Saturday, December 25, 2010

Devin McCourty: Patriots' Defensive MVP

The young rookie's made incredible strides and needs to be recognized as the defense's most valuable player..



When you think of MVP and the Patriots, the first name that comes to mind is, of course, Tom Brady. However, there's another player that deserves candidacy for the team's most valuable player. At least for the defense.

After trading down several times in the 2010 draft, the suspense for the Patriots first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft was sufficiently built up. After passing on wide receiver, Dez Bryant, many expected them to fill a need at outside linebacker to fix their pass rushing woes with someone like, say, Sergio Kindle or Jerry Hughes.

After a much longer wait than expected, finally, number 27, the pick was in...and it was... corner back, Devin McCourty from Rutgers?

The pick confused just about everyone around New England. Fans hadn't heard much about McCourty from any of the major network's draft analysts. Neither ESPN's Mel Kiper or Todd McShay had the cornerback as a first rounder.

Even more baffling than that, the Patriots had much bigger needs than corner back. They had just re-signed Leigh Bodden, their best defensive back from 2009. They also had the promising second round pick of last year, Darius Butler, waiting for his shot. The pick took everyone by surprise.

In an interview on Boston radio station, 98.5 the sports hub; Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano, was asked to compare Devin McCourty to a cornerback playing in the league right now. His response shocked everyone. At the time it seemed almost laughable.

"The kid that came out of Pitt, who's playing for the Jets", said Schiano. "I think there's some similarities there".

That "kid" he was referring to was Darrelle Revis.

"I think Devin's a complete guy...He can do the physical stuff, he's not only an able tackler but he's a willing tackler", Schiano said of McCourty. "He's a guy that a coach loves because he works so incredibly hard, he loves the game of football...I'm really excited about Devin ending up with the Patriots because he's going to be a good fit there"

It may have seemed like a shock back in April but now Patriots fans can see what Schiano was talking about.

Devin McCourty has been, if not the most valuable, than one of the most important players on the 2010 Patriots. McCourty's talent and supreme contributions started to become prevalent to Pats fans around mid-season and he's now starting to grasp some national attention.

When McCourty broke up a pass down the right sideline in the first quarter of the Patriots' Sunday night win over the Green Bay Packers, broadcaster Cris Collinsworth said, "If Ndamukong Suh isn't the defensive rookie of the year, this guy will be".

Both veterans Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are obvious candidates to be seen as the Patriots' defensive MVPs, but the clear winner to this writer is Devin McCourty.

The rookie corner back was drafted into a secondary that seemed pretty well stocked. However, an injury to veteran Leigh Bodden in the pre-season thrust McCourty into a starting role from week 1. The once solid secondary was suddenly the youngest, least experienced group in the league. Bodden's injury had many NFL experts predicting a 10-6 or even 9-7 season for the 2010 Patriots.

However, no one could have predicted the consistency and reliability the young rookie would provide to that defense.

McCourty didn't miss a single snap on defense until Week 8, when he got the wind knocked out of him breaking up a pass and sat out a play. That was the only snap he would miss for another 5 weeks.

McCourty has been on the field for 96.5% of the Patriots' defensive snaps and that number would be much higher if he hadn't suffered a rib injury in a week 14 rout of the Bears.

Even after that, the rookie was back for the next game against the Packers in which he, again, didn't miss a snap. That was a game in which the defense was on the field for a season high total of 84 snaps as Green Bay held the ball for over 40 minutes.

As for what has put McCourty in that position in this young stage of his career, Patriots defensive backs coach; Josh Boyer, shed some insight:

"No. 1, intelligence", said Boyer. "He's picked up our system very quickly and he works hard at it. He spends a lot of extra time at it. Second, I'd say his work ethic. Everybody in the NFL has athletic ability but I'd say his work ethic and his intelligence have put him in the position to be on the field."

Before a week 6 game against the Ravens, New England coach, Bill Belichick, was asked about the players who've stood out to him as having a great understanding of the game of football. Belichick mentioned Ray Lewis and Lawyer Milloy as two examples that have stood out while also adding a name that surprised reporters. Devin McCourty.

“The guy started telling me what the nose [tackle] is supposed to do on a particular stunt when he’s playing corner, you usually don’t get that,” Belichick said of the rookie.

It's not only McCourty's ability to stay on the field that's been so impressive though. His film study and work ethic have showed up on the stat sheet as well. The no.1 pick is currently tied for second in the league in interceptions (6) and tied for fourth in passes defended (21). McCourty's also got a forced fumble and a sack on his resume.

His performance this season has earned him the respect of not only his coaches, but also his veteran teammates.

"He's a student of the game, man", said Patriots' captain, Vince Wilfork. "That guy, the way he prepares, the way he practices, [he does it] like he's been in this game a long time. Sometimes its hard to see he's only a rookie..."

"It is a tough transition [from college] especially playing here under coach Belichick and this defensive scheme", added linebacker, Jerod Mayo. "When Devin first got here, you would see him come in early, you would see him leave late and just that work ethic alone let me know that he was going to be a good player and he's been playing some top flight football for us so it's not surprising at all how well he's been playing".

McCourty's ability to bring some toughness, consistency and playmaking to a secondary that was a key concern for the Patriots heading into the 2010 season has been one of the most valuable and important keys to New England's success this year.

"He's unbelievable and I don't want to talk too much about a player but you know what?", said Wilfork. "He deserves it".

He can't be the MVP of the team, but he certainly deserves to be the MVP of the defense.

2 comments:

  1. I Disagree. I think Jerod Mayo is a huge component to that defense and should be defensive MVP. Leading the NFL in tackles (164) he is in on every single play. Yes McCourty is huge, but I don't think that our defense would be the same without Mayo. Wilfork makes a strong case too....

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