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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 12/26

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Q: What have you seen from Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi this year?

BB: [He's] one of the top backs in the league. He's having a tremendous year. He's fast, he's got good vision, hard to tackle, rips off a lot of long runs. It's not all four and five-yarders. He's got a lot of explosive plays so we're going to have to do a great job playing team defense across the board. He can find space where the play is designed to go or other places if those aren't defended well, and then as I said, he makes a lot of yards on his own. He can make guys miss, runs hard, breaks tackles, gets extra yardage. He's good. He's having a great year.

Q: Will it be beneficial to be back on a more normal schedule here this week to maintain the routine you're used to?

BB: I think it will help us stay in a normal routine in preparation. I think our team has played with good energy the last few weeks; Baltimore, Denver, the Jets. I mean I thought our players were aggressive and played fast, played alert, taking advantage of turnover opportunities, taking advantage of some big-play opportunities, playing fast and playing physical. I think they've done a good job of that. I think from a practice routine standpoint, a normal Wednesday, normal Thursday, normal Friday, normal Saturday leading up to the game that we can be a little more routine this week.

Q: What do you think your defensive players saw in advance of the snap that allowed them to take advantage of the opportunities to create turnovers in the Jets game?

BB: Well, I mean I thought Elandon [Roberts]' play was really a good play. He hit that downhill. [Brandon] Bostick was coming in to get him and he was just going so fast to the line of scrimmage that Bostick couldn't really get him and he contacted the ball and knocked it loose. So I thought that was really a fast and aggressive play. The first interception, Malcolm [Butler] was there. I think it was Duron [Harmon] was coming over, too. We had two guys right there and [Bryce] Petty tossed it up into a two-deep man look so we had two guys there around the ball. [Eric] Rowe made a play we've seen one hundred times this year. Single coverage and the ball is getting tossed up on the outside. Again, I thought Eric did a real good job of taking advantage of that opportunity. Really when the ball is thrown up like that you really want the defender to become the receiver and the receiver to become the defender and that's pretty much what happened on that play. Eric wedged him out and went up and took the ball at the highest point and came down with it. The last one, I'm not really sure what they were doing on that play. I think it was a running play that they kind of converted into a quick-look pass when they saw pressure coming from the nickel back. I don't know. The ball was a little high, got tipped, and yeah, Malcolm made a good play on it. That was really taking advantage of a play that we had a chance to make and Malcolm did a good job on the fumble recovery of scooping. He wasn't able to score but he got there and picked up the ball aggressively and was trying to run with it. He had a chance to advance it. That's kind of how I saw those four.

Q: Has anything stood out to you about the Dolphins ability to win close games over the past few months?

BB: I think it's been a little bit different each week. They had an interception, they returned an interception for a touchdown to kind of beat San Diego, kicked a big field goal last week to go into overtime against Buffalo. Obviously they've had some big plays offensively. The kickoff return to beat the Jets, so I think it's kind of doing whatever they need to do to win; offense, defense, special teams. They've gotten a variety of big plays at critical times from different players in different parts of the game. Just good complementary football, good team execution in critical situations by all three of the units and decision making by the coaching staff and all of the things that go into it. It hasn't just been one guy or one unit or one type of play. They've done it really in all areas.

Q: What did you see from Matt Lengel on his touchdown reception and how much has he improved in his time here to learn more of the offense?

BB: Well, Matt [Lengel]'s never been on our practice squad. He was on Cincinnati's practice squad and we signed him off of that, so he was there last year and for however many weeks it was this year when we signed him. For us he's been a roster player since he's been here and not always active but improving all the time. When Rob [Gronkowski] got hurt I think he's been active ever since then. But really he works hard. I think he's obviously got a lot to catch up on. Our system is I would say different than Cincinnati's so I don't know if there's a lot of carryover there, but he's worked really hard with Coach [Brian] Daboll and Josh [McDaniels] and the quarterbacks and has taken a lot of extra snaps and continues to get better. He still has a ways to go. There are a lot of things he can improve on but he's made a lot of improvement. That was a big play for us, that whole sequence, and then the next touchdown. Those two came closely together. But on that particular play that you asked about, when we came across in motion it looked like there was some miscommunication in the Jets secondary. I think they were trying to play a four-under-three zone. Both the safeties kind of rotated down to the flat so there was no middle of the field defender and after the play you can kind of see them talking to each other about the play. I'm pretty sure that wasn't what they were trying to do and so when Matt came open over the middle then Tom [Brady] saw him. [Juston] Burris made a good play coming from the outside. He almost got it but it was a good throw and a good catch. Again, I think that's just alertness. You never know what the defense is going to do and if they make a mistake like that the key is to be able to take advantage of it. You don't really know that that's going to happen, that they're going to miss a rotation like that, whereas on the play to [Julian] Edelman down the sideline or the play to James White, I'd say those plays were more designed to beat the coverage. We got the coverage and we were able to create some space in the coverage and hit those plays. Those came out more in the way we thought they'd come out. The Lengel touchdown was again kind of a reaction to an opportunity and then a good throw and a good catch in tight coverage.

