PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
Q: Last week, Dont'a Hightower missed a couple days of practice and Rob Gronkowski missed today. Is this the time of the year where there's guys that play a lot of minutes that are going to miss days of practice because of nicks and you have to fill in the gaps there?
DM: Yes, that's how it goes like every year. I wish you could come up here and say everyone will stay healthy and you'll have full attendance every day at practice, but that's just how it goes in this league. Guys are fighting through things, sometimes throughout the week, and they're able to get out there at the end of the week. Like last week, High [Dont'a Hightower] battled to get out there, couldn't get out there. But, I think it's something that we understand as a team and everyone's ready to go in case this happens, that happens. I think that's something that kind of comes up week in and week out. You don't know who it'll be, but I think everyone understands you've got to stay ready to go.
Q: Is it more Aaron Rodgers or his receivers you have to worry about?
DM: It's all that. Playing Aaron is like playing Tom [Brady]. You've got to try to make it tough. There's going to be times you're going to play perfect and it's going to be a first down or it's going to be a tough catch on third. It's just some balls you can't get to. We see it every day in practice and it's going to be the same - and then you can add in his mobility. Not to knock Tom, who's closing in on one thousand yards, but Aaron might move a little bit better than him. I think it's going to be all of that and that's not to take away from any of those guys out there - Jimmy Graham, [Davante] Adams, [Equanimeous St.] Brown, all of those guys. And, I think the biggest thing you understand, it's like playing offense, anyone who's on the field is a target. Like they could be the primary guy on any route combination, any play - third down, first down, red area, fourth-and-4. You don't know who he's going to go to. He's going to go to who he thinks is the best matchup. Everyone has to play well Sunday night.
Q: Is one of the things you take away from the Rams game how difficult Davante Adams is to single-cover?
DM: Yes, you can look at the whole season though. Davante Adams is a great receiver. We got to see it first-hand his rookie year when we went down to Green Bay and had to play against him. He was really tough then. You just add the years since 2014 and his continued progress, improving. He's a handful. I think you've seen him against the top corners on every team and they don't care. They'll go to him, they'll go to him in key moments, they go to him down the field, intermediate. So, he's a guy that everyone on defense has to be aware of, not just the guy covering him.
Q: Is one of the other tough things about the Packers how they'll throw out of formations that you typically see run plays out of?
DM: Yes, because it's Aaron [Rodgers]. Like, he sees it - you go and you try to just play pass, they'll do a draw play, and that's what you saw at the end of the Rams game. He hit a draw play and [Aaron] Jones is gone, now he's one-on-one with the safety, makes him miss, 30-yard touchdown. It's just not as easy as saying, 'It's a really good offense and they can pass the ball really well, so we'll just play pass.' Like, you do that and we'll give up 200 yards rushing easily because Rodgers is reading what we're in, he knows what coverage we're in, he knows what we're trying to disguise. We've got to make it tough, but you've got to also understand we've got to do things really well Sunday to go out there and play well and get a win.
Q: Is it a cloak-and-dagger thing where you can't really disguise it? Or is it that, even if he knows what you're in, you just have to play it the best you possibly can play it?
DM: It's a mix of that. There's not going to be many times we do something and it's going to be like, 'Wow, he's never seen it,' and we get a free play. If it happens, we'll take it, definitely. But no matter what we disguise, it'll come down to how well we play in our zones, how well we play man-to-man against a guy, how well we play blocks to stop the run. That is what the game's going to be. You're not going to just trick Aaron Rodgers 80 percent of the time. It's just not going to happen.
Q: At the midway point of the season, are you happy with where this team is at?
DM: I honestly don't even think about it. We have like a board that shows the next four opponents. As it gets to that fourth opponent, I don't even know who's next a lot of times. I think we're just trying to stick at it, trying to keep getting better, keep competing. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season where I would want to be midway through the season, I want to be undefeated. I think that's everybody - you want to win every game. But, I think we have things that we still need to work on and improve. But, there's some things we do well and we have to keep doing those, and hopefully it all comes together as we keep progressing and playing games.
Q: When you guys have played Chicago with Matt Nagy, the Eagles with Doug Pederson and the Chiefs with Andy Reid, you can think see similarities between the offenses. With Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, is there another offensive concept or something that they're similar to, or is it just kind of Aaron Rodgers' offense?
DM: I think it's all from that same tree. I think we get first-class tradition of the NFL through Bill [Belichick] on morning meetings where it's all coming from a single or two or three trees. But, I think each time you get a branch that comes off it, you get a little bit different. So, there's definitely some things that show up because of the West Coast offense kind of, with McCarthy and being there with all of those guys, but it's just different. The Packers have their own offense. Like you just said, you add in Aaron Rodgers a little bit different than playing [Patrick] Mahomes or [Mitchell] Trubisky, younger guys. You get a veteran guy who's been at it a long time. But, some of the concepts are similar. But, I would say throughout the season, there's a lot of common concepts through almost every team we play just because football is football and what it was 50, 60, 70 years ago, it all changes a little bit, but the main concepts kind of stay the same.
