had at least five to 10 coaching points of something I could have done better. Definitely a cool opportunity to have a guy like him and (other safeties) like (Patrick) Chung, Duron (Harmon), who have been doing it for awhile in this defense, to be able to ask them questions and different things of that nature.”
On the opening series of the second half, McCourty was late providing safety help to cornerback Keion Crossen on a 31-yard catch-and-run by Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Two plays later, he dropped running back Cameron Artis-Payne in the backfield for a 1-yard loss.
Some uneven play was to be expected from a guy playing a brand-new position.
The move from cornerback raised further questions about McCourty’s roster status. The 31-year-old already was not considered a roster lock, as he’s been unable to overtake Eric Rowe in the battle for New England’s other starting corner job opposite Stephon Gilmore, and the team could decide some of its younger corners provide more in terms of upside and versatility.
With Gilmore, Rowe, Jonathan Jones and rookie Duke Dawson considered locks, McCourty is competing with Crossen, J.C. Jackson, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz for just one or two roster spots. Adding the ability to play safety to his toolbox would increase his chances of sticking around.
“I don’t really know what their plan is moving forward,” McCourty told reporters. “But for right now, for me, (the position switch) was something that was asked of me, and I took it as a great opportunity to be able to go out there and kind of show myself what I could do at the position and anybody that was watching.”