|Duron Harmon listening, learning in anticipation of possible full-time move to safety||06.17.14 at 5:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was hard not to notice the conversation.
At one point in Tuesday’s minicamp session, with the rest of the defense off on other parts of the practice field, four defensive backs stood together with a member of the New England coaching staff. There were cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, along with safety Devin McCourty. Once Browner is done with his four-game ban for PEDs, this is the trio that will likely serve as the foundation for the Patriots secondary in 2014.
The fourth part of the quartet? Second-year defensive back Duron Harmon.
So what’s your move when you’re a part of a conversation like that, Duron?
“Really, just me listening,” he said a little sheepishly when asked about the scene following Tuesday’s practice.
“You have guys that are All-Pros — what can I really say?” he added. “I’m in my second year, and these guys have played a lot of football and a lot of great football at a high level. It’s really a great chance for me to just sit back and soak up a lot of that wisdom from those three guys.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick cautioned people not to read too much into personnel groupings and on-field action throughout the OTAs and minicamp, but by the looks of things on Tuesday, it certainly appears Harmon has the inside track on the safety spot opposite McCourty, The Rutgers product, who played both corner and safety last season, had two picks and four passes defensed in 15 games in 2013, and certainly showed enough to be considered part of the rotation in the secondary for 2014.
But a series of events — starting with the offseason release of veteran safety Steve Gregory and continuing with the addition of Revis and Browner — have led to Harmon moving from backup defensive back to injecting himself into the mix at strong safety.
While the 6-foot, 198-pounder isn’t a classic hitter in the typical strong safety mold, he’s already put in plenty of work studying some of the best safeties in the game in hopes of getting up to speed as fast as possible. He said Tuesday he spent the bulk of the offseason watching film on safeties like Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Indy’s Antoine Bethea, Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson and Cleveland’s Donte Whitner, as well as McCourty.
“One of the things that I did was just pinpoint a few safeties I thought were very, very good in the game, and I watched them,” he said. “I tried to watch different techniques that they utilized. I tried to watch how they play, how they play physically, how they play at the line of scrimmage. How they play in the deep part of the field. And just seeing what type of football players they are and try and utilize that and put some of it in my game.
FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up the first day of their mandatory minicamp session on a warm day behind Gillette Stadium. The session, which ran for roughly two hours, was held in sweats, T-shirts and helmets. Here are a few quick notes:
– Keeping in mind that the players were again in numberless jerseys, the following players were not spotted at the start of the session: wide receiver Aaron Dobson, cornerback Malcolm Butler, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Darius Fleming, defensive lineman Dominique Easley and defensive lineman Armond Armstead. In addition, a rehab group that included special teamer Matthew Slater, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and D.J. Williams and quarterback Ryan Mallett all disappeared into the practice bubble shortly after the start of practice.
– With Mallett sidelined, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo again got lots of work, and while he wasn’t great, he certainly appeared to be sharper than he was in the final OTA session last week. (The last OTA that the media had access to.) He had maybe his nicest pass of the day when he connected on a deep sideline route with Wilson van Hooser toward the end of practice. Garoppolo drew a large media crowd at the end of practice.
– Earlier in the day, Patriots coach Bill Belichick cautioned against reading too much into what’s going on throughout the OTAs and minicamp, but it appears that the safety job opposite Devin McCourty is Duron Harmon‘s to lose. A couple times throughout the day, while the rest of the team was working through special teams or offensive drills, a collection of defensive backs could be seen working together on their own on one corner of the field. It was a group that included McCourty, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner — the presumed starters in the secondary — as well as Harmon. We’ll have more from Harmon later in the day, as he drew a sizable group of reporters once practice ended. (Tommy Kelly and Chandler Jones also talked.)
– The specialists appeared to have a pretty good day, with Ryan Allen really booming a series of punts throughout the day. Not like this has been a huge topic of conversation, but it’s worth mentioning that Allen and kicker Stephen Gostkowski don’t have any competition at this point on the roster. And based on how Allen looked today, not sure there’s any reason to have an extra punter in camp to serve as competition.
– Both Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell each had to run a lap after a botched snap, while Jeremy Gallon dropped a punt.
– Danny Amendola (7-on-7s) and Jeremy Johnson (11-on-11s) each had a pair of nice catches that stuck out.
