Obi Melifonwu has been with the Patriots for less than a month, but the 24-year-old safety has wasted no time in making an impression, especially with fellow safety Devin McCourty.
“Man, he’s freaking huge,” McCourty said of Melifonwu. “He’s a bigger, physical guy and I thought he’s done a great job, whether it’s staying after with Steve [Belichick], talking to myself, [Patrick] Chung or Du [Duron Harmon] of when he’s out there, what we expect of him, what we need him to do, and then what he expects of us and what we need to do to help him.”
One of the most impressive (if not eye-catching) things about the Patriots newbie is his massive size. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, Melifonwu at least approaches tight end Rob Gronkowski’s 6-foot-6, 268 pound frame.
“[He’s] a very athletic guy and, like I said, he’s able to go up there and match up on some tight ends,” McCourty said. “When we talk about being undersized against them, he lines up and it’s like ‘mano a mano,’ same size. Like you see him standing next to Gronk and you’re like, “Dang. Gronk doesn’t make this guy look little.” I thought he’s brought a really good edge to our group.”
Melifonwu made his Patriots debut in Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the New York Jets, seeing eight defensive snaps and contributing to the first win with his new team.
“I thought it was great, him getting out there last weekend in different packages and being able to help us,” McCourty said.
The Massachusetts native joins a squad of four Patriots veteran safeties: McCourty, Chung, Harmon and special teams’ Nate Ebner. They’ve played together since 2013, but McCourty said there hasn’t been any trouble integrating Melifonwu into the group.
“I think sometimes we’ve got to do a good job of fully explaining some of the things we do,” said McCourty. “Some of the things naturally happen for us without any verbiage or anything, whereas if you’re coming in it doesn’t really say that in the playbook and what we need to do. … We’ve just got to make sure Obi knows what we’re kind of thinking and not think it’s just understood. I think we’ve done a good job of that the last couple of weeks of just trying to catch him up and get him up to speed of doing everything how we do it.”
Melifonwu’s hard work wasn’t lost on Bill Belichick, either— the head coach sang similar praises of the safety’s first few weeks with the team on Monday.
“He’s a smart kid,” said Belchick. “He’s worked really hard to learn things on defense and in the kicking game. With any player that’s on a roster, or any new player that’s on our team, roster or practice squad, we just try to move them along and see what they can do, what they’re ready to do. … All of those guys do a good job of trying to be ready, staying on top of their assignments and the game plan. If they get the opportunity then be ready to take advantage of it. Obi did a good job of that.”