McCourty embraces different roles in the secondary

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McCourty embraces different roles in the secondary

FOXBORO -- As far as Devin McCourty's position in the secondary goes on game days, there are two things we know:

1. McCourty says he'll play wherever the coaches ask him to.

2. The coaches say they'll play him wherever it is deemed best for the team on a week-to-week basis.

Good to have that all figured out.

But for however uncertain his status may be -- especially considering safety Steve Gregory's possible return this weekend and last week's trade for cornerback Aqib Talib -- there are a few things to take from the situation.

For starters, the secondary has settled down some. McCourty has now played two games at safety this season. He remarked after last week's win over the Rams that he already feels more comfortable on the back end.

It seems he's embracing the move.

"It's cool. It's different. You get used to seeing more of the field," McCourty said of the new vantage. "I think you have more of a responsibility, since you have that viewpoint, to let everyone else know. Because I know when you're playing corner it's not as easy to see the different things that you see on film when you're just on that side of the field. So I try to just communicate and let guys know if I see anything from film study that might happen so they're aware of it."

Communication is key. Unfortunately, consistency in personnel -- something the Patriots haven't had in the secondary -- is key to communication.

Earlier in the week, head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged how roster upheaval can create problems.  

"I think the more consistent we can be as a unit then that builds their communication and better teamwork between the players that are involved.There are always going to be some moving parts, there are moving parts every week because of the team that we play and unfortunately weve had, like every team does, guys go in and out for various reasons, so its not perfect."

During games, much of that effort now falls on McCourty's shoulders. Belichick said Wednesday he appreciates his player's style.

"He's not a guy that has a lot of excess communication; he's concise, he's to the point: 'Here's the call, here's what it is.' It's good. Devin's more like, 'Here's what we need to do. Just get to the point and do it.' He does a good job at it."

As for the player himself, McCourty believes his positional flip-flopping actually provides an advantage.

"I have a good knowledge of, especially for our corners, what they're doing. I think a little bit of that helps when I can say things and communicate with them, to let them know that I'm going to call. My experience at corner helps me out with that aspect, and then just going out there and playing and listening to the guys that've been playing safety when they're trying to help me out."

Guys like Gregory.

Though he's been sidelined with a hip injury since Week 4, the veteran safety has been a valuable resource  in the film room and in meetings for the entire defensive backfield.

McCourty's appreciation for Gregory was returned in kind this week.

"Dev's a great athlete," he said. "He understands football; he's a smart football player. He understands what we're trying to do as a defense and he has the ability to play any position in the secondary, so he's done a great job."

So despite all the moving parts, all the instability, maybe there are fundamental aspects of McCourty's move that will make the whole thing work.

Gregory put it simply enough.

"Dev's a selfless guy. He's a team player. He just wants us to win, and whatever they ask him to do, just like the rest of us, he'll do."

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."