By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO - Devin McCourty had a 2011 season to forget.
After a brilliant rookie season, McCourty languished last season, allowing 1,074 passing yards, a 62.2 completion percentage and six touchdowns on the 111 throws he was targeted on according to Pro Football Focus.
Early in the year, when the Patriots were playing a lot of press coverage, McCourty seemed to struggle with jams at the line and was consistently in a chase position with receivers where he seemed unable to close separation and make plays on the ball he did in 2010.
While interceptions have a certain amount of good fortune attached to them - right place, right time - the fact he allowed so many explosive plays to be completed on him is something that can't be ignored.
And that wasn't something McCourty did in 2011. He was consistently available to answer for poor performances and tried to soldier through. But the fact the Patriots at times moved him back to safety late in the year must have been in part to compensate for his struggles on the outside.
Thursday at Patriots OTAs, McCourty was asked what he came up with for an answer to why he struggled in 2011.
"I'm not really worrying about the 'why' but just progressing," he explained. "For every player, this is a time of the year where you have an opportunity to work on a vast amount of things."
The Patriots defense seems to be in a transition stage. Bill Belichick acknowledged at the draft that the fact his team was in nickel and dime defense well more than half the time in 2011 meant the team is seeking different personnel from front to back to address that.
While focus is often on the front in defensive schemes - three-man or four-man - the more pertinent personnel deployment seems to be the number of defensive backs and players who can cover at the linebacker level.
That transition will be interesting to see over the next few months. For now, though, it's about fine-tuning techniques, McCourty said.
"We get a chance to come out here and work each day without game-planning and there's no team we're about to play so I'm taking advantage of that time and coming out here and working on my craft."
McCourty injured his shoulder in the second half of last year and he's reportedly trying to get it back to full strength still.
"I'm feeling pretty good," was the extent of his explanation when asked how his shoulder is feeling.
Even though the Patriots were in the Super Bowl just over three months ago, there's precious little mention made of how successful the 2011 season actually was.
"We have to move on," said McCourty, a defensive captain last year. "At this point in time, it's early but everyone's starting in that same spot. We just feel, as a team, if we're worried about last year and the Super Bowl that we'll fall behind and it's a little too early to start falling behind when all we can do is come out here and work and improve so we're just trying to stay focused on that and keep up with the other 31 teams in the league."