In each of the last two games, Devin McCourty has played cornerback in the Patriots' base defense while moving to safety in a sub package. How has the coaching staff assessed McCourty's work at safety?
Defensive backs coach Josh Boyer, on today's conference calls, answered that question.
"I would say Devin, like all of our guys, has some position flexibility," Boyer said. "I think he's worked very hard in the film room and on the practice field, trying to improve his techniques. Just from a position flexibility standpoint, we have a lot of guys that have done some of the stuff Devin is doing. Sterling [Moore] has had some position flexibility for us, as well as Patrick Chung. All of our guys back there, Kyle [Arrington] included in that mix, they're very aware of what's going on [in the overall defensive backfield] and it's whatever we feel is best for the team that week of who's going to be in what spot."
Boyer was asked what skills McCourty (5-10, 193) has that makes him a good fit at safety, where the Patriots cut veterans Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders at the end of training camp, have had a run of injuries during the season, and also have seen second-year man Sergio Brown hit a speed bump in his progression as a defender.
"For the safety, one of the things you're looking for is a guy who can track the ball in the air, which Devin has been able to do," Boyer said. "You have to have a little bit of range, and you have to be kind of a physical player, being able to step up in the box. Devin has done all those things at points in time for us in the season. There are things we can still improve on in all those areas."
Boyer later made the point that it's not so much cornerback vs. safety when it comes to McCourty, but more filling a specific role in the overall defensive backfield. So there is not necessarily extra work when it comes to McCourty playing that safety-type role.
"When we put in defenses or are teaching techniques, it's kind of like a holistic approach, so all of those guys understand what's going on in the back end. It's really a defensive back position," Boyer said.