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Bill Belichick 8/11: 'This week will be a good opportunity for our team to play against the Eagles'

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media prior to training camp practice at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 11, 2014.


BB:** Today is kind of the second of our two days working by ourselves, trying to work against each other and do some things that we need to do and then be ready to go against Philadelphia tomorrow. I'm looking forward to today and the two days we've had, and obviously [this] week will be a good opportunity for our team to play against the Eagles and the offense and defense and schemes that they run and players they have. It'll be a good opportunity, but we need two good days here. We had one yesterday, so hopefully we can string a couple together.

Q: Is today more of a walk-through?

BB: No.

Q: Will you be in full pads today or will you dial it back to prepare for the full pads tomorrow?

BB: No, we were in full pads yesterday and we'll be in pads tomorrow.

Q: Any progress from Aaron Dobson and Dominique Easley in terms of making the next step?

BB: They're making good progress.

Q: You're just coming off a joint practice with the Redskins. What was your impression of the Eagles last year as you prepare?

BB: Great, I thought it was great. I thought we had a good – Chip [Kelly] and I talked about [how] we did a lot of situation work, and Chip and I talked about the things we felt like our teams needed, and I think we we're able to accomplish those in the practice sessions. A lot of young guys played in the game. I'm sure it'll be that way again this week. But practice sessions, we've got a lot of experienced players playing against each other in situational play, and I think that will serve us well and did serve us well last year.

Q: Do you anticipate the same volume and intensity in the practices with the Eagles as you had with the Redskins?

BB: I think our schedule with the Eagles this year is about the same as it was last year. So probably whatever it was, it will be something similar to that.

Q: In regards to last week, when a guy plays 70-80 plays Tuesday in practice and then plays in the game on Thursday, how does that affect your evaluation of that player in the game?

BB: That's what we have to work with. Their players practiced the same; they were out there the same amount of time we were. I think that's one of the good things about it is going into the game, you have kind of an equal preparation base. You're seeing them; they're seeing you. However long you're practicing for, they're practicing for. I think it kind of levels the field that way. Training camp is this time of year where we've got to grind through it. It's not our regular season schedule, but in all honesty we don't have enough time for that. We don't have enough practices to do it that way. We've got to treat practices and games as work days. We only have so many opportunities; we've got to take advantage of all of them.

Q: How have conversations with Chip Kelly regarding the structure of practices gone this year compared to last year?

BB: I don't want to speak for Chip, but I think that we both felt that it was productive last year, and we've decided not to make many changes.

Q: What kind of changes were made?

BB: Just a couple minor things really – within periods, what type of personnel we would or wouldn't use. I mean really, it's minor.

Q: What have you seen from Taylor McCuller and his ability to play both sides of the ball?

BB: He works hard. He's a good kid; he works hard. He's pretty smart to be able to handle multiple responsibilities plus the kicking game. [He's got] a long way to go; not really very experienced on either side of the ball or special teams, and he's making a big jump from where he played last year to where he's playing now. It's a big mountain to climb for him, but he comes in here, works hard every day. Like I said, he's a tough kid. He's diligent. He pays attention. He's just got a lot to learn and a lot to do, so we'll see how it goes. But he's working at it and getting better.

Q: What goes into the decision to try a defensive player on the other side of the ball, and does it take a special player to make that transition?

BB: I'd say probably at least half the fullbacks in the NFL played defense in college, so I don't think it's rare. Some do, some don't at that position. There are just as many defensive players playing fullback as there are offense. Like James Develin; played linebacker in college.

Q: The Eagles have a player coming in this week that mixed it up with some of your players last year and has since made less than flattering remarks about your organization and the value of joint practices. Do you have any opinion on Cary Williams?

BB: You should talk to him about it.

Q: You brought in a couple of tight ends yesterday. What drew you to those guys?

BB: Steve [Maneri] and Ben [Hartsock] both have a lot of experience in the blocking part of the game, similar to [Matthew] Mulligan from last year. And Terrence [Miller] probably has a little more experience in the passing part of it in college, so we'll see how it goes.

Q: What type of offseason did Dan Connolly have?

