Next up in the five part series of most important Patriots heading into training camp is freshly-extended free safety Devin McCourty. Number three is likely to post on Sunday, stay tuned…
After signing a long term extension in March, Devin McCourty then saw Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington all leave the secondary. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Patrick Chung are back and rookie Darryl Roberts could be a sleeper to get some playing time. But there is no doubt that this is now McCourty’s secondary and he will have to lead both in play and character.
McCourty shouldn’t have much trouble doing either, he has established himself as an elite free safety and a great locker room guy. However, due to the reduction in talent around him McCourty will have more on his shoulders than ever. He had the luxury of Revis last season and could play a ranging, center field type safety. He will likely be forced into more coverage this year and even when he can play center field, he will have to more cautious than he would be if he had his former teammates with him. He will also have to compensate for when younger, less talented corners get beat deep and it’s a strong possibility McCourty’s pass break ups down the field will go up.
McCourty will have to be a stabilizing force for a Patriots secondary that could take half a season to figure out. Even at that point, that won’t necessarily mean they will be very good. If McCourty sees a dip in his play, it could prove disastrous for the Patriots defense. If he, however, can play up to his usual level, it will make the loss of Revis and Browner hurt less than it would on most teams.