SAFETY DEVIN MCCOURTY
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Q: Mike Pellegrino said there aren’t separate cornerbacks and safeties rooms on the team, there’s just one defensive backs room. Is that different from years’ past?
DM: We’ve always met together, but this year we’ve kind of been – I would say we do less of just meeting corners and safeties. Where in years’ past, we did a lot of meeting separate, and then we would meet together sometimes. This year, it’s just been all together, and I think it’s really helped just everything we do. Whether it’s a safety-check or a corner-check, both sides really know what’s going on. Because of how we’re built as a unit, we have a lot of guys that play corner, but in other packages, I mean they really play linebacker/safety. And then we have safeties that, in other packages, play kind of like a nickel. So, all of the teaching is cross-referenced. I think it’s helped us a lot this year just being able to do different things with different guys, and it’s been kind of a seamless transition when guys have to step into different roles.
Q: Do you feel like the communication between the two groups has been particularly strong this year?
DM: Yeah, I think that’s something we’ve leaned on, but I also think that’s expected. We have a lot of guys now that are older guys; we have a lot of guys that have played together consecutive years now. So, that can’t be a weakness of our defense. That has to continue to be a strength, and it’s something that, like I just said – you asked – meeting together has made it a lot easier. Like, we don’t have to seek each other out at separate times to talk about things. If we have any type of debate or conversation, like what to do in a certain look, we talk about it right there. We just left meetings – we talk about different things right there, and just iron everything out right there and then move on.
Q: Dallas has the top offense in the league by the numbers. Does that sound about right?
DM: Yeah, they’re a really good offense. I think it starts with the quarterback [Dak Prescott]. This’ll probably be one of the better quarterbacks we’ve played this year. I think the more film I watch, you kind of really see how good he is. He’s able to be on one hash, look maybe to that side, see if that route’s open. If that’s not open, he’s able to swing his hips, his whole body, around to the other side and throw a comeback to the wide side of the field with a corner breaking underneath it. So, very accurate, strong arm. We saw one of the Hail Mary’s, about 55 or 60 yards in the air. So, I think you have a guy like Dak Prescott that can really move the ball around, and does a great job of kind of taking care of the ball and reading defenses. And that’s not to mention, you have Randall Cobb and Amari Cooper, [Michael] Gallup, [Jason] Witten’s up in all the all-time records. So, they have a lot of threats out there, and I think he does a great job of you can’t really key on one guy. As good as Amari Cooper is, if you go and just try to key on him, Dak can really spread the ball around and get the ball to a lot of different guys. And I think you saw a lot of that against Detroit, where they were able to spread it around, go to different guys in got-to-have-it moments. So, it’s a game where everybody has to play well. We can’t have just one guy play well. As a group, we all have to play well if we want to have a chance to stop them, obviously starting with Dak, and then with Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott] in the running game.
Q: They’re second in big plays and you’re second in not allowing big plays. When you talk about spreading the ball around, is that one of the reasons why they have so many 20-plus yard passes and 10-plus yard runs?
DM: Dang, big stat guy today? Yeah, like I said, you can’t key on a guy, and then it always comes down to having good players. Last week, you saw a couple balls that were kind of 50-50 balls – Gallup gets a pass interference and he comes down with a great catch down the sidelines. So, plays like that, and then obviously a lot of that is going to come down to tackling, too. You know, if guys make catches, getting them down, and then in the run game with Ezekiel Elliott, trying to get as many guys as possible to him, because he’s a load. Like, you watch on film, you see downhill, fast, too, when he breaks out. So, it’ll be a tough deal for us, just from a defensive standpoint of trying to have to stop everything.
Q: This defense plays aggressive, but still doesn’t allow big plays. Do you discuss not allowing teams to get over-the-top on you during the week?
