End better than beginning for McCourty

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End better than beginning for McCourty

LANDOVER, Md. -- You can look at Devin McCourty's performance on Sunday two ways:

1. He made some excellent plays against the Redskins and finally looked, if only a glimmer, like the Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback of 2010.

2. Any positive steps McCourty took are lost, buried under the big picture avalanche of surrendered yardage.

He's trying to hover around No. 1.

"I'm just trying to play," McCourty said after the game. "Trying not to think about the struggles, trying not to go into that and just trying to play and help the team win. That's what my focus is now."

There's that sticky little word: 'Try.' No one doubts McCourty is trying to play football at an elevated level -- at the high standard he set last season -- it's just that it's not happening. Worse, his blunders have been costly.

Rex Grossman connected with Donte Stallworth on Washington's first scoring drive for 51 yards. It was third-and-9; McCourty was in coverage. Grossman was in trouble on the Redskins' next series. Facing third-and-18, he fired short right to Jabar Gaffney. McCourty was there and the pass went incomplete, but he was whistled for pass interference. Back to first-and-10. Washington got a touchdown five plays later.

This is New England's only cornerback who was not a free agent or claimed off waivers.

"I have to credit to my teammates and my coaches just kept telling me to fight and keep playing. Just personally feel like I was letting the team down in the first half. Some bad plays, stupid plays."

As noted, he did break out. In a way.

McCourty grabbed what should have been his first interception of 2011 during the second quarter. But an Andre Carter roughing-the-passer penalty knocked out the pick and 21-yard return. Still, it was a step.

He took another in the third quarter by forcing a Grossman incompletion on second-and-8. A fourth-quarter breakup on third-and-10, with Washington down just seven points, felt like a leap. McCourty was amped. He jumped up, flexed, bumped his teammates.

For weeks he's felt 'close'. This time, he was there.

"It was just the emotion of the game and being able to make a play, help the team," he said. "Just going out there and playing. Forgetting what happened and just getting in the game and having some fun."

The relief he felt was a measure of how far he's fallen. Pass break-ups? That's a cornerback's bread and butter not reason to celebrate. That's the kind of season it's been: a battle for consistency. The separated shoulder suffered a month ago doesn't help. McCourty is clearly still not himself. Whether it's being right there with Stallworth on that 51-yard catch but not making a play on the ball, or struggling to get dressed after the game, limited mobility is an issue.

It's just not the only issue. McCourty knows that and remains accountable.

"The secondary as a whole has grown together. I think now is the strongest part of all of us together, having each others back. Today was a prime example: me making some bad plays early and all those guys sticking behind me and saying 'Let's go! Let's go!' As a whole, we believe in each other and we believe in this defense."

Is Sunday's flash enough to support that belief, to give it legs for the playoffs? McCourty still has some time. Three weeks.

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.