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Presser Points: Belichick - Denver O 'the same' regardless of QB
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The Broncos announced that Brock Osweiler will start against the Patriots on Sunday night.
It will be his second start of the season that marks his second tour of duty in Denver.
His first run as Broncos QB saw Osweiler beat the Patriots 30-24 in the Mile High City in overtime in November of 2015.
He's back in Denver after a dismal stint as Houston's starter in 2016 and this offseason's stopover in Cleveland. He's back starting for the Broncos because Trevor Siemian struggled mightily for a team that's now on a four-game losing streak, while former first-round pick Paxton Lynch isn't yet ready to play.
In his Tuesday morning conference call with the New England media, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that the Broncos offense this season hasn't really changed whether Osweiler or Siemian was under center.
"I mean the offense is basically the same," Belichick said.
The coach did admit his preparation for Osweiler includes what Denver has done this year as well as the quarterback's previous stint with the team, even though that came under a different coaching staff and scheme.
"We'll see most all of it," Belichick said. "The most important thing is what he's done in the offense that he's in and the reads and where he's throwing the ball and his progression and so forth in the current offense. But yeah, we have a familiarity with players when we've played against them, how there are certain plays – I'd say maybe not every play – but there are certain plays that stick out that are worth noting because of the player's athletic ability or his experience or, in this case, a throw that he was able to make, that type of thing. There's some relevance there, but look, we're eight games into the regular season here so there's a lot of good tape on Denver to watch including the entire team, but in his role last week."
Beyond an early look at Osweiler and the Broncos passing attack, other highlights of Belichick's morning conference call included praise for Denver's impressive pass defense, a discussion of Phillip Dorsett's evolving work in New England and a back-and-forth regarding the Patriots problem with penalties this fall.
1. Denver's "very good corner group": Despite Sunday's blowout loss in Philly, the Broncos really do have one of the better defenses in the NFL. The group has consistently ranked among the best in the league in recent years in part due to one of the better cornerback duos in football – former Patriots Pro Bowler Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Asked about the pair, Belichick had praise for their work and added teammate Bradley Roby to the discussion.
"Roby plays two-thirds of the plays, so those guys are very good," Belichick acknowledged. "They're good enough that a lot of times against three receivers they leave their base defense in there and play three corners and just keep their base front in the game. Those guys are all good. They're very experienced. They play well together. They tackle well as a group. They're physical. It's a very good corner group and a lot of depth at that position."
Certainly the group gets some help from the pass rush, buoyed by All-Pro Von Miller. Belichick broke down exactly why he thinks Miller, who has eight sacks in eight games, is so good.
"I think Von's got a combination of a lot of skills that make him a pretty special player," Belichick said. "He's got speed, power, he's athletic and quick, so he can win with quickness on inside moves, counter moves. He anticipates well. He's a smart player. He makes some plays instinctively or with some anticipation so that he can get a half a step and jump on a play. He gets off the ball very quickly and he's a hard guy to – it's hard to beat him to the punch. Usually, it seems like he wins on the initial strike against the tight end or tackle a lot of the times. He plays with good pad level."
2. Dorsett has "expanded his role and scope": Given that he arrived via trade the week of the season opener, it's no surprise that Dorsett has had a limited role in the Patriots offense over the first half of 2017. But given that Chris Hogan is battling a shoulder injury that could reportedly sideline him a few weeks, it wouldn't be surprising to see Dorsett, who has just four catches for 85 yards, given more opportunities in the coming weeks. In fact, Belichick made it clear that the speedy receiver's workload has increased over the course of the fall.
"Phil's gotten better every week. We've expanded his role and scope, things that he's learning and areas that he's responsible for every week. He's a smart kid. He works hard. He's making progress," Belichick said, before describing Dorsett's skills, other than his obvious speed. "He's smart. He catches the ball well."
3. Patriots will "readdress" penalty problem every week: New England had 59 penalties for 543 lost yards over the first half of the season. It was a problem basically from the opening night right on through. It's included issues in all three phases of the game. Obviusly, it's not something that Belichick is happy with.
Tuesday he was asked how long his team could continue to be so frequently flagged before it would catch up to the Patriots in terms of wins and losses.
"Yeah, I mean I don't know the answer to that question," Belichick said.
A follow-up question asked for Belichick's thoughts on the team's penalties in recent weeks, leading up to the bye.
"We always look to play penalty-free. That's our goal every week," he said, before a reporter reemphasized the question about the area in recent weeks. "Well, again, that's our goal every week, so each week we'll try to hit that and just readdress it every week. It's different plays, it's a different defense, there's different situations, but yeah, we want to avoid as many of those plays as we can."