The New England Patriots have made the secondary the strength of their defense. In 2016, Devin McCourty continued to be the unquestioned leader.
Devin McCourty was named a captain of the New England Patriots for the sixth straight season in 2016. McCourty moved to safety from cornerback in 2012, and he has been among the very best in the NFL at both positions during his time playing each.
Much like fellow secondary teammate Malcolm Butler, the fact that McCourty was not called out for failing to do his job last year is a very good thing. Defensive backs are blamed the most for giving up big plays. With safeties the last line of defense in such situations, McCourty has come through much more often than not.
If that was not the case, McCourty would not have been named a Pro Bowler for the second time in his career. And he would not have made the All-Pro second team either. But he did both last season after making 83 tackles and snagging one interception.
Neither of those numbers were career highs. McCourty had seven interceptions as a rookie and made 87 tackles in his second year, both as a cornerback. But he also played in all 16 regular-season games for the fourth time in seven seasons. That may be the most meaningful statistic for New England as arguably the most important cog in the defense.
McCourty’s durability and leadership meant more to the Patriots in 2016 than anything else. In addition, he played one of his best games in the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. He totaled five tackles, including four solo and one tackle for a loss.
With two Super Bowl rings, he joins Butler and Dont’a Hightower as the cornerstones of Matt Patricia’s defense. Whether or not they will all pick up a third will depend on if they can keep playing at the same high level together in 2017.