By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Of the 39 Patriots that played in the preseason finale last summer, just six cracked New England’s 53-man roster.
That number actually dropped down to three if you excluded kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, and long snapper Joe Cardona, three talents that were simply playing as a result of their status as players entrenched in unchallenged specialist roles. In essence, finding yourself playing a significant role in the fourth preseason game is hardly a great sign.
Especially if you’re a 10-year NFL veteran like Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty, who saw considerable first-half time and was even in for a few defensive snaps in the second half in a 17-12 win as injuries struck the New England secondary.
But if McCourty’s legitimately on the roster bubble ahead of Saturday’s mass cutdown, he’s remaining as cool as can be.
“No concern at all,” McCourty said when asked about the possibility of being among the 30-something Patriots that will be out of work come Saturday afternoon. “I think I’ve played this game long enough to know that you control what you control.”
Signed after a 2017 season spent with the Browns, the Patriots have experimented with McCourty throughout the summer, moving the 31-year-old from his natural cornerback spot to safety. McCourty, for what it’s worth, said that he had not played safety since Pop Warner, and noted the communication differences that come with the move from cornerback to safety. This experimentation continued in Thursday’s finale, as he’s seemingly battling for cornerback time with undrafted rookie and summertime standout J.C. Jackson (who had two interceptions in the win) and safety time with Jordan Richards. Meaning any edge over those he’s competing with, be it at that position or on positional flexibility alone, is worth the effort.
Given his unfamiliarity with such a role, too, McCourty believes he’s acquitted himself as well as one can in such a short span.
“Whatever they decide is up to them, but I felt like throughout training camp, preseason like I’ve done my best,” McCourty said. “I feel like I’ve been able to execute, pick up the defense and do those things.
“But the ultimate decision whether I’m here or not is not in my hands.”
The good news for McCourty, though, is that the man making that decision appeared satisfied with the veteran’s showing.
“I think [McCourty] made a big jump this week,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick offered after the victory. “He did a good job last week [against the Panthers], made some good tackles and I think just overall more comfortable this week. That showed up on the practice field and looked like it tonight too. That was encouraging.”
Another encouraging sign? Although McCourty played on Thursday night, it was not as if he was in a situation where he was fighting for additional minutes in the second half. In fact, had it not been for an injury to A.J. Moore and cramping issues for J.C. Jackson, it seems as if McCourty’s helmet would have remained off his head and on the sidelines.
What that truly means for McCourty’s future, however, will have to wait until Saturday.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.