FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots safety Obi Melifonwu has made a strong impression on one of his team’s elder statesmen.
At 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, Melifonwu, who signed with the Patriots earlier this month, is taller and heavier than every other New England defensive back. Or, as veteran safety Devin McCourty put it Thursday, “he’s freaking huge.”
McCourty had high praise for the UConn product, who made his Patriots debut in Sunday’s 27-13 win over the New York Jets.
“He’s a bigger, physical guy,” McCourty said, “and I thought he’s done a great job, whether it’s staying after with (safeties coach Steve Belichick), talking to myself, (Patrick) Chung or (Duron Harmon) (about) when he’s out there, what we expect of him and what we need him to do and then what he expects of us and what we need to do to help him.”
Melifonwu, whom the Oakland Raiders drafted in the second round in 2017 before cutting him loose midway through his sophomore season, played eight defensive snaps against the Jets, plus another 17 on special teams. McCourty suggested the big-bodied 24-year-old could be a useful weapon in covering tight ends, which he did on a few plays Sunday against New York’s Chris Herndon.
“I thought it was great him being out there last week in different packages and being able to help us,” said McCourty, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. “(He’s a) very athletic guy. He’s able to go up there and match up on some tight ends, and where we’re talking about being undersized against them, he lines up and is mano-a-mano, same size.
“You see him standing next to (6-foot-6 Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski), and you’re like, ‘Dang, Gronk doesn’t make this guy look little.’ I thought he’s brought a really good edge to our group.”
New England’s safety group features four seasoned vets in McCourty, Chung, Harmon and special teamer Nate Ebner, all of whom have played together since 2013.
“I think sometimes we’ve got to do a good job of fully explaining some of the things we do,” McCourty said. “… We’ve just got to make sure Obi knows what we’re kind of thinking and not think it’s just understood. I think we’ve done a good job of that the last couple of weeks of just trying to catch him up and get him up to speed of doing everything how we do it.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images