For as much as things changed this offseason for the Patriots, Devin McCourty is one that certainly hasn't. The team quickly re-signed McCourty this offseason, sending a message that the leadership and experience on the back end of the defense would not be lost.
Since arriving in 2010, McCourty was one of the first new foundational players that the team uncovered as the original dynasty defense aged out of the league. The Patriots pass defense was pretty grim in those years, and McCourty was one of the few bright spots.
When he moved full-time to safety in 2013, the stage was set for McCourty to lead a secondary that would be heavily based on matchups and playing man-to-man defense. That shift led them to three more Super Bowl titles, led by McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon and their versatile coverage.
Now, only McCourty remains, with new faces like Adrian Phillips and rookie Kyle Dugger, along with second-year Patriot Terrence Brooks, looking to replicate what made the previous trio so successful.
How does McCourty think the defense will do replacing a number of experienced players?
"I guess we'll see on Sunday," said McCourty. "That is life and football, whether it's free agency, whether it's trades, release. Each year you get a new team and this year you had opt outs. We've been preparing, guys are gone in roles and are replaced by someone else, the game doesn't stop. It will be up to us on Sunday to see what it looks like."
The team won't be the only thing that looks different on Sunday, as the stands will be devoid of fans. McCourty said it was going to be weird.
"It's different because I feel like when we go into games, especially here in New England, we talk about everything that is possible to prepare for," described McCourty.
"We go over so much but we can't prepare for what it will be like there without fans. We prepare all the time, we have music blasting preparing for loud stadiums and now we're going into kind of the unknown with no fans, with no one screaming, no support in there for either team other than the sidelines. So it will be important for us to bring our own energy kind of like what we talk about going on the road."
It's been a long journey to the start of the 2020 season and McCourty has embraced the time being back together as a team and that has eased the process.
"I feel like just having the guys, being a team, doing everything one day at a time and a number of guys that said it's kind of weird to think there's gonna be a football game tonight. We're gonna go home and see the Chiefs and Texans are going to be playing. It all feels like it just happened so fast."
Newton ready to go
All eyes will be on Cam Newton this Sunday as he takes over as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. The nine-year veteran was enjoying being back in the rhythm of game week.
"Excitement level is on 1,000," said Newton. "I'm excited, I'm happy just to get back into the rhythm of game with the preparation. The little nuggets that you can often forget."
After an injury forced an early end to his 2018 season, Newton played just two games in 2019.
"You have to remember, I've been away from football really for a full year," said Newton. "I haven't really had this whole process for a long time. Now, being around, taking notes, watching film, finding out about different players each and every day and then excited about the game plan and more excited about just trying to get familiar with the newness of the play callers and even the players."
The confident Newton felt ready though admitted that the Patriots complex offense would be an ongoing process. With a specific gameplan to tackle, the focus should narrow for the new QB as they prepare to attack the Dolphins defense.
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots were in shorts and shells for practice on Thursday as preparations continued for the Dolphins. Offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste was absent for the second day in a row. On the injury report, Stephon Gilmore (hamstring) and Dalton Keene (neck) were new additions, while Chase Winovich was upgraded to full participation.
Cajuste was later moved to Injured Reserve per a report from Mike Reiss. He'll miss at least the first three weeks of the season.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Yodny Cajuste - Knee
LB Cassh Maluia - Knee
WR Julian Edelman - Knee
WR Gunner Olszewski - Foot
TE Dalton Keene - Neck
CB Stephon Gilmore - Hamstring
DL Chase Winovich - Shoulder
WebEx Quotes of Note
Devin McCourty on his brother Jason being elected captain:
"I don't think there's been a time that we've both been captains, maybe pop warner but I don't think so. I don't know if I've ever been a captain until senior year in college. It's been pretty cool throughout our career, in high school and college, I feel like a different times we've been seen as leaders. He's been a captain before in this league with Tennessee, at Rutgers he was a captain my redshirt junior year, then after he left I was a captain in the next year. But to do it together and do it here in New England for me has been really cool."
Terrence Brooks on what he likes about being a Patriot:
"Coming here and seeing how many people just love football and want to help you get better, it's awesome. It got me to the point where I just love coming to work and it just made me better overall."
Cam Newton on Julian Edelman:
"One thing about Julz, Highway 11, he's a grinder. He's one of those guys, pretty much every team has them, doesn't say much but when he speaks everybody listens. He has everybody's attention at all times. He spoke to the team and let everybody know the point of emphasis to play with a sense of urgency. He's not doing this for accolades, for validation from people, it doesn't matter. He's not doing this for people's fantasy league, he's doing this because he's a competitor and every day he wakes up, he has this invisible chip on his shoulder that he views as the size of an iceberg."