MicroPats Week 5: Jason McCourty Goes from Bubble to No. 2 Corner in Five Weeks
Jason McCourty played DEEP into the New England Patriots final preseason game. This is normally a bad sign; if you are on the field for the final preseason game, the coaching staff is still very much trying to figure out whether or not you belong on the team. Worse yet, Jason McCourty was playing SAFETY! A position he had never played in the NFL. However, much like his twin brother Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty had no problem swallowing his pride and showing the Patriots’ coaching staff just how willing he was to do anything to help the team. In the waning hours and minutes before the Patriots released their final roster, many prognosticators were saying Jason McCourty was not going to make the club. But make the club he did, thus getting over his first significant hurdle to get on the field.
However, despite being one of the top-rated cornerbacks in all of football last season, McCourty’s second hurdle involved having to watch Eric Rowe start in front of him. Unfortunately for Rowe, the starting cornerback suffered a groin injury and had to miss the Patriots Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions. No more hurdles. While the vast majority of the Patriots (and their defense) played horribly in defeat to the Lions, Jason McCourty was one of the few who had a solid outing. Things have only gotten better for the brother of the Patriots All-Pro safety.
Jason McCourty was dominant in the Patriots shellacking of the Miami Dolphins and he backed it up the next game with a great performance when the Indianapolis Colts came to town for Thursday Night Football. He was draped (legally) over receivers the entire evening and his breakup of a pass intended for Zach Pascal led to the Jonathan Jones interception that put the game out of reach.
For somebody that was on the roster bubble at the end of the preseason, Jason McCourty has been a revelation at cornerback. He is currently ranked as the fourth-best cornerback according to Pro Football Focus, with the majority of his work coming after the groin injury to Eric Rowe (who has done a great job of remaining level-headed trying to come back from his injury–remember, these are not just Fantasy Football stats, but actual human beings)
If it makes you and half the fans personally feel better to trash me, please let it all out. At the end of the day, I’m 26 years old with the best job in the world with the best team and the rest of my life set up. Negative comments have no effect towards me. Let it all out 😀 https://t.co/tPDRNBDKfY
— Eric Rowe (@EricRowe32) October 3, 2018
While Jason McCourty has done everything asked of him and was more than solid in his first game action, he has steadily improved with each week. Overall on the year, his numbers are great; just 13 catches allowed on 26 targets to go along with three pass breakups. But against the Colts? Jason McCourty was targeted 10 times and ceded just four catches while breaking up two passes, which includes the one that directly led to the Jones interception (Andrew Lucks passer rating was a meager 14.2 when targeting Jason McCourty).
Patriots fans are a fickle bunch. They see any pass completed against their secondary as emblematic of the “Bend but Don’t Break Defense.” They want a defense that drives fear into the heart of their opponents, despite continuously being one of the best defenses in the league at denying points. Many of those same fans had reservations about the Patriots possibly cutting Jason McCourty at the end of the preseason because he was ranked so highly with the Browns last season. When he made the team they let out a sigh of relief but were quick to anger when the defense floundered in Weeks 2 and 3 while Eric Rowe did not put together his best performance. However, Jason McCourty has been stellar since taking over the starting role, and not surprisingly, the Patriots defense has seen an uptick in effectiveness. If Jason McCourty can continue his solid play, and the rest of the defenses continues to improve on a week-by-week defense, the Patriots will be in a familiar place in the near future; sitting atop the AFC East with their eyes set on the playoffs.