BB: Good. Dan had a real good offseason. I don't think he missed anything – I mean, the birth of his daughter in training camp – but he's been a good participant and made a lot of the usual offseason-type gains in terms of building up from the end of the year. As usual, he's working in all the spots – center and guard – as well as the kicking game. He's a solid guy for us, always does a good job.

Q: He played center in 2011 before switching primarily to right guard the past two seasons. Have the coaches emphasized trying to get him more familiar with that position?

BB: Sure, I think he needs to work there if he's going to play there. But he's done that; he did that in practice last year. Whenever we go into a game, we have to have two centers. It goes without saying. Usually if you have seven linemen, you have three tackles, and if one of those tackles doesn't play center – which is usually the case – then you have four for three inside, and two of them have to be centers. In our case, we would've probably moved Dan from guard to center and replaced him with a guard as opposed to a backup center. In a lot of our active list groupings last year that's the way the lineup would've gone, although I don't think it came to that. I don't know if it ever came to that because Wendy [Ryan Wendell] has played a lot of snaps the last two years at center. Either you carry a backup center or one of your linemen is the backup center and you carry a backup whatever he is. So Dan has always played center, and he's always been very close to playing center, so he's practiced a lot at center and I think last year in preseason he did play some center as well. He's shown the ability to do both, and that makes him really valuable for us.

Q: Having not seen Rob Gronkowski in 7-on-7 drills or scrimmage situations, is it accurate to assume he has not been cleared for contact yet?

BB: We have players in a lot of different situations physically, so whatever they are – and some of that changes from day to day – whatever they are, that's the way we proceed.

Q: What is it about Kyle Arrington that allows you to move him around in the secondary?

BB: I think Kyle has a really good skillset to play anywhere back there. He's fast, he's tough, [and] he's a good tackler, which your safeties need to be. Not that your corners don't need to be, but I'd say it's even more important at safety. He tackles well, he runs well, he's a very athletic player. So I'd say his toughness and his tackling are similar to Devin [McCourty], same type of player who played corner to safety with similar type skills – speed, range, toughness. Those assets you need at safety, and Devin has them and Kyle has them.

Q: Is going from slot to safety in the secondary difficult? It seems that those are as different of positions as possible in the defensive backfield.

BB: It's definitely different. It's definitely different, no question. But again, there's no way when you start getting into sub defenses where you're playing five and six defensive backs, you can't carry 12 defensive backs in a game so everybody has a backup for their position. Somebody has to play multiple positions –same thing we just talked about with the offensive line. This is the time of year in training camp where we try to work players at different positions, not to move them but to give ourselves and our team depth so when we get to a 46-man roster we're able to sufficiently back up everybody, and that certainly includes the kicking game, where we have really 66 players when you count all six teams, or 44 for sure on the kickoff and punt teams that also have to have backups. Sometimes that's one person backing up multiple positions. Being able to do multiple jobs and multiple things, you have to have that on your team, especially when you eliminate a lot of players on your team like the offensive linemen and the quarterbacks and the specialists and all those who really don't factor into a lot of your offensive or defensive personnel groups or the kicking game, then you have even a smaller number to work with. All those positions, you have to have somebody to do those jobs, and then you have to have somebody to back those jobs up. You don't really have all that many players to choose from to tell you the truth when you really think about it. You knock out some specialists and some linemen, you're down into the 30's pretty quickly for a lot of jobs.

Q: What have been your impressions of Malcolm Butler competing?

BB: I think he's done a good job every day, coming out there being ready to compete. He's a got a long way to go. He's got a lot to learn. There are a lot of things different here than where he played and who he played against. But that's all in the past, so he's just got to take it day by day. He's learning every day, he works hard, and he's gotten better on a daily basis. Still has a long way to go. We'll see how it goes this week against Philadelphia. It'll be another big week for all of our young players, and then Carolina, and then at some point we'll have to start making some type of evaluation of whether some of these younger players, whether their performances are escalating, leveling off or declining. As all the multiples and the practices and the games and all start to pile up, that will take a toll on some and some it won't and we'll just have to let that play itself out. There's really no way to predict how that's going to go until we see it. So, we'll see.

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