DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN MCCOURTY
October 19, 2017
Q: When you feel the need to strip a ball like Malcolm Butler did against the Jets, how much of that is practice verses the innate sense of needing to make a play?
DM: It's more instinct. I think certain guys have a knack for it. Malcolm did it last year down there against [Robby] Anderson on a play where somebody else had him wrapped up and he was able to punch the ball. So, I think it's more instinct of seeing the ball. Bill [Belichick] always talks to us about on film, when you see a guy who's loose with the ball, it makes defenders think they can get it. On that play, you could see like the ball was kind of out there, and he was able to punch out the ball because Du [Duron Harmon] was already on him. So, we always talk about the second guy in having the opportunity to attack the football, with the first guy kind of focusing on making the tackle. He did a good job of just realizing that and then all of us kind of realize you get down by that goal line, sometimes it doesn't matter if you tackle him if the guy's going to fall in the end zone. So, I thought he did a good job of knowing like, 'This guy's headed toward the pylon. Let me try to swing at the ball.'
Q: How do you balance going for the ball with making a tackle?
DM: Yeah, if you play for the Patriots, you make sure you make the tackle first.
Q: How much of a problem is covering Julio Jones for the secondary?
DM: Yeah, I mean, they do a good job of moving him. He's not just at the X back side, so it puts a lot of stress on the defense. I think overall, everyone has to know where he's at. It's not even just the secondary. The backers have to know, so it puts a ton of stress on you. You have to know where he's at, what they like to run from where he's at, so it's something I think we're fully aware of. Everyone on defense is kind of zoned into knowing where he's at and how we're getting him in all the different calls, but I think the hardest thing is to have so many other guys that are good players that you've got to know where Julio Jones is, but you can't just ignore the rest of those guys on the field. Matt Ryan does a good job of spreading the ball around. It's not just get the ball to Julio Jones. It's throw to the best matchup. It's, 'Where's the coverage at? Let's go opposite.' So, that offense as a whole puts a ton of stress on you.
Q: How impressed were you with Johnson Bademosi's ability to come in on short notice and play as much as he did against the Jets?
DM: Very impressive. I think I said it after the game, Saturday morning he came in and it kind of accelerated from there. I thought he did a great job of, obviously, when we were in meetings and we were together of talking, asking questions. But, I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see. You know, when you're a backup more, you're kind of trying to see everything because you don't know what role you might be thrust upon once you're in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, 'Alright, let me focus in on this.' I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing, and then he still had to do his job on special teams, so he played a good amount of plays Sunday and stepped up big for the defense.
Q: Is it asking too much of a guy like that who's had limited experience on defense to step in and help stop a player like Jones?
DM: No, I mean, if you're on the field, you're going to have to chip in to slow down Julio Jones. All of us are going to have to, so it's not just Bademosi. It's not just Malcolm or [Patrick] Chung or J. Jones [Jonathan Jones]. It's all of us that are on the field. I think that's been the good thing for us through the years defensively is when we have a game plan and we all execute it, it gives us a chance – not just one guy doing his job. It has to be all of us in the secondary kind of knowing what we're doing as a game plan, and that will be key. So, yeah, Bade's going to fall into that of being ready and chipping in.
Q: Is it too simplistic to say that if you double-team Jones, you will be able to slow him down?
DM: Phil [Perry], you're asking game plan now. You're asking game plan. We can't talk about the game plan. If I talk about the game plan, Atlanta finds out what we're doing Thursday, it's going to be even rougher Sunday.
Q: So that's a yes?
DM: I don't know what it is.
Q: When it comes to defending a big receiver, how much does size matter for a defensive back?
DM: I mean, we all wish we were 6-3 and just as athletic, but I think, in this case with a big receiver, the tough thing is that he's big and fast. Usually, with bigger receivers, guys that are smaller, you can out-quick them. You're a little bit faster. You really won't do that against him. It's really just competing. The last time we played them, I thought we played excellent coverage. He made three or four great catches, and that's what it comes down to sometimes. We want guys to have to make great plays, but when you go against guys like that, they're going to make some of those plays and you've got to live with it and line up to keep playing. I think all our guys are competitors. They're going to go out there and compete and try to make it tough and force Atlanta to make a great throw and a great catch. If you've watched enough tape on them, you know that they're very capable of doing that, but the hope is that they won't make enough of those plays to beat you.
Q: How good is Matt Ryan at disguising where he's going to go with the ball?
DM: I think the biggest thing is he's good at knowing what you're doing. So, it's not even always disguising of where he's going, but it's the you're not fooling him and wherever you're weak or light in coverage, it's where he's going. He's in the same category as when we used to play guys like Peyton Manning, Eli [Manning], those guys that you can try to do a bunch of different things, but you can tell their film study is at a high level and he knows exactly what you're trying to do. That makes it tough defensively because every defense has a light spot or a spot that's not the strength of the call. When the quarterback is finding that, 95 percent of the time, he'll put stress on the defense. I think that's what Matt Ryan does.