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Patriots Notebook

McCourty isn’t just hanging on the corner

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / January 3, 2012
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It remains to be seen whether cornerback Devin McCourty’s switch to safety Sunday was a one-time experiment or a sign of things to come.

McCourty said he was asked about taking some snaps at safety in the days before the regular-season finale and was willing to give it a shot.

“I’m just trying to be a defensive back,’’ said McCourty, who is in his second season. “Whatever the team needs. I’m just trying to make plays on the opportunity, wherever I’m at.’’

McCourty said he’s played safety, noting that most defensive backs have played all over the secondary, either in high school, college - or, in McCourty’s case, in the NFL.

Coach Bill Belichick has lauded McCourty’s ability to break down film, and knowing not just his responsibilities but also those of the other players on the field.

Belichick was asked yesterday in a conference call - players had the day off but return to Gillette Stadium today - what led to adding safety to McCourty’s defensive responsibilities.

“I think he has physical ability, I think he has certainly the mental makeup, making adjustments, understanding what the concepts are, making smart decisions back there, reading, recognizing all those things,’’ Belichick said.

Jaguars to talk with O’Brien?

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s name continues to come up as NFL and college teams search for head coaches.

Jacksonville requested and received permission to speak with O’Brien about its head coaching vacancy according to a tweet last night by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Schefter wrote O’Brien remains “squarely on Penn St’s radar’’, which contradicted an earlier report from CBS’s Charley Casserly.

Casserly said in the afternoon that O’Brien “won’t be going to Penn State,’’ adding that San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been interviewed by the Nittany Lions, and the school would also take another shot at Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.

Petersen has previously declined to interview for the job.

Vollmer day to day

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer hasn’t played since Nov. 27 in Philadelphia and was spotted in the locker room Dec. 20 still on crutches, but he hasn’t been placed on injured reserve.

Without specifically addressing Vollmer’s status, Belichick said yesterday “if a player isn’t placed on injured reserve, then there’s an expectation that he would have a chance to play at some point the remainder of the year. We’ll take it day by day like we always do.’’

For the record

Here’s how the Patriots stacked up in several major statistical categories:

Offense Total offense: 2d, 428 yards per game; rushing: 20th, 110.2 ypg; passing: 2d, 317.8 ypg.

First downs per game: 2d, 24.9.

Third-down efficiency: 5th, 45.9 percent.

Points per game: 3d, 32.1.

Red-zone offense: 2d, 65.3 percent touchdown rate (47 TDs in 72 opportunities).

Defense Total defense: 31st, 411.1 yards per game; rushing: 17th, 117.1 ypg; passing: 31st, 293.9 ypg.

First downs allowed per game: 32d, 23.1.

Third-down defense: 28th, 43.1 percent.

Points per game: 15th, 21.4.

Red-zone defense: T-21st, 55.7 percent touchdown rate (34 TDs allowed in 61 opportunities).

Points per game differential: 3d, plus-10.7.

Takeaway/giveaway: 3d, plus-17 (34 takeaways, 17 giveaways).

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