Pro Football Focus' highest-graded CB in NFL plays for Patriots

Pro Football Focus' highest-graded CB in NFL plays for Patriots

The New England Patriots have the NFL's most talented and deepest secondary, and that includes the highest-graded cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty has earned the top spot with an 88.4/100 grade from PFF through the first five weeks of the season.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 50 percent of their passes targeting McCourty, and he also hasn't given up a touchdown. The veteran cornerback played very well in Sunday's Week 5 victory over the Washington Redskins, where he tallied his first interception of the season.

The Patriots paid a very small price to get McCourty from the Cleveland Browns before the 2018 season. It's quickly becoming one of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's best roster moves from the last five to 10 years:

McCourty isn't the only highly graded Patriots cornerback. Here are PFF's top graded CBs entering Week 6:

1. Jason McCourty, NE
2. K'Waun Williams, SF
3. Quinton Dunbar, WSH
4. Jonathan Jones, NE
5. Brian Poole, NJ

McCourty and Jones have played integral roles in the Patriots defense leading the league in passing yards allowed per game, total passing touchdowns allowed and interceptions. New England's defense also has given up the fewest points per game of any team.

There are many impressive facets of this Patriots defense, but the secondary has been its most dominant unit through five games.

Watch Bill Belichick's great film breakdown of Pats' top Week 5 plays>>>

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Unwavering approach leads to big day for Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry

Unwavering approach leads to big day for Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry

CINCINNATI — There was no visible hesitation before snaps. There was no uncertainty after snaps. And there were snaps. Lots of 'em. 

N'Keal Harry saw 40 plays in his team's 34-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday, dwarfing the two snaps he saw one week prior in a loss to the Chiefs. He recorded two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown to go along with two carries for 22 yards. But looking as comfortable as he did, the numbers accompanying his name in the box score belied his performance. 

"Kind of getting the groove a little bit," Harry said after. "Starting to get more confident out there game by game, play by play."

In previous games, there were moments when Harry looked like a rookie. He hesitated breaking huddles and doubled back to Tom Brady for specific instructions. He hesitated at the line of scrimmage against the Chiefs last week when he was put in motion. On scramble-drill plays in Philadelphia last month, he looked unsure of where he was supposed to be. 

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On Sunday he played fast. And he did so as the Patriots used him in a variety of alignments. Before seeing the Bengals, over 80 percent of Harry's snaps came aligned out wide. About the same number of plays came with Harry aligned to the left of Patriots formations. He'd never taken a hand-off. He'd been put in motion exactly once.

On Sunday, he lined up in the slot. He lined up out wide. He lined up on the line of scrimmage and off. He took two end-around missile-motion handoffs. He motioned to sell fakes on handoffs up the middle. He ran go-routes outside the numbers and corner routes from inside. His touchdown reception came on a scramble-drill play where he had to understand the timing of the play was off, turn around, and sprint along the back end line to make himself available.

It looked like a trust-builder. 

"On those type of plays, you just have to find a way to get open," Harry said. "Whatever it takes. Glad I could do that. Thank God I could do that."

"He's fighting," Brady said. "He's been working hard for weeks to learn. He's a very hard-working guy. It's fun to see him make those plays."

Harry's best play might've actually been one that didn't count. It came during a third-and-three situation, when he cruised up the sideline and made a leaping grab up and over a defender, laying out for a 33-yard gain. It was erased after a false start penalty called on Julian Edelman. 

Maybe it was that play that gave him a shot of confidence. Or maybe it was his near-touchdown last week. Or maybe it was simply the regular day-to-day work he put in back in Foxboro leading up to the game — with coaches Joe Judge and Troy Brown, out at practice, maybe some work in the "virtual room" — that allowed him to hit another gear in his fifth game as a pro.

"I take the same approach every day," Harry said. "I really take pride in being a hard worker and being a workhorse. I just take that approach and just seize the day every day I can."

Harry's teammates saw a different player on the field Sunday, too. Edelman said Harry is "coming around, making some plays, playing faster."

"Knowing what to do," Edelman explained, is what improves game speed. "Being confident with going into a test. Knowing all the little things so you can let your athleticism come in and play. I would say that's playing fast."

At this point, the Patriots can ill afford to get less from their rookie. He's no longer a luxury item fresh off the injured reserve list that had him miss the first half of his first season. 

Edelman (41 snaps) is hurt, and he looked it in Cincinnati, catching just two passes for nine yards. Mohamed Sanu (56 snaps, more than any Patriots receiver) simply hasn't produced. He's dealt with an ankle injury, but playing a full-time workload against the Bengals yielded only two catches for 13 yards on eight targets. With two of his veteran targets having down days, Brady finished with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-29 passing.

The Patriots needed Harry. Harry needed a game to get on track after he was all but benched a week ago. This felt like the one.

"It was good just getting out there, just starting to get my groove back out there," Harry said. "Felt good."

Curran's Best & Worst from Patriots' Week 15 win>>>>>

Videographer in Patriots-Bengals incident releases official statement

Videographer in Patriots-Bengals incident releases official statement

On Sunday, video footage was released of the Kraft Sports and Entertainment production crew filming the Cincinnati Bengals sideline. Later on in the day, the videographer at the center of the controversy released his side of the story.

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David Mondillo, a longtime producer for Kraft Sports and Entertainment, came out with an official statement in which he denied any involvement with football operations.

Here's the full statement:

On December 8th I was doing what I have done for more than 18 years - working to produce high quality content that tells the unique, behind-the-scenes stories of people, players and the organization. It never occurred to me that my actions and the actions of my crew would be misconstrued.

Our department was charged with completing four Do Your Job segments before the end of the year. One of the segments was to follow a pro scout throughout his week to show the audience what his job entails.

Before the shoot began, I obtained permission and received credentials and a parking pass for Sunday’s game.

With permission in hand, we started taping on December 6th – following the scout’s travel through the weekend to Cleveland and obtained footage of him working in his hotel room and interviewed him about his job. The final element needed to complete the story was to shoot from the press box at Progressive Field to show the audience what his responsibilities are on game day.

We went directly to the press box and set up our camera to get the footage we needed. We interviewed and shot the Patriots scout sitting in a chair watching the action and panned back and forth from him to what he was seeing on the sidelines. We also took footage of the field as the intent was to show what he was looking at when he looked through his binoculars watching the game.

At that point, I went to the restroom and when I came back, my cameraman was told to stop shooting by someone from the NFL and he was joined by two others from the Bengals organization and an additional NFL security person. We stopped shooting immediately when asked to do so and cooperated fully. We had a detailed exchange about who we were and why we were there and what they wanted us to do. I gave the Sony SXS card to NFL security and we complied with their request, packed up and went home. I had no intention to provide footage to football operations, I did not provide any footage, and I was never asked to do so.

Mondillo reportedly has been suspended by the Patriots as a result of last week's actions.

The allegations of filming the Bengals sideline remain under investigation by the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell says the Patriots' prior history of illegal videotaping could play a factor in the league's decision.

The Patriots defeated the Bengals on Sunday, 34-13.

Perry: Is trust between Harry and Brady developing just in time?>>>