Stew Milne//USA Today Sports

Sunday 7: What’s going on with Jason McCourty, is he in danger of being cut?

Ryan Hannable
August 12, 2018 - 6:00 am

1. When Jason McCourty joined the Patriots this offseason, many had him pegged as one of the players who would factor into replacing Malcolm Butler as the No. 2 corner. Through the spring, training camp and now the first preseason game, maybe that isn’t such a sure thing. The veteran corner didn’t play at all in Thursday’s preseason game, and that comes after a spring where he didn’t participate in any team drills. It has been suggested he may be dealing with an injury, but if that were the case wouldn’t he be leaving practice to go to the lower fields where rehabbing players go? Young cornerbacks Ryan Lewis, J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen all saw time in Thursday’s game and all three have been very impressive in camp through the first few weeks. There’s some serious young talent on the backend of the depth chart and the Patriots could be deciding between going with McCourty or taking a shot at a young cornerback who has a lot of potential. The other thing to be considered is those young players all play on special teams where as McCourty does not. Typically when it comes down to one of the final roster spots, Bill Belichick gives the edge to the player who can do more things, special teams being one of them. This isn’t definitively saying McCourty isn’t going to make the team, but his situation certainly bears watching, especially if and when he actually gets into a game.

2. Tom Brady got his contract tweaked Thursday with $5 million of performance-based incentives being added. At first it sounded like the incentives would result in him being paid like he should be, but the reality is he has the potential to make $20 million, which is 10th in the league and in the same category as Blake Bortles and Sam Bradford. From this viewpoint, the $5 million in incentives are almost like a slap in the face to the quarterback. What’s $5 million to Brady, who at this point has earned almost $200 million just in contract money? Unless there’s something we don’t know about, the Patriots are not doing Brady any good.

3. When it comes to Brady’s reported back soreness that kept him out of the first preseason game, it’s pretty clear it isn’t anything major. If it were a big deal he wouldn’t be on the field at all practicing with his teammates during the week, and the same goes for coming out to the field to warmup on Thursday night. Also, just seeing him standing on the sidelines during the game, did he look like a player worried about his back? If Thursday were a regular-season game there’s no chance at all he’d miss it. This seems to be a case of the Patriots just being extra precautious with their 41-year-old quarterback, and when he’s as important as he is to the franchise, it makes a ton of sense.

4. The biggest winner of Thursday’s preseason game had to have been running back Jeremy Hill. It was evident he shed some pounds this offseason, as he was much quicker getting to the second level than we’ve seen in the past. While he’s quicker, he still has the ability to get tough yards in between the tackles. Add in the fact he was a big contributor on special teams, with the injury to Sony Michel, it seems like Hill is approaching being able to be considered a roster lock. Speaking of running backs, while Ralph Webb had a great game and is a good story, let’s see him go against first-stringers before thinking about him potentially making the roster.

5. Another big winner from the game was rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. The fifth-round pick finished with a team-high five tackles. It came almost out of nowhere since he hadn’t made much noise in any of the training camp sessions before the game. If he continues to build on things and get better each week, he potentially could challenge Elandon Roberts for a roster spot as they do many of the same things.

6. Jimmy Garoppolo will always be a topic of discussion this year as he spends his first full season with the 49ers as their starting quarterback. In their preseason game, Garoppolo played the first offensive series of the game and went 3-of-6 passing for 34 yards. San Francisco has a tough slate out of the gate by taking on the Vikings (road), Lions (home) and Chiefs (road) the first three weeks.

7. The theme of training camp has been the laid-back atmosphere, but that is likely to change beginning this week. The regular season is roughly a month away and starters don’t usually play in the final preseason game, so the first-units have two preseason games to see extended playing time. One of those games is this Thursday against the Eagles and we expect the starters to play at least a quarter. In order to be fully ready for the games, they need to do more in practice than they have to date. While practices have been rather low-key, that should change this week.

Related: Breaking down Patriots receivers