– The Belichick Playlist at camp today was heavy on U2 and The Who, with Coldplay and Bon Jovi thrown in for good measure. And owner Robert Kraft was on the field for a sizable portion of practice, taking in the action.
|Report: Patriots start talking new deal for Devin McCourty||06.07.14 at 6:18 pm ET|
Since he came to New England, Devin McCourty has become a leader in the Patriots locker room. Now, the Patriots apparently want him to stick around for the long term.
According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, and later confirmed by Nick Underhill of MassLive.com, the Patriots are looking to pen a new deal for the 26-year-old first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Rutgers.
McCourty, who would be a free agent after this upcoming season, is scheduled to make $3.9 million this season at the end of his five-year, $10 million rookie contract. The real motivation to get a new deal done lies in the financials. The Patriots are likely looking to save money on the cap by renegotiating the 2014 salary and bonus as part of a new deal. McCourty’s cap hit this season is $5.115 million.
McCourty has proven to be one of the most versatile players on the roster, playing both cornerback and safety during his career, and has been named to the Associated Press All-Pro team at both positions (cornerback in 2010, safety in 2013). With the Patriots bringing in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the offseason, McCourty is now settled as a fixture as safety in the team’s secondary.
Underhill quotes a source as saying there’s “nothing substantial” to come from the “preliminary discussions” between McCourty and the Patriots.
McCourty recorded 69 tackles in 15 games in 2013, on his way to the highest grade of all qualifying safeties from Pro Football Focus. Last season was also McCourty’s first as a full-time safety (15 games) since the Patriots moved him there sparingly in 2012. In four seasons and 63 games, McCourty has recorded 15 interceptions.
|Devin McCourty on Darrelle Revis: ‘He’s a good teammate’||05.29.14 at 8:54 pm ET|
The Patriots have been going through OTAs this week — the third phase of the offseason program. And to this point, the veteran safety has been impressed by the play of Revis, who was acquired in March.
“He’s a good teammate. He works hard and it’s exciting for him to be here,” McCourty said Thursday during a break in the action at the team’s Mom’s Football Safety Clinic.
“I think it’s exciting for him to be here. I think he’s focused on getting better as a player, just like the rest of us. I’m excited for the season this year and for the secondary to start bonding and coming a unit. I think right now, we’re just a bunch of names, and this time — and then in training camp — is when we start to become a unit.”
Revis is one of a few new defensive backs on the roster to this point, a group that includes veteran Brandon Browner and rookie Jemea Thomas. McCourty said that the spring sessions have been “great” when it comes to building a bond with each other.
“I think this time period is great — the coaches can throw as much as they want from us, and [it's] a learning time,” McCourty said. “I think they’re getting a chance to learn and having to learn on the go. Things are moving fast. I think they’re doing a great job. Along with them is the rookies — they come in and have their little rookie minicamp and now they’re here with us. More is being thrown at them. It’s exciting just seeing everyone out there learning and being back on the field running around.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Takeaways from our Thursday afternoon talk with Devin McCourty||04.24.14 at 9:43 pm ET|
1. There’s no update on a new deal.
McCourty is going into the final season of a contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, but isn’t sweating his future.
“I don’t even worry about it,” he said when asked about his contract situation after 2014. “I just focus on playing football and let everything else (get) handled by my agents and the team and all that.”
2. It means something to him that he’s associated with Rutgers.
While everyone in the New England locker room displays some level of pride in their school, McCourty has been a tremendous advocate for Rutgers over the last few years. He’s maintained a high profile on campus, coming back frequently for Pro Days and workouts. (He lamented that he didn’t make it back for Pro Day this spring.) He said Thursday that it’s important for him to keep his ties to his alma mater.
“For me, it’s key, because I think that university played a huge part in my life,” he said of Rutgers. “Some of my best friends, I met there. One of the good things is that every time we go back we get to reconnect and have some fun. I just love the program. Just seeing them, now moving to the Big 10, I got to check out one of the spring practices. It’s an exciting time for them. I know they’re ready to go. I just love being a part of it. Just anything I can do to help, I’m always there to help out.”
McCourty was asked about the current group of pre-draft prospects from Rutgers, including wide receiver Brandon Coleman.
“He’s probably the most interesting (one),” McCourty said of Coleman. “The thing I loved about him is his work ethic. I remember one summer, I went back there and we were just doing 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s with those guys and he was going each time. If one of the NFL guys got up there, he would go just to get the work. I’m happy for him, getting a chance to live out his dream.
