New England Patriots: Is Devin McCourty Better off Playing Safety?

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIJanuary 4, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24:   Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots reacts after intercepting a pass intended for  Brian Hartline #82 of the Miami Dolphins during in the second half of a game with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In the New England Patriots 49-21 win over the Buffalo Bills this past weekend, there was something different going on in New England's secondary. Sure, the group was struggling as usual, as they allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 307 yards, but there was a change-up in personnel—cornerback Devin McCourty was playing safety. 

There has been no word if McCourty will be staying at safety for the remainder of the season as it quite possibly could have been a one-time experiment—however McCourty is very well aware that isn't just a cornerback, but he's a defensive back

“I’m just trying to be a defensive back. Whatever the team needs. I’m just trying to make plays on the opportunity, wherever I’m at.’’

Indeed he did make plays when he had the opportunity, as he was able to pick off a deflected Fitzpatrick pass—but some may argue that he was just in the right place at the right time, but doesn't that define a playmaker? 

During McCourty's 70 snaps out of a possible 71, he played fairly well—it was a much upgrade compared to his lackluster 2011 season playing cornerback. 

Just by watching with a naked-eye, McCourty was always in pursue of the ball. He never took any bad angles and he also wasn't afraid to bring the lumber, which is something that a good safety does. 

If New England does decide to roll McCourty out at safety from here on out, then the back-end of their defense could turn into a strong point as he'd be joining Patrick Chung. By just making an educated guess, McCourty would likely play center field as a free safety as Chung, the more physical one with better tackling skills, would line up as a strong safety. 

But does Bill Belichick think he can succeed back their? 

“I think he has physical ability. I think he has certainly the mental makeup, making adjustments, understanding what the concepts are, making smart decisions back there —all those things.”

Obviously it would be a wise decision to agree with the great Bill Belichick, but I absolutely agree with him on this one—McCourty playing safety could turn this struggling defense around heading into the playoffs. 

The Patriots earned themselves the top seed in the AFC with their win on Sunday which means that they'll not only have home-field advantage throughout, but they'll have a much-needed bye week. 

In this bye week, I would assume that McCourty will get more reps at safety and perhaps he'll be able to flourish in the team's first playoff game as it would be either against the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos or the Pittsburgh Steelers


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