Patriots safety Joshuah Bledsoe emerging as the next Devin McCourty

New England Patriots safety Joshuah Bledsoe (24). Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots safety Joshuah Bledsoe (24). Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports /

After 13 years with the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, Jason McCourty hung up his cleats and retired from the NFL. He turned a sixth round selection into starting 141 of 173 games, 18 interceptions and a Super Bowl championship with the Patriots.

Since Jason walked away, it’s worth asking how much longer Jason’s twin brother Devin will play. This off-season Devin signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots for his 13th season. At 34 going on 35 August 13, Devin might be year to year.

That’s if he has another year left.

No one should fault Devin if he’s done with football after this season. With Pro Bowl selections as a cornerback and safety and three Super Bowls, he accomplished all he could. He can dedicate his time to social justice or follow Jason into television.

If Devin McCourty walks away, you would think his departure would leave a void of leadership and playmaking. But the safety position is deep for New England, from McCourty all the way down to Joshuah Bledsoe.

Joshuah Bledsoe is off to a great training camp with the New England Patriots

We’ve heard very little about the 2021 sixth round draft pick because Bledsoe spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a broken wrist. Now that he’s back on the field, Bledsoe is turning heads as he shows what he can do.

After two days of practice, Bledsoe was up two five pass breakups, according to NESN’s Zack Cox. This was before the Patriots donned pads for practice, which was an advantage for the offense. McCourty saw this coming since last year :

"“To me, Bled has been super impressive,” veteran Devin McCourty told reporters last year, via Pats Pulpit “For a guy to come in here and maybe one week in, he got hurt and he’s been sitting on the sideline, really. Obviously training, conditioning, doing all that, but he couldn’t practice.“And for me, it’s been impressive seeing him get on the field and how fast he’s played — executing, understanding techniques. That comes from you obviously (being) locked in in meetings, paying attention, going home, re-watching film. It’s hard for any player to not get any reps and go execute, but when you’re a rookie, you have zero basis, zero foundation of reps. I thought Bled has done a great job.”"

Being complimented by Devin McCourty is one thing. Becoming a leader on the New England Patriots has to be earned. Bledsoe did just that while at Missouri.

Overlooked as a recruit by the top programs in college football, the Tigers were one of six schools that offered Bledsoe a scholarship. He started on all special teams and played on third downs as a freshman, but midway through the season, Bledsoe earned the starting nickel role. He remained in the starting lineup for the rest of his college career.

Chowder And Champions
Chowder And Champions /

Want your voice heard? Join the Chowder And Champions team!

Write for us!

Bledsoe stands out for his versatility. At 5-11 200 pounds, he’s able to cover anyone one-on-one. That includes slot corners, tight ends and running backs. If need be, Bledsoe can also drop back into free safety to defend the deep part of the field. He led Missouri in pass break-ups in 2019 and 2020.

If Bledsoe didn’t break his wrist late in the 2020 Senior Bowl, he would have had the chance to impress scouts in pre-draft athletic testing. The New England Patriots did their homework and felt Bledsoe was worth the risk in the sixth round.

Next. 13 players Bill Belichick, New England Patriots need to make leaps in 2022. dark

So far it looks like the gamble is paying off. Bledsoe’s play has earned him reps with the first team defense at times. It’s a credit to his work in the classroom during his rookie season. Bledsoe’s dedication to studying now has him thriving on the field, and the veterans have noticed.

To become the next McCourty, Bledsoe has to become a player teammates come to for answers, not the one asking questions. And to be the next McCourty, Bledsoe doesn’t have to be strictly a free safety. Belichick wants versatility from their safeties.

Most importantly, Bledsoe doesn’t have to be the next McCourty now because Devin is here for 2022. When the day McCourty walks away comes, it could be Bledsoe that steps up next.