Q: What does Trey Flowers bring to the defense?
DM: Really good player. I think it's very noticeable when he's not out there for us. I think his energy - he's one of the guys that is a technician in everything he does, whether that's in the run game, in the pass game. He's versatile in that he can play inside for us, he can play outside, he can stand up on the edge and cover at times. He's just one of those guys that I think when he's not in our defense, we really lose a lot. He's a great player and he's quietly one of our best leaders because he does everything by example.
Q: Have you seen Aaron Rodgers affected at all by that knee in terms of his scrambling ability?
DM: No, I just think he's smart. If he has to run, he'll run. You saw him against Detroit. They go empty, he drops back, hits his back foot and runs a quarterback draw. But, he sees the defense - it's wide open, so he takes it. I think at times when he needs to run, he'll run. But I think throughout his whole career, he's never been a guy that wants to drop back and just run anyway. But, if he has to, I think you watch him, he still can make all the plays with his legs.
Q: Is there another quarterback that forces you to cover as long as he does with the ability to keep plays alive? Ben Roethlisberger is a guy that has mobility and he looks to throw first before he runs.
DM: Yes, there were times like that, I think, with him. Even earlier this season, playing Kansas City with [Patrick] Mahomes, his ability to buy time. That's come up, especially for me in my ninth year, we've played guys - like when I played Ben [Roethlisberger] my rookie year, it felt like a track meet because of how much he would hold the ball, and then it was just nothing but fast guys running around out there. I think this is a little bit of that. If Aaron doesn't throw it when he hits his back foot and get it out there, all of these guys instantly get into something else that you can tell they've practiced - like, 'Hey, it's scramble time,' and everyone's going somewhere else on the field that they didn't originally start with. That's something we talked about this week, being able to plaster. No matter how good our rush is, there's going to be plays in the game that Aaron Rodgers is going to buy time and try to get the ball down the field. That's the times that we need to plaster and be on guys no matter if we're in man or zone.
Q: Wasn't that a big part of that 2014 game against the Packers too? I felt like you were plastering the whole game in part because of your own approach up front.
DM: Yes, because it's one of those things that you rush him but you also have to rush smart. He's a guy, like if all four guys run up the field, he'll just move up in the pocket. He'll either have a great lane to throw a ball - which he's already too accurate, that's the last thing we want to give him - and then if you are in good coverage, he'll buy time or he'll run. I think it's easier from the outside looking in. You say, 'Just rush him better and get to him,' but there has to be a plan. You have to execute it and make it hard for him because it all works together. No matter how well we cover, if we don't rush well, it won't matter. If these guys are getting there in two seconds but we're too deep or we're not competitive, that won't matter either.
Q: Does that game have relevance at all in your preparations?
DM: A little bit. I think they might do some things, but it was a long time ago. We watched that film now, guys are looking like, 'Oh man, you were still playing back then?' It's not many guys that were on our defense, but I think concepts and X's and O's, that's always a part of it. Because I'm sure there's still some things that we do that we probably did in that game. There's still some things they do. Those could come back up, but we'll have to see.
Q: The Patriots didn't make any moves at the trade deadline. Is there a sense of relief at all in the locker room that you know now this is the team you'll have for the rest of the season?
DM: I don't know. I don't know honestly. Especially last week with us having a Monday night game, I don't know how much guys think about it. I'm sure they do, but I don't know if we're all in here like, 'Who's going to be here? Who's not going to be here?' Like, when we finished our game Monday night, I think a lot of guys were like, 'Dang, we've got to move on fast.' We have a tough game coming in here Sunday night and we only have one day off, where it's a day off, but it's a day where we've got to now catch up on Green Bay. They had a day ahead of us. It could be a little bit of a mixed bag, but I think guys are locked in. I think guys are very professional. They know if they're on a roster, their job is to go out there and execute whatever they're asked to do the next weekend. If you don't do that, you don't have to worry about being traded because you won't have a job. So, I think guys kind of focus on that.
Q: How do you feel like this team's conditioning level is right now and how much does it stress your conditioning when you go against a quarterback who can extend plays the way Aaron Rodgers can?
DM: The conditioning level's more of a Moses Cabrera question. But, I think we're in decent shape. I think at this point in the season, we've seen some teams where we've had to gut it out and be out there 80-something plays. I think Green Bay's probably averaging around like 75 plays. We're fully aware of what the game could turn into, but I always say I don't care how much you run and think you're in condition. It comes down to being able to execute against a good team that has a good quarterback that even when you're running around and everybody's - he's going to throw the ball on the money. That is the hard part of going back and lining up and playing. I think we're in good mental and physical condition to go do that. We've just got to do it Sunday.
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