Patriots

McCourty: Opener is all about dealing with the ‘unknown’

McCourty: Opener is all about dealing with the ‘unknown’

FOXBORO -- Former Patriots coach Bill Parcells once said, “When you don’t know what you don’t know it’s a lot different than when you do know what you don’t know.”

Ya know?

Not every Patriot player knows what he doesn’t know. But Devin McCourty does. The Patriots ninth-year safety said on Monday’s Quick Slants that this Sunday’s game against the Texans is all about “the unknown.”

“You just don’t know,” said McCourty, who’s co-hosting the show on Mondays this year along with his twin brother Jason. “Everyone is kind of vanilla in the preseason. You might see some things (to indicate a plan) so you try to watch that. You try to watch last season. We’ll definitely watch our Week 3 game against them [last year] but it’s still . . . there’s so much time to prepare and do different things that we can’t know everything.”

Even though the Patriots didn’t hold joint practices this season for the first time in several seasons, Devin McCourty said playing the Eagles and Panthers in the preseason were very good prep.   

“Defensively as a whole, I think we’re in a good spot,” said Devin. “We’ve kind of hit a good groove. We had our ups and downs in the preseason but I think you kind of want that. You want to struggle a little bit and see some things you need to improve on. 

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“Playing Philly (in Week 2 of the preseason), which is a spread [offense] and [quarterback] Nick Foles, a guy who can stand in the pocket and throw the ball, then going to Carolina the next week, a team that will come out there and go two-back, run the ball with a very good quarterback [Cam Newton] who can make plays with his legs too, so I thought that was a good introduction going into the season, especially Week 1 going against [Deshaun] Watson.”

Jason McCourty, who played a lot of safety in the final two games of the preseason, talked about his continued transition to that spot after 10 years as a top-tier NFL corner. 

“I’m a slash, he said. “I can do a little bit of both (playing safety or corner). I’m an emergency kind of guy whichever way you need me to go. I wouldn’t say [safety is] difficult, just different. 

“At corner, you’re out there on that island, you’re sometimes going against the best player on the other’s team on each and every down. Moving back to safety, from that standpoint you can relax a little bit in terms of having that 1-on-1, in-your-face matchup every play but it’s a lot more responsibility in terms of making sure guys are going with their coverage and all the angles are different when it comes to coming out of your breaks and determining where the quarterback is going to launch the ball.” 

How much time Jason McCourty gets -- and where -- will be interesting to watch as the season develops. 

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Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Why in God’s name do I keep reading and hearing “Cam Newton” and “Patriots” in the same sentence?  

Or Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton or any other backsliding veteran on the free-agent quarterback market?

Are people insane? Were they slumbering for the past 19 years? Or just a little forgetful?

The lead mule pulling their wagon for the past 20 years was a sixth-round pick. The only guy that filled in for the aforementioned sixth-rounder over an extended period was a seventh-round pick. The guy who was supposed to succeed the sixth-rounder was a second-rounder from a Div. II school.

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Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo were all overlooked, undervalued and brought into the Patriots laboratory where they turned into either good, really good or legendary quarterbacks. The Patriots brew their own quarterbacks, thank you very much.

And with a one-year hitch in salary cap jail hanging over them, they are not going to be in the market for someone looking to make a seven or eight-figure salary who just flunked out of a lesser team’s program.

The Patriots make their own brew, thank you very much.

Bill Belichick has the helmeted heads of so many first-rounders and first-overall picks mounted on his wall that suggesting he’d be in the market for a live one makes no sense.

During Tom Brady’s long goodbye, I was told by team sources the Patriots weren’t going to be chasing a veteran “name.” And their actions since have signaled that.

They are going with their fairly-promising fourth-rounder, Jarrett Stidham, and they have Brian Hoyer (undrafted free agent who came into the league with the Patriots in 2009) to take the reins if the Coronavirus-marred offseason means Stidham’s not ready.

And, thanks to our Quarantine Question of the Day posed Monday morning on Twitter, it’s clear most Patriots fans think that’s the right approach.

Of the 5,148 votes cast in six hours, 64.6 percent of respondents chose “Ride with Stidham/Hoyer” as the preferred Patriots approach for 2020.

Meanwhile, 12.2 percent felt that bringing in a rookie to compete with Stidham was the move to make. I suggested either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love in the poll. Others suggested different options to battle Stidham as Brady’s successor.

I jokingly included an option to trade with the Bucs for Brady. A significant portion (17.4 percent) of the populace thought that was a capital idea (even though Brady has a no-trade clause).

There was a suggestion I didn’t hate -- grabbing Niners backup Nick Mullens to come in and push Stidham.

The least popular option was recycling someone like Newton. That option drew just 5.8 percent of the vote.

And one respondent had a hard time making his selection at all.

It happens. We’ll be back later in the week with more QUARANTINE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY!!!!

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater is the latest New England Patriots player to give a positive review of young quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after not getting many regular season reps as a rookie, he's now the leading candidate to replace Tom Brady after the six-time Super Bowl champion left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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Taking over for the greatest quarterback in NFL history will be an enormous challenge for Stidham (or whoever wins the starting job for Week 1), but Slater is optimistic about the 23-year-old's talent and mental makeup.

"He's a great kid, and I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? He’s just a great kid to be around," Slater said Monday during a media conference call. "He brings a lot of positive energy, he’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he’ll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.

"I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we’ll just take this thing one day at a time."

Slater isn't the only Patriots player who's given a positive review of Stidham of late. Veteran safety Devin McCourty praised Stidham's poise and maturity (among other qualities) during a recent episode of his "Double Coverage" podcast and on a media conference call last week.

Stidham showed flashes of his exciting potential during last year's training camp and preseason, and now he should get the opportunity to prove he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though this will be a brand new and difficult challenge for him, he does have some good experience to help him. Stidham played against SEC competition for two years as Auburn's starting quarterback before spending all of 2019 learning from Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots fans will love Slater's mindset on the team's 2020 goals