Starting with his full-time shift to safety during the 2012 season, his third overall and second as a team captain, Devin McCourty has annually led a secondary featuring at least one Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.
Aqib Talib. Darrelle Revis. Malcolm Butler. Stephon Gilmore. J.C. Jackson.
For much of that time, he also enjoyed a championship simpatico with fellow safeties Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. Cohesiveness and seemingly clairvoyant communication were their trademarks.
But as McCourty enters his 24th career playoff start in his 11th postseason Saturday night in Buffalo, the group he leads is in flux. With nearly every check of the transaction wire lately, something changes in the Pats’ secondary.
Exceptions remain the stability of Jackson, who’ll line up opposite Bills All-Pro Stefon Diggs for a third time in seven weeks; and the reliability of Adrian Phillips, who’s become McCourty’s Chung-like accomplice in their two years together.
Examples include the status of Jalen Mills, a full-time starting corner as a first-time Patriot now on the reserve/COVID-19 list; Kyle Dugger, who missed two of the last four games due to illness and injury; and Myles Bryant, who was absent from the regular-season finale because of COVID-19.