DM: Yeah, I mean, I think that comes down to football. You know, you can’t give it all in one play, and nothing’s better for an offense. When they can get – whether it’s a 70-yard touchdown, or a 30 or 40-yard play on a drive – I don’t know the statistics, but that usually leads to points, just getting some type of big play like that. We talk about defensively, just try to make teams have long drives, and if they have a long drive – we’ve given up some long drives – good job by them. If they get into the red area, try to make them kick three. But, it’s forcing teams to do that every time you take the field, to always be able to execute for a 10, 12 play drive. It’s not the easiest thing to do. So, I think that’s something that we focus on. No matter how aggressive we are, there’s going to be a guy on our defense that’s supposed to take care of the deep part of the field, and whoever’s role that is, you have to do that.
Q: It seems like Dak’s playing the best football of his career. Is this something you get up for, to face a quarterback like that and the additional challenge that presents?
DM: No, I think you get ready to go all the time. It’s also when you turn on the film, you watch a guy, you realize, like, “Man, this is going to be tough.” This guy’s a good football player, he does everything kind of the right way at the quarterback position, athletic enough to buy time – not really trying to run, but if he has to run to pick up a first down, he can do that. So, just a very dangerous quarterback. And I think you get up because you know if you don’t get up and come out and play well, it’ll be four-or-500 yards in a hurry. So, I think you get up because of that, because you know this guy’s one of the best in the game and you’ve got to bring your A-game.
Q: How do you see Tom Brady as a competitor from the other side of the ball trying to make things as good as possible?
DM: Yeah, but I think it’s everybody. Like, no one’s out here trying to play bad football. I think all of those guys on offense, us on defense and special teams – each week, we’ve kind of left games where there’s stuff we need to improve on. And that next week in practice, you see it. You see everybody out there focused on that. Obviously, Tom’s one of the leaders on offense and on this team, so I think his approach to the game every day, whether it’s going well or not, I think helps us out as a team because it sets a standard, a consistency, a certain level of expectation that comes every day about playing football and about playing good football. So, I think his attitude and his competitiveness, for me, has been the same for 10 years that I’ve been here. So, just to see that – I think as a young guy, as an old guy – when you see him still like that, I think it gives us an edge and it really pushes everyone to try to get to that level. So, I think no matter what, when he’s like that, we all try to be just like him.
Q: Is it refreshing when you play a team every four years, the preparation is almost new, as opposed to teams you play year after year? Do you prefer it when you only see a team just every four years?
DM: No, I like playing teams that we know and you watch the film, you know the personnel. You know, it’s a challenge. You play a team every four years and, like you just said, usually, you play a team four years ago, it’s totally different. That’s just how our league is. So, when that happens, it just puts the pressure on you to watch film and get to know the team as well as possible. Like I said, I’m watching Dak, and like you just said, he’s playing the best football. To me, he’s just playing great football. I don’t know, really, how he’s played in years’ past, other than catching the game on TV. But actually watching the film and seeing him, he’s a great player. That’s the challenge, though, to continue to watch film on him. It’s not about thinking you’re going to know the team well by Thursday and think you know everything you need to know. You just have to keep watching throughout the week, get to know them all the way up until Sunday at 4:00 or 4:30, whenever we play. We’ll just continue to study, continue to prepare.
Q: What kind of challenge do the Cowboys present with Dak, but also with Zeke in the backfield?
DM: They’re one of the best offenses in the league, and when you’re like that, it’s because you can run the football and because you can pass the football. So, for us it always starts up front. Stopping the run and trying to make them one dimensional, and then go from there. But, even when they’re throwing the ball, it’s going to be one of our toughest competitions we’ve had this year. Obviously, one of the best quarterbacks we’ve played, and I think their corps of skill players make it really hard to just focus in on one guy because he spreads the ball around. All the guys can run. You know, you’ve got one of the fastest and athletic guys in the league in Tavon Austin as the fourth receiver, so when he comes in, he’s still very capable of – whether it’s the ball in his hands on a run play or a pass play – of being very dangerous. So, it’s a game where everyone has to play well, and that’s where our plan is and how we have to execute as a defense.