So, I am going to preface this blog with this: there is no way the Pats will move McCourty to safety full time, at least not this season. However, having said that, should they? Personally, I think it is the best move for this team. McCourty has looked like a natural back there in the short sample size, and his strengths (playing with the game in front of him, tackling, being in the right position) are accentuated when playing safety and his weaknesses (inability to turn to the ball, ability to play with proper technique) are nullified when playing safety. As Doug Keyd at nesn.com notes
He's also the team's best safety -- ball skills when the play is in front of him, excellent range, good size and a willingness to hit. He's wasted on the perimeter while the team is trying to find someone to button down the downfield support.And, as Tom E Curran notes, the difference between McCourty and the other corners really isn't that big.
Devin McCourty's got safety skills. And while he may be the team's best corner, he's average (and too often below average out there) at the position and the gap between he and the guys behind him is small enough to make it a negligible difference.
|Devin McCourty with a pass breakup against Jets|
That switch to man coverage actually plays to Dennard and Dowling's strengths. Dowling has proved to be untrustworthy playing in zone coverage, and Belichick will typically eliminate him from the game plan when the Patriots are using the more complex coverage scheme. Dennard is better in bump and run coverage and both young cornerbacks are physical players who are stronger at staying with receivers using speed and strength than reading and reacting.So, not only does moving McCourty to safety help him best play to his ability, but it also helps Dowling, Dennard, and Arrington fit into roles that best fit them. Arrington has been overratedly bad this year, and a lot of it has to do with the team putting him in a position to fail. As a third "nickel" CB, who plays maybe 50% of the snaps or so, he can be solid. But, as a starter on the outside playing almost 100% of the snaps? That is not going to go over great, and it hasn't. I think this quote from McCourty, if you read into it a little deeper, makes me think that he likes it a little more,
You just get to see it from a different vantage point. You know, you see the whole field different from playing corner. The biggest thing is you just have to have a little more responsibility as far as making sure everybody is lined up, making sure everybody is playing the same coverage. That’s probably the biggest difference than when playing corner. You’re more receiving calls than focused on how you’re playing your techniques.This line in particular, "You’re more receiving calls than focused on how you’re playing your techniques," really is what I think he wants to do. He is always able to get in the right spot, but he focuses too much on his technique and doesn't allow his instincts to take over, which leads to the lack of head turning and popped blood vessels from Patriots fans.
I think they will keep him over there at safety only as long as Chung is out, but they really need to keep him there full time. When he came out, there was a lot of talk that he was a conerback/safety, and we forced him into cornerback. Well, guess what? It aint workin. Bill is willing to throw WRs back to DB, he better be willing to go against what he though McCourty could be, and let him play the position he has so obviously shown the skills for. This one's on Bill, and we should all keep our fingers crossed that he's not stubborn on this one. As always, follow me @CultOfBelichick