BOSTON (CBS) – Cornerback Devin McCourty had an amazing rookie season for the New England Patriots, but can he do it again in 2011?
2010 Stats: 82 tackles, 69 solo-13 assist, 7 interceptions
The Patriots were criticized on draft night in 2010 for taking McCourty when they really needed someone to help the pass rush. But after McCourty’s rookie season, no one is complaining about the pick now. The 23-year-old slipped into the starting corner job when Leigh Bodden suffered a rotator cuff injury during training camp and, minus a few bumps in the road early on, looked as though he was a savvy veteran. The Patriots pass defense was among the worst in the NFL, but the young rookie did his part to make it work.
By mid-season it was apparent that, even as a rookie, McCourty was among the best corners in the league. He intercepted Peyton Manning late in the third quarter of the Patriots Week 11 win against the Colts. He had two interceptions Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions, a week after tallying 11 tackles in a win against the Steelers. His stellar play earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl, a spot on the All Pro team and two Rookie of the Year votes. Some guy named Ndamukong Suh got the other 48 votes.
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2011 Outlook: McCourty was as good as they get for a rookie corner and should only get better as he adjusts to the NFL. It will help to have a veteran in Leigh Bodden lining up on the other side of the field. With Bodden missing all of last year, McCourty will likely start the season covering the best receiver opponents have to throw at the Patriots. After a year of experience, it’s scary to think he could be even better.