Patriots

Patriots

Patriots safety Devin McCourty and twin brother Jason McCourty, who plays cornerback for the Titans, spent some time on ESPN's campus in Bristol, Conn. on Thursday, appearing on both First Take and NFL Insiders. 

We wrote yesterday about what Devin had to say after an offseason dominated by Deflategate talk, but here are a few other noteworthy nuggets from his on-air discussions:

On who he sees as the best receiver in the NFL: "I think this is one of the hardest positions to even evaluate. Because first of all, you look at the receiver position and the first thing you want to do is put these freak athletes like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant [at the top]," McCourty said on First Take. "But I started my list with Antonio Brown. We talk about all these guys that are big and talented and fast -- they can do everything. But this little guy led all receivers last year. He did everything, while still punt returning. You can look at everything that a guy brings to the table, but don't disregard production and I thought he was the No. 1 productive receiver last year so I put him there."

The Patriots and Steelers will square off Week 1 in Foxboro so McCourty will have plenty of time to find ways to help slow Brown, who led the league in catches (129) and yards (1,698) last season. McCourty rounded out his top-five receiver list with Detroit's Calvin Johnson (No. 2), Dallas' Dez Bryant (No. 3), Denver's Demariyus Thomas (No. 4) and Atlanta's Julio Jones (No. 5). 

 

"I think Dez Bryant does the Calvin Johnson things, obviously not as tall, but whether it's going down, catching the ball over two guys, going down, breaking three tackles and scoring, I think those two guys are unreal in what they can do to go get the ball, and then once they catch it, trying to score," McCourty said. "I went Demariyus Thomas at No. 4 because his skill set, like the rest of the guys, he's a big, fast, strong guy. But I think one of his advantages is playing with Peyton Manning in that system. He's a big guy, but he still catches the screen passes on the line of scrimmage. You saw him take a lot of those 60, 70 yards."

McCourty will see Bryant and the Cowboys in Week 5, and he'll help defend Thomas when the Broncos host the Patriots in Week 12. McCourty insisted he would've liked to add more receivers to his list, but he was restricted to five. Others he mentioned included Giants wideout Odell Beckham and new Jets target Brandon Marshall. 

"There's so many guys that you can put week in and week out, and I hate not listing them all because I'm gonna have to play against them," McCourty said. "They're gonna see this. . ."

On which receiver was the toughest he had to cover: "I didn't cover any of these guys last year," McCourty said.

"Who was the toughest guy when you were in the middle of the field and had to break left or right?" Jason replied, teasing his brother for having the easier job.

"I did pretty good against Calvin Johnson over the top. I did a good job. The hardest guy I have to cover is Rob Gronkowski. Best tight end in the NFL."

On his favorite to win the AFC: "Actually it's a little bit of a surprise," McCourty joked. "I think the Patriots are gonna win the AFC."

Jason, who chose the Broncos as his favorites, said he may have picked the Patriots if Devin had not bragged about his Super Bowl title throughout the offseason.

"It's a new year, I'm off that," Devin said. "So many guys are back. When you win a Super Bowl, you lose guys. You just have to fill those roles and you have to get better. With Bill Belichick and Tom Brady there, you have the opportunity to always win. Obviously this year, the AFC East is going to be a tough road. Buffalo got better, Miami got better, the Jets got better so it's not gonna be easy, but I think it's hard to pick against the Patriots after what they did last year and the previous couple of years. They're always in the hunt and they're always right there."

On his favorite to win the NFC: "You look at [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers, he's not at that age where you say you're just trying to manage him. He's still getting better. I think that's the scary thing. You bring back [receiver Randall] Cobb so you keep the weapons there for him. And Davonte [Adams], he's going to be a better player. I just think that team is there."

 

On Texans defensive lineman JJ Watt being named the No. 1 player in the NFL Network's Top 100 list: "Bring in the defense. It's about time. Defense wins championships. It's about time we got a defensive player and not a quarterback in the No. 1 spot. The guy scored touchdowns, he got sacks, recovered fumbles, got interceptions, batted the ball down. Clearly to me, he dominated the game from the defensive tackle position. That's hard. I think he deserves that No. 1 spot."

McCourty did not make this year's Top 100, but four of his Patriots teammates from last season did: Brady (No. 3), Gronkowski (No. 10), Darrelle Revis (No. 17) and Julian Edelman (No. 91). 

Even though NFL players vote for their peers to determine the final rankings, McCourty explained, not all players take the voting process very seriously.

"The players vote and all that, but I'm not gonna lie, a lot of players, we just write names in there," McCourty said. "I'll go in and I'll put 20 New England Patriots, and that's what I'll write down. But I do think JJ Watt was the best player."

On New England's new-look secondary: "It is a little different, but in New England we're so used to change," McCourty told Trey Wingo of NFL Insiders. "There's a lot of turnover, and when you win a Super Bowl, you know guys are gonna go other places and do what's best for their careers. We'll be ready to go though."