Robbed of a Pro Bowl berth in 2019, New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty returns for his 11th season in the league in 2020.
Through the first four weeks of the 2019 season, New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty had a legitimate argument to be crowned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year when all was said and done.
Just months removed from publicly flirting with retirement, McCourty returned for the fifth and final year of his contract last fall. He then proceeded to play in four straight regular season games and log four straight interceptions — one in each game — an accomplishment that hadn’t happened in the NFL in 16 years.
It wasn’t just the picks that were noteworthy for the trusted vet, though.
McCourty was also a monster in coverage. Playing like a 22-year-old instead of a 32-year-old with nine years of tread on his tires, he was to the secondary what Jamie Collins was to the linebackers during the early days of New England’s regular season last year.
Unfortunately, just like Collins, McCourty faded a bit as the season wore on.
He did log one more interception in Week 7 off Sam Darnold — it seemed like everyone got a pick off (or picked on) Darnold that night — but otherwise, he ended up finishing the season with his lowest tackle total ever as a pro.
Those numbers don’t tell the full story though.
McCourty may not have had as many tackles in 2019 because perhaps opposing quarterbacks simply stopped throwing in his general direction. Moreover, the New England defense was easily the strongest overall it’s been since McCourty was drafted in 2010 — meaning the defensive line and linebackers were more successful stopping opponents well before they got back into McCourty’s realm in the secondary.
McCourty also made several high-impact plays last season outside of the picks. He forced two fumbles and recovered one, proving he still has as great a nose for the ball as any other safety in the league.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
McCourty earns his third Pro Bowl nomination — something that probably could have happened in 2019 if he’d maintained his early-season pace in the late fall and winter.
It’s hard to imagine the Patriots winning another Super Bowl before McCourty — who turns 33 this August — retires, but it’s still theoretically possible of course. Especially as long as Bill Belichick is the one calling the shots — and especially if Jarrett Stidham proves all his doubters wrong — McCourty could add a fourth ring to his collection.
More realistically though, McCourty focuses on continuing to be the elder statesman of the New England defense and leads by example, as he’s always done. If all goes according to plan, the Patriots finish with a winning record in 2020, capture the AFC East crown once again, and McCourty earns that elusive third Pro Bowl nod.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
Age finally starts to catch up to McCourty.
Everything we feared would happen to Brady last year happens to McCourty this year. The mileage shows, and suddenly we find ourselves as fans questioning Belichick for giving McCourty a new contract this past spring for two years/$23 million.
Is any of that likely to happen?
Of course not.
McCourty didn’t show anything last season that would lead anyone to believe he’s lost a step or that he’s finally starting to get outplayed by the youth movement on offense around the league. He should be able to fend off Father Time for at least the remainder of his contract — 2020 for sure.