McCourty's position a balancing act for Patriots

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McCourty's position a balancing act for Patriots

Maybe it was injuries to Pat Chung and Steve Gregory that forced Devin McCourty to play safety this season. But whatever the reason, McCourty appears more competent in the back-end of the secondary, and with every game he plays, it seems to make more sense to leave him there.

New England's acquisition of veteran cornerback Aqib Talib last week only adds to the idea.

But Bill Belichick won't show his hand just yet. When asked on his weekly conference call whether or not McCourty will become a more permanent fixture at safety, the coach danced around specifics.

"I think wed like to try to be consistent with whatever it is we do," Belichick said. "But at the same time we have to deal with the upcoming opponent that we have, and what we feel like is the best matchup for that particular game to try to win that game. Sometimes those two forces are aligned and sometimes maybe they don't.

"Ultimately our goal is to win this game. Whatever we need to do with any of our players to help us win this game, if its within our means and something we feel like we can execute and get done, then we would most likely do it. Well have to see how all that plays out with this game and the Bills. Utilization of our personnel will be what we feel like is the best opportunity to win the game."

Does that mean a perfect world would grant more consistency in McCourty's case? If the coaches had their way, would they have avoided flip-flopping him from cornerback to safety last year, back to cornerback at the start of this year, and then back to safety again?

Not necessarily.

"Hes a pretty flexible kid, both physically and mentally," Belichick said. "I think he can handle the movement but 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."

Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia elaborated on position versatility. He exemplified sometimes linebacker-sometimes defensive end Rob Ninkovich as another player whose spot on game day depends more on the moment than his roster listing.

"I think a guy like Devin, similar to players like Rob Ninkovich, and really all of our guys on defense, are multiple role players for us. Whatever the role is that week where they can help us the most, thats what were going to try to do with that particular player," Patricia said.

"I dont think we try to say that this is their one thing that he can do. Obviously they are guys who have been good players for us and have been in the system and can handle multiple jobs. Were going to try to keep that a possibility for them at all times."

The key, according to both coaches, is finding the right balance between maintaining stability and satisfying the whims of a fluctuating schedule.

"For us," Patricia said, "everything is week by week as far as thats concerned and we will try to just approach each week in the best manner that we can for each individual player and then obviously as a scheme and as a defense and as a team in general."

What that means for McCourty, at least for those watching from the outside, may best be realized on Sundays.

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.