CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns went in search of depth, leadership and experience for their secondary in free agency, and they quickly identified veteran cornerback Jason McCourty, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, as someone who embodied all of those traits.
And through the first six weeks of the 2017 season, McCourty has not disappointed, as he has intercepted three passes and taken one of those picks back to the end zone.
“He is somebody in the locker room that we can depend on with the younger guys,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He has had great leadership that way. He has been a great teammate. Obviously, he has made some huge plays for us this year.
“Obviously, the biggest one was last week -- the interception and taking it back for a touchdown. There was a stat that said he was running one of the fastest times this past week scoring that touchdown. That says a lot about him. It says a lot about a guy that is taking care of his body, working hard every day and giving this organization and this football team everything he has.”
PHOTOS: Jason McCourty makes impact in first season with Cleveland Browns
The Browns got their first touchdown of their 33-17 loss at the Houston Texans when veteran cornerback Jason McCourty returned an interception of quarterback Deshaun Watson 56 yards for the pick six, the first of his career.
McCourty’s interception return cut Houston’s lead to 33-10 early in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium.
On second-and-five from the Houston 32-yard line, Watson faced intense pressure from Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett before getting rid of the ball. However, the throw sailed on Watson and into McCourty’s arms.
“For him being on our team, it has meant a lot to me personally in just the way he has played and conducted himself, he is a pro,” Jackson said. “He is a good get for us.
“We feel very comfortable putting him on those guys. He has held his own. There is a play or two he wishes he had back, but I think he has done a good job for us this year.”
After missing all but four games in 2015, McCourty returned to the field to make 14 starts in 2016. In those starts, McCourty totaled 69 tackles, 60 of which were solo stops. He defended 12 passes and intercepted two others for the Titans, who finished 9-7 and missed out on winning the AFC South Division Championship and making it to the AFC Playoffs because of a tiebreaker with the Houston Texans.
Since joining the Browns, McCourty is tied for the second-most interceptions (three) and third-most passes defended (nine) in the NFL through the first six games of the season. He returned one of those interceptions 56 yards for his first career touchdown in last week’s 33-17 loss at the Texans.
“He does a good job in the offseason of preparing and taking care of his body,” Jackson said. “He knows what to do during the season.
“He understands his process and how to go about it to, every week, be at his best. That is what you see from him. That is what you see from a guy that has been in the league as long as he has. He knows how to get himself to game day and ready to play at that top level, and he has done that.”