That’s because McCourty is no longer just learning the positions he’ll actually play on the field but the Patriots’ defense as a whole. McCourty almost exclusively played cornerback during his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns. He’s split his time between cornerback and the slot in two seasons with the Patriots. He’s even added some safety into his repertoire.
“For me, it’s been fun,” McCourty said. “I think the mental aspect of it, that challenge as an older guy has been really fun to put that on myself to see when we’re — now, at this point, being in my third season — when we’re going over installs and doing things. I try to challenge myself. Can I learn the entire defense? Can I understand what the nose technique or what the defensive tackle is doing on this blitz and why he’s doing it and understand the call that (Dont’a) Hightower may make when he sees this or that?”
Clearly, 195-pound McCourty is never going to play defensive tackle or middle linebacker in the Patriots’ defense, but learning their roles allows him to gain a better understanding of the defense as a whole and why he’s being asked to play different coverages and techniques.
“I think when you’re able to do that, it makes whether you’re playing corner, safety, nickel, all of those positions, it makes it relatively easy, because you understand in what ways the offense is trying to attack you, and you understand from a defensive perspective what are you giving up and the things that you have to defend against. For me, it’s been a blast getting here and being able to play inside, be able to play outside and challenge myself and also challenge the guys around me. I feel like, as an older guy, Dev, myself, (Patrick) Chung, if all of us are able to learn multiple roles and do things, it kind of sets a standard in the room where we’re all trying to be as versatile as possible.”
The Patriots’ secondary is the strength of their team with the McCourtys, Chung, Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson and Jonathan Jones leading the way. It’s not only a talented group but a versatile one. That allows the Patriots to handle different offensive personnel packages with the same players on the field.