Devin McCourty: Developing into a Star

Derek Havens
December 22, 2010 at 01:02pm ET

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New England Patriots rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has made an incredible impact on this 2010 Patriot team. The 2010 first round draft pick has begun to establish himself as one of the NFL’s young rising stars and is on the short list of players receiving consideration for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Rookie Devin McCourty is quickly becoming a star in the Patriots secondary (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

McCourty's spectacular play often goes unnoticed, and some may say rightfully so. After all, the Patriots are ranked 31st in the NFL in pass-defense. Others may say that this young defense is among the best when it comes to making big plays and producing turnovers to limit scoring chances for opposing teams. Their +20 turnover margin, leads the NFL and they have become on of the most opportunistic defenses in the league. With the average age of a Pats defender being only 25.6, the squad is the youngest in the NFL and maturing each week.

McCourty is a big reason for this defense making strides and forcing turnovers. His daily progression and development is evident by his play on the field. The Pats rank second in the NFL in interceptions with 20. It's no coincidence McCourty also ranks second in the NFL in interceptions with six (tied with three other players). He also ranks fifth in the NFL with 20 passes defended. Therefore, by either intercepting a pass or knocking it down, McCourty has disrupted 26 pass attempts that would have otherwise been complete.  Only two players in the NFL have disrupted more this season.

Among rookies, McCourty's six interceptions lead this year's rookie class. This ties him in a tie with Hall of Famer Mike Haynes for the Patriots franchise rookie record.  His 20 passes defended trail only Joe Haden, the rookie cornerback standout in Cleveland.

Above and beyond Devin McCourty’s coverage skills, his open-field tackling ability is nearly unmatched for defensive backs.  Most cornerbacks are unaggressive tacklers who struggle in run support, not so in McCourty's case.  He reacts to receivers like a heat-seeking missile and always makes solid contributions.  He has 67 tackles to show for it, 58 of which are solo. Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung are the only Patriots ranked ahead of McCourty in tackles. His style of play is a huge boost for any defensive system.

McCourty has made enormous strides each week this season. His high football IQ, something Belichick praised him for on draft day, has aided his execution. He has stepped in as a rookie and taken on the team's No. 1 cornerback spot without missing a beat. Almost unprecedented in Belichick’s defense, is the number of repetitions he receives on a weekly basis.

From day one of this NFL season, McCourty has been asked to do both. Not only has Devin answered the call, he has succeeded at a high level for a Super Bowl caliber team.

Given the exceptional play of Lions DT Ndamokung Suh, it's going to be a tight race for Defensive Rookie Of the Year.  Fortunately for McCourty and Patriots fans, the team will be headed deep into January if their level of play continues.

Never the less, Devin McCourty has shown enough throughout his 2010 rookie campaign, that he can be a great player for many years. The NFL draft can be a tedious process for any head coach, including Bill Belichick. In any case, it seems McCourty will be excelling in the Patriots defensive backfield for years to come.