Q: In regards to their aggressiveness, what have you seen from the defense over the past several weeks that perhaps was not there earlier in the season?

BB: Well again, I think we've improved on a daily basis really. Going out to the practice field and getting better on a daily basis. We've had some players that are playing quite a bit for us now that either weren't on our team or weren't playing that much at the beginning of the year or in training camp. I think that's come together. Again, progressively better day-by-day or week-by-week. We had some opportunities to turn the ball over that we weren't able to capitalize on at other points in the year and that's the way it's always going to be. You're never going to get all of them, but sometimes you get them and sometimes you miss them. But I think just again, that split second of aggressiveness, decision making, and to some extent technique and finishing on the play and getting the ball, like the fumble that Jonathan Jones recovered in the Denver game. That was kind of a 50-50 ball there where both players dove for it and he came up with it, which is a drill that we just coincidentally had worked on that prior week, two weeks before that. It's being in the right position. It's playing good team defense, making the quarterback hold the ball to give the rush a little more time to strip-sack them, rushing the quarterback a little bit better so it's a little bit harder to throw and the ball is a little bit off target, taking advantage of those plays when they're there, having more ball-awareness like the play that Malcolm [Butler] had in the first Jet game where we got beat on the play and they were going to gain 20 yards or whatever it was that [Robby] Anderson had already picked up and Malcolm's ball-awareness to swat it out of his hands and recover it. That was really a cause-turnover. They didn't drop the ball or anything on that one. We knocked it out with an alert play. Trying to create more, just trying to play better overall defense which will help create some opportunities in itself and then taking advantage of those that we get, so a little bit of everything there I guess.

Q: Would you prefer to be able to rest some players this week versus Miami given that a lot of playoff implications have already been decided?

BB: Right. I mean look, I don't really understand that question. We have – I don't know how many starters we have – but we have a lot more than – we can only inactivate seven players. This isn't like a preseason game where you have 75 guys on your roster. This is a regular season game. I don't really understand that whole line of questioning. I'm not saying I'm a great mathematician or anything but the numbers just don't add up for that type of conversation so there's no point in even getting involved in it.

Q: What have you learned from Matt Lengel now that you've had him here in your system that you didn't necessarily know about him before bringing him in?

BB: Well, yeah, I mean look, we know a lot more now than we did when he got here. I think Nick [Caserio] and his staff deserve a lot of credit for identifying Matt [Lengel]. Again, there wasn't a lot to go on. There are no regular season games, there's just preseason and college film if you want to go back to that. He's obviously long and you can see him playing in preseason. Not a lot early because Cincinnati has pretty good depth at tight end. He wasn't at the top of that rotation but a young player to work with at that position that has some physical qualities; length, size, runs well, caught the ball well in some limited observation that we had. When you have a player on the field every day and you throw to him every day and you watch him block every day. You watch him learn his assignments and then go out and practice. You definitely learn a lot more about the player and I think Coach [Brian] Daboll has done a good job of moving that along, moving that whole process along. I know Marty [Martellus Bennett] and Rob [Gronkowski] were both really good in working with him and helping him understand some of the finer points of certain plays and techniques and so forth. But Matt's absorbed it. He works hard and he listens well and he tries to do what he's instructed to do and he puts a lot of effort into it. If a player listens and he understands and then he works hard and commits to try and do it then it's almost impossible for him not to improve and get better. Matt has and that's what has happened.

Q: He's representing Northeastern well as one of the last players from that football program that no longer exists, sort of like Kyle Arrington once did with Hofstra.

BB: Yeah, Hofstra, BU. We try not to bring those up. Look, we were talking about UAB there for a little while, but that was only a year and then they bounced back so who knows.

Q: Do you remember scouting Northeastern at all with Coach Barry Gallup when he was there? Does anything stand out to you in that aspect?

BB: I mean Coach [Barry] Gallup has just been a tremendous fixture in college football in this area. It would be impossible for me to say enough good things about him and what an outstanding person and coach I think he is and how much he has meant to so many young people that he has interacted with. What a great example he sets and how caring he is for the players and really how I'd say I think everybody that knows him feels a real love and a personal friendship with him. He's a great guy.

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