“Really, all those guys,” he added. “They work hard there. I know whether it’s here or somewhere else, those guys will land somewhere and they’ll work their butt off trying to keep a job.”
3. The only thing constant in the NFL is change.
With the addition of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and loss of Aqib Talib and Steve Gregory, the secondary has undergone the most personnel changeover to this point in the offseason. McCourty talked about the changes:
On Gregory: “Steve is a smart football player. A guy who is always in the right spot. A guy who is a playmaker. He was big for us the last two years when he was here. He made plays. He’d kind of that older figure who has a lot of knowledge and had a lot of football games under his belt and has been able to just push us the right way. It just stinks a little bit — but that’s the business of football. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had guys coming in and guys going, so, nothing new. Just wish him the best and hope he lands with another team.”
On Talib: “The same thing. A very good football player who has played very big for us in the last two years. But the business is the business. You just wish him the best in Denver — not that good, of course. But hope he does well. We’re happy for him.”
|Devin McCourty: Bonding process with new defensive backs like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner ‘begins now’||at 3:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For defensive backs, the getting-to-know-you process can take some time. That’s why Devin McCourty and the rest of the new look New England secondary is getting down to business as quickly as possible.
During a break in offseason workouts Thursday at Gillette Stadium, McCourty said that when it comes to getting acclimated to working together, every second counts. That’s why the old faces like McCourty are spending as much time as possible with the new guys like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
“I think us as a secondary, the bonding begins now,” he said. “(In year’s past), you guys always saw us in the locker room, we were always together, laughing and joking. That starts now. A group of us, we’re always working out together. We’re running together. We’re in the locker room together. The bonding as a secondary, as a unit, it starts now. The good thing is that everybody is all in and we’re down to have fun and get better together as a unit.
“It’s a great experience right now,” he added. “When you add good football players — veteran football players — with Revis and Browner in our secondary, I think it’s going to be good. Those guys have played a lot of good football, and just at this time of the year, getting that knowledge — our knowledge — and working together, (it) will be exciting. I think the biggest thing we understand right now is that we have a lot of work. Every year, we have a lot of new guys who have to learn the defense and start working together. So that’s our focus right now, just working to try and get better together as a unit.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|What does history tell us about Patriots and pre-draft contact with elite prospects?||04.16.14 at 3:14 pm ET|
With the pre-draft process longer now than it’s been in years past, there’s more time for speculation, and official visits, workouts and attendance at Pro Days are all ways fans and the media try and gauge a team’s interest in a prospect. Some of the pre-draft work can be a smokescreen, some of it can be done for intel down the road and some of can be for practical scouting purposes. With that in mind, here’s a look at the pre-draft connections the Patriots have made with some of their top draft picks over the last few years.
Linebacker Jamie Collins (taken with New England’s first pick in 2013, a second-round selection at No. 52 overall): Bill Belichick flew South to work out Collins before the draft, but the linebacker later indicated that he did not have much pre-draft contact with New England when compared to other teams.
Defensive end Chandler Jones (first-round pick 2012, 21st overall): Jones recalled a conversation with the Patriots at the combine in Indy the year he was drafted. “I talked to the Patriots — I talked with them at the combine,” he said. “That was the most formal thing we did. That’s basically it — we talked at the combine.”
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (first-round pick 2012, 25th overall): He didn’t work out for Patriots, but he said he “had a small (idea)” the Patriots were interested. “I met with those guys at the combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days,” Hightower recalled, “so I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.”
Tackle Nate Solder (first-round pick 2011, 17th overall): Solder had what he called “fairly limited contact” with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process. He met with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the Monday before the draft in Colorado, but also had a scheduled visit to Foxboro cancelled at the last minute. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Solder later explained. “I was scheduled to visit (but) the minute before I left it was cancelled. That’s all I know.”
Defensive back Devin McCourty (first-round pick 2010, 27th overall): McCourty met with Belichick prior to the draft, where the two had a film session on campus at Rutgers. “Bill Belichick had come to my school for a coaches’ clinic, and he was going to fly right out after the clinic to see his son play in a lacrosse game,” McCourty recalled. “But we had an hour, we watched some film and we spoke for a little while. We had a real generic conversation, but he showed me some things on film, just watching and helping me out as far as being a player.”
Linebacker Jerod Mayo (first-round pick, 2008, 10th overall): Mayo had 11 visits with teams during the pre-draft process, and remembers his visit to Foxboro fondly. “I had a great visit when I came down there,” he said. “The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked.”
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