McCourty: We have to attack on defense

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McCourty: We have to attack on defense

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty's second NFL season didn't go as planned.

The plan was for him to duplicate his rookie season, in which he had seven interceptions. But that wasn't the case in 2011-12. McCourty finished his sophomore campaign with only two picks. He was even moved from cornerback to the safety position.

Now, he's back at corner, for training camp at least.

"I'm just playing," said McCourty following Monday's practice. "When you play in New England, you've got to be ready for anything. We've had wide receivers on defense, we've had everything. Just going out there and getting better at wherever you're at that day and working on those things, is kind of my key and my goal this season. No matter where coach Bill Belichick decides to play me, I want to be ready to go."

McCourty wouldn't go too in-depth about what he needs to improve on in his third NFL season, but he knows it'll have to be better than his second year, for both him and the rest of the secondary.

"Just get better," he said. "I don't think it's something that I can come out and become a whole new person. I've just got to get better and go out and play well.

"I still feel like it's a progress. I have to keep working and keep getting better. I think myself, and as a whole, we've made some plays that we should make out there. And then, we've corrected some things, and there's still some things that we need to do better. I think for right now, we just have to focus in on those things."

When talking about improvement in the Patriots' secondary, McCourty is focused on giving his defense a certain attitude adjustment.

"We're just trying to be aggressive and be competitive on everything out there," said McCourty. "From the front, all the way throughout the secondary, guys are trying to just develop an attitude. Defense has a lot to do with attitude and how you approach the game. So, we're trying to keep an attitude, and trying to do it day in and day out.

"It's an attitude that we've got to always have as defensive players. We've got to be attackers. There's great offenses in this league. We've got to want to hit people in the mouth, and go out there and play hard."

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.