FOXBORO — The Patriots proved that nobody participant can substitute retired security Devin McCourty on Sunday.
For the primary time in 13 years, we noticed what a Patriots protection with out McCourty seems to be like, and whereas the top results of the sport clearly might have been higher, the technique of free safety-by-committee general went effectively. The protection allowed simply 18 factors within the 25-20 loss to certainly one of final yr’s most high-powered offenses and held Jalen Hurts and Co. to only one landing.
So, who changed McCourty? A greater query is perhaps who didn’t?
Jabrill Peppers (24 snaps) and Kyle Dugger (21 snaps) principally break up the free security duties. Jalen Mills performed six snaps within the function, Adrian Phillips spent three snaps at free security, and Myles Bryant and Marte Mapu each performed two snaps on the place. Even rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez performed one snap in McCourty’s outdated spot.
McCourty, who now works as an analyst on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” believes Peppers and Dugger noticed essentially the most time at free security just because they had been on the sector essentially the most. Dugger, Gonzalez and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley had been the one three defenders to play each snap. Peppers completed fourth on protection with 58 snaps.
“I think because of how versatile everybody is, I think those guys really stayed at their roles within the defense, like the two safety positions the most,” McCourty advised the Herald Thursday. “And then I believe, they nonetheless blended it up somewhat bit.
“But I think they feel comfortable with any of those guys coming in. I think J Mills played like 10 plays, and there were some plays he was on the tight ends and some plays he was in the middle. I think it’ll be different too the more that they’re out there.”
The group ran most of their coverages out of a post-safety look with only one participant again deep, versus a split-safety look with two safeties taking part in deep. They ran Cover-1 on 21 snaps, Cover-3 on 18 snaps, Cover-0 in an NFL-high 9 snaps, quarters and Cover-6 on 4 snaps apiece and Cover-2 on simply three snaps.
McCourty predicted the Patriots would substitute him with a committee method after he retired. So, he wasn’t shocked by the technique, however he was impressed with the execution.
“I thought it went just how I thought. I said it a while ago, I thought they had a group of veteran guys. And I think Marte actually added to the group that I think a lot of people didn’t expect when I first retired,” McCourty mentioned. “But I thought the group would be very multiple. I thought there was times you were watching, you couldn’t tell who was gonna end up the free safety between Dug, Pep, AP Marte, then when J Mills got in there, covering the tight end, they just did so many different things.”
McCourty additionally sensed some confusion out of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts as a result of the Patriots had been exhibiting so many various seems to be on protection.
Hurts didn’t flip the ball over however went simply 22-of-33 for 170 yards with a landing whereas carrying the ball 9 occasions for 37 yards.
“Like Jalen Hurts never really felt comfortable in the game,” McCourty mentioned. “But I believe that’s part of it, these guys having the ability to be a number of, so that you don’t even need to do a ton of disguising. You simply have to modify up which function you’re gonna play, who’s gonna be the free, who’s gonna be the sturdy, who’s going to be the form of linebacker function that a few of these units the place that they had three of them on the market. So I believe that led to some confusion.
“I thought they all did a good job of knowing where they are. And I think the hardest thing is, when you play with a bunch of different people: communication. You’re not always used to talking to the same guy. And they did a good job of making sure they didn’t have any breakdowns because that would have killed them in that game.”
Peppers was content material with how the unit appeared in its first sport with out McCourty since 2015 (he missed simply 5 video games in his 13-year NFL profession) as a result of they solely allowed one play over 20 yards and three passing performs of 15 yards or extra.
“We play so many different positions within the scheme that we can just look at each other and give a quick symbol, do something and communicate just a little bit, just to make things faster,” Peppers mentioned.
After McCourty retired, there was an expectation that the Patriots must add a conventional free security to switch him just because Peppers, Dugger and Phillips all are constructed like sturdy safeties and have performed most of their careers nearer to the road of scrimmage.
Mills was essentially the most conventional match for the place since he’s performed it earlier than and was transferring over from taking part in cornerback for 2 seasons. He might see extra taking part in time when video games progress otherwise.
“We lost a key piece of our defense like having a true centerfielder like that, but at the same time, it added a lot of mysteriousness and versatility, because now we have everybody practicing, getting reps back there,” Phillips mentioned Thursday.
The Patriots’ secondary is nearly always in movement in pre-snap. They’ll come out exhibiting a two-high protection shell and wind up in Cover-1. Or the sturdy security and free security will instantly flip on the snap.
And that gave the Patriots offense suits all summer time, in line with tight finish Mike Gesicki.
“You see something and you think it’s a certain coverage and then they disguise it so well and they’ve got guys in different spots,” Gesicki mentioned. “And you’re like, ‘Oh man, I definitely wasn’t thinking this was going to be, you know, (Cover 2) here, but they got into it. I definitely wasn’t anticipating that.’”
The hope is the Patriots’ protection will proceed to make quarterbacks uncomfortable all season.