FOXBOROUGH — Devin McCourty made several costly mistakes at cornerback. At safety, the New England Patriots lost both starters to injury.
So they shifted McCourty to safety and, suddenly, the Patriots prospects at both positions look brighter.
A Pro Bowl player as a rookie in 2010, McCourty’s athleticism and knowledge of the defense have made the transition easier to a position he played his first two seasons at Rutgers.
“Dev’s a great athlete,” safety Steve Gregory said. “He’s a smart football player. He understands what we’re trying to do as a defense and he has the ability to play any position in the secondary, so he’s done a great job.”
He wasn’t doing so great at cornerback this year.
Several times he didn’t turn to face the ball when a receiver went up for it. He was called for pass interference penalties — one that led to the winning field goal on the final play of a 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
But Gregory has missed the last four games with an injured hip and the other starting safety, Patrick Chung, has been sidelined two games with a shoulder injury. Both practiced on a limited basis this week and could be ready when the Patriots (5-3) play the Buffalo Bills (3-5) on Sunday.
If they’re not, and maybe even if they are, McCourty would start his third straight game at safety.
He played there a bit last year and said he has no preference — “whatever they tell me to play” — but it’s “cool” to get a wider view of the field playing deeper and in the middle at safety.
“It’s different,” he said. “You get used to seeing more of the field and I think you have more of a responsibility since you have that viewpoint to let everyone else know, because I know when you’re playing corner it’s not as easy to see the different things that you see on film when you’re on just that side of the field. So I try to just communicate and let guys know if I see anything from film study that might happen (and) just send that alert out.”