Titans CB Jason McCourty off to strong start
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Telling identical twins apart can be difficult, apparently even when they play for different NFL teams and wear different jerseys with different numbers.
The player called J-Mac went home after scoring his first career touchdown only to learn from his girlfriend and teammate Cortland Finnegan that several times during the game the TV announcer called him Devin, mistaking him for his brother, New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty.
''So I guess it does get a little confusing,'' Jason McCourty said after practice Wednesday.
The Titans defensive back is doing his best on the field this season to clear up any confusion. He's off to his strongest start yet, matching a career-high with two interceptions, notching his first sack and making a career-best 57 tackles to rank second on the team. In last week's 27-10 win over Indianapolis, he recovered a blocked punt for that TD and tipped a pass to safety Michael Griffin for an interception.
He's also the only defender with at least one interception and a forced fumble for the Titans (4-3), who host Cincinnati (5-2) on Sunday.
''That's what he has been doing for us all camp,'' Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. ''In the preseason games it was the same thing. He had plays in preseason and had interceptions, so he is just going to get better the more he plays.
It looks like the Titans got the better end of this deal based on where they drafted McCourty. They used the 203rd pick overall in the sixth round to grab Jason out of Rutgers in 2009, and he started nine games his first two seasons, limited only by a broken right forearm. Devin redshirted and stuck around for his senior season at Rutgers and was taken 27th overall in 2010 by New England.
Jason McCourty came into this season competing with Alterraun Verner in training camp before earning the starting job at cornerback opposite Finnegan. He says having a couple of years under his belt has slowed the game down for him.
''It's like a different confidence when you go out and understand what you're trying to get done as a defense and you understand what the offense is trying to do,'' McCourty said. ''I think the coach, Jerry Gray and the rest of the staff, has a lot to do with it. The plan they're putting in place is putting us in position just to go out and make plays.''
McCourty is listed as 6-foot and 188 pounds and wearing No. 30 for Tennessee, while the Patriots put his brother at 5-10 and 193 in No. 32. But McCourty said secondary coach Marcus Robertson tells him he looks exactly like his brother when he sees the Patriots on film, and he hears the same thing from his teammates.
''I think our games have a lot of similarities, probably just the vague differences on what he's learning in New England and what I'm learning in Tennessee,'' McCourty said.
Devin had seven picks for the Patriots as a rookie and got a couple votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Jason said he was just happy to see his brother playing so well.
Griffin said he tells McCourty all the time that he's as good as his brother, and thinks being healthy and having more experience are behind his improved play. The safety also thinks the Titans got a steal taking McCourty in the sixth round.
''If he would've stayed another year, him and his brother probably would've been one and two,'' Griffin said. ''Unfortunately, he came out a year early.''
Watching the brothers means plenty of travel for their mother. McCourty said she was in Tennessee for back-to-back games in September and returned for the first two games of the Titans' three-game homestand. It's a three-hour drive to Foxborough from her home in New Jersey, and McCourty said she keeps busy going back and forth between her sons' teams.
The brothers also share a Twitter account with the handle (at)McCourtyTwins with each using an abbreviation of either Dev or J-Mac to clue in followers to which McCourty wrote the tweet. And there's no problem with slipping there.
''I've gotten so used to it it's second nature now,'' Jason said.
Notes: TE Craig Stevens (rib) practiced fully for the first time since getting hurt Oct. 2 at Cleveland. ... LB Colin McCarthy (hamstring) also practiced for the first time since getting hurt Oct. 9 at Pittsburgh. ... S Michael Griffin (hip) did not practice with S Chris Hope (left forearm), but Munchak said he expects Griffin to practice Thursday.
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker