The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at safety Devin McCourty.
Name: Devin McCourty
Position: Free safety
Jersey number: 32
Size: 5'10, 195 lbs.
2015 review: McCourty had yet another good season in 2015 and was a fixture on one of the league’s better defenses. Overall, he appeared in 16 of the Patriots’ 18 games, missing regular season weeks 15 and 16 because of a sprained ankle, and played 86.6% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Statistically, McCourty’s 2015 season was mediocre. He allowed 18 completions on 35 passes thrown his way, and gave up 221 yards and four touchdowns. He also intercepted one pass, broke up six more and a fumbles. Furthermore, McCourty recorded 62 tackles and one sack.
His true value to the Patriots’ defense goes beyond the stat sheet, though. Not only is McCourty a leader on and off the field – as evidenced by him being voted team captain for the fifth straight season –, he also influences the way New England plays defense like few others.
Thanks to his vision and range, the Patriots can play an aggressive man coverage scheme on the outside, while McCourty’s versatility allows the coaching staff to get creative with the secondary lineups. The veteran has seen time as a deep centerfielder in 2015, as a slot defender, and as an in-the-box safety.
2016 preview: Entering 2016, McCourty is the longest tenured member of the Patriots’ defense. As such, he will once again be an integral part of the unit; both as one of its best and most consistent players and as one of its leaders.
The 28-year old is a surefire lock to make the team and projects to play close to 100% of New England’s defensive snaps yet again. And yet again, the coaching will likely use him in a variety of roles put those surrounding him in the secondary in a position and scheme that play to their strengths.
While his abilities alone make McCourty one of the best safeties in the NFL, his leadership skills really define him as a player. He is the unquestioned leader of the secondary, its key communicator and the link between the coaching staff and the defensive backfield. Therefore, he will play an important part in molding the less seasoned players – him getting voted team captain again will likely reflect this.
Devin McCourty’s blend of skills makes him a valuable player for the Patriots – on the field as well as off it. He will continue to be just that in 2016 and will lead the young talent around him by example; hopefully, to another championship.