Changes happen in the NFL, but it’s safe to say that Devin McCourty didn’t expect them to happen to his new team so quickly.
McCourty found himself thrust into the starting lineup during his rookie season thanks to a strong performance during the preseason, and now the second year cornerback finds only he, Kyle Arrington, and Patrick Chung as the only three players returning with any real experience in their defensive backfield.
With guys like Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, and Leigh Bodden now no longer part of the roster, you would think the second-year corner looks around some days and wonders what happened to the guys he spent his first season growing with.
However, McCourty says that’s not the case. He knows that things are always evolving in the NFL and he still talks to each of his former teammates. Now all he can do is focus on trying to improve as the team continues tweaking their 32nd-ranked pass defense.
“No, I mean I still talk to those guys so I know where they are,” said McCourty on Thursday. “I think our focus right now is just getting better and at times we’re making strides in that and at times we’re falling a little short. I think our goal is to keep getting better and be more consistent.”
It was clear looking at the game film that New England had communication breakdowns on Sunday in Pittsburgh, especially on third down where the Steelers converted 10-of-16 against them. McCourty says that the most important thing they can do is really take advantage of every snap they get in practice, and try to continue improving in the meetings.
“You have to really value those reps when you’re out there on the practice field,” said McCourty. “When we’re in the meeting rooms, we’re communicating with guys and that’s where you build that trust and communication on the field – you build it in meeting rooms and walkthroughs. We really just emphasize communicating in the walkthroughs and meetings.”
McCourty knows like anything else, it’s all about repetition. The more you see certain situations and hear certain calls, the better you continue to become as the season moves on. It’s something he admitted they really need to continue working on, and he hopes that it will translate into to success on the field when the Giants come to town this weekend.
“I think just putting an emphasis on it – not really taking it for granted, taking it lightly,” said McCourty. “I think we always focus on that and sometimes you just need reminders – keep attacking that aspect of the game. I think that’s big this week, like I said, just doing it in the meeting rooms and walkthroughs and that leads to the practice field and then will lead over to Sunday.”
The former Rutgers star has heard all the talk. He’s heard about the fact other teams are keying in on them and trying to exploit them. He says it comes with the territory, and until they start shutting down opposing offenses on a consistent basis, McCourty admitted he expects the criticism to continue. One thing he knows is that as his team heads into their 8th game of the season, there’s still plenty of football to be played, and that means there’s also still plenty of time to try and get things right.
For now he’ll block out the naysayers, and continue doing the same things he has since the team drafted him last April.
“Of course it bothers me but I don’t really think it’s important,” said McCourty about the fact teams are openly targeting their secondary. “You can’t control how somebody feels and what we put out on tape is us so if somebody looks at it and that’s how they feel – it is what it is. That’s not going to change our attitude. We’re still going to watch the film and we’re going to come out to play and come out to try to stop people.
“No matter what they say, if they’re nice to us in the media and say all good things, we’re still going to come out and try to shut them down. That’s still our focus.”