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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 8/19

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Q: Bill, I'm curious what you're seeing with the competition at center at this point?

BB: You know, good competitive situation at this point. A couple [of] guys that have experience with us, a couple players that also … some without a lot of versatility to guard, others players who play center and guard, so it's really a pretty competitive position.

Q: Are you seeing any separation at this point, or is that sort of still one that is to be determined?

BB: Well again, I think that's something that you take a longer view of, you know. Don't base it on one game or one practice, but we've had a lot of snaps here in training camp, so just kind of trying to put it all together after this week. You know, Carolina has a good a defense and a good a front as anybody, so that will be a big test for our offensive line and that position as well.

Q: On Cyrus Jones' interception, how much do you evaluate technique and how much do you evaluate instinct to jump a route, and a quick follow-up to that would be how much of that did you see at Alabama?

BB: Oh I think Cyrus was an instinctive player at Alabama. I'd definitely put that in as a strong point; he had a pretty good awareness of the ball.

(On how much Coach Belichick evaluates on that interception)

BB: That is a tough question on any positon, but in the end it's important for a cornerback to get his hands on the ball, and some guys can be real close in coverage and not get their hands on the ball much, other players seem to have their hands on the ball a lot. So whether that's instincts, or anticipation, or knowing how to play, or whatever you want to call it, there's definitely something to be said for that. And at times that anticipation or whatever the adjective is, can make up for a little bit of 40 speed or some kind of test measurable, and that's probably even more true at the safety position than it is at the corner position, but plays like that where the ball turns over and, you know, you take it away from the offense, those are the game changing plays. Not saying that you know, breaking up a pass, I mean that's a good thing too, and it's – like the play that Malcolm Butler broke up in front of our bench – you know he had no chance to intercept, but it was a break up that prevented a completion, but there are other pass break ups where the defenders – or good pass defenders – would intercept the ball, and then those are really the game changing plays that make that player, give him that extra value. And so Cyrus has good hands, good ball skills, and good anticipation, so hopefully last night will be the first of more interceptions and turnovers that we'll see from him. You know, I think like Asante Samuel had that ability when he was here for us. Not comparing these guys as players, I'm just saying Asante was, you know, his test measurables were good, not elite, he was quick, but he had very good instincts and ball skills. So when he did get his hands on the ball he intercepted most of them, and sometimes he was just able to anticipate a certain route or situation and make the play on that as opposed to making it on speed or some other measurable.

Q: I know that we're just watching the preseason games and you have far more to go on than we do, but as I look at this whole team and you're getting closer to having to make some roster decisions, it seems like it's going to be a hard season to find guys who don't deserve to play NFL football on this particular team. The competition is excellent it seems.

BB: I think we do have good competition and good competitiveness at a lot of positions. Again, it's hard to say that for sure at this time of year because it is what it is. Teams aren't game planning; teams aren't attacking players like they would in the regular season. They're running their plays and we're running our plays and you kind of let what happens, happen. I think we do have good competitiveness on our team, but how good that is relative to our opponents, and what that will mean in the win-loss column and all. Really that's a whole other conversation, and time will tell. So we just have to do the best we can to try to put together the best team we can based on the information and observations that we have, and I'm sure that there will be some adjustments or fine-tuning as the year goes along, as there always is. Sometimes players do better in preseason, training camp, preseason games than they do in the regular season and they get a little over evaluated in [the] preseason, and sometimes it goes the other way, so we'll just have to see.

Q: We didn't see Alan Branch at all last night, I understood that he wasn't' there at the game, is there any more detail that you can offer on Alan?

BB: It's a club matter.

Q: When looking at players at the running back position, how do you balance the potential for a big play versus the consistency of a more pedestrian pickup on a regular basis?

BB: That's a great question, Phil [Perry], and you can kind of say a little of the same thing about the receiver positon, too. A player that maybe only catches a couple passes a game, but if he catches them because of his playmaking ability, you know, might be for big chunks of yardage versus a player who catches more passes for less yardage, but maybe [an] equivalent amount but off of more catches, so anyway, that's a good question. I think a little bit of it is the philosophy of your offensive system and what you're trying to do, and how much those plays mean to you. How important it is to have a big play versus how important it is to have consistent, maybe lesser plays, if you will, and maybe how likely the player is to break those big plays, but it's a tough conversation when you have that situation and I think you just have to go back to what your real goals are from that particular player and the role that you envision him having, how likely those are to occur. But it's challenging when you have that kind of tradeoff, you know, one's good, the other one's good, which one's better? If you can only afford one, and look if they're both good enough, [then] you're probably going to afford both of them, but if it's one or the other then philosophically that puts you into a tough choice, and that  probably would be decided based on a bigger philosophy that you have for your either overall team or offensive unit.

Q: Over the years do you feel like your offense has had one philosophy in particular in regards to that type of evaluation or has that evolved over time?

BB: Well again, I think it depends on the quality of the player. I mean, Corey Dillon had some good runs, but I don't think he was known for the 70 and 80-yarders, at least not when he was with us, but as far as a big, durable, tough consistent runner that gained positive yards, and again that kind of player is going to have some short yardage carries and so forth where his average is going to go downward, you know, when he makes a two-yard run it's a great run, but when you run for two yards on first down it doesn't feel like a great run. And then we've had other players that were maybe a little more explosive, probably like [Shane] Vereen, who ripped off some long runs, you know like the Jets play where he went 70 yards for a swing pass. It wasn't a run but it was the same kind of thing. I don't know if some other backs would have gone that far with it, but they add a little different value to the team, but again, if the players are good you're probably going to find a way to have both of them. It's that kind of, you know, I don't want to say – it's where you get that lifestyle. So you know like when we had [Jeff] Demps, in our opinion in the end we just didn't feel like the threat of the big play – even though he had some, we saw him in the preseason on I think it was a punt return and a couple other plays he got – in the end we just didn't feel like those plays would offset the other things that we needed other players to do, or that he didn't do as well as other players, which is why we kept them. But that didn't mean that the plays he had didn't have value or they weren't important, but in the end we just ended up going with a different direction, so I think it depends on the level that we're talking. I mean the concept is, I clearly understand, I think it's the level of the performance of those plays that you're talking about. That's an interesting discussion.

Q: A couple of times last year that you mentioned that depth at cornerback was a problem, and I was wondering if you've been pleased with the development and competition level of the group of young corners you have at camp this year?

BB: Well, it's a group that works hard, and we have a lot of young players out there. I think we have three rookies, no, four rookies, I'm sorry. Cyrus [Jones] and Jonathan Jones, and then [Cre'Von] LeBlanc and [V'Angelo] Bentley, and then really Darryl Roberts and Justin Coleman – even though they're not rookies – I would put them in that young second-year category. You know, Darryl didn't play at all last year, was injured in the first preseason game, and Justin's had more experience than that, but not a whole lot more. He played in a handful of regular-season games. So when you put those guys in there, and I mean Malcolm [Butler]'s a young player too, and so is Logan Ryan, but you know we certainly have a much better idea of what those players can do. You know, that's a lot of young competition that kind of needs to be sorted out. You know, E.J. [Biggers] gives us a more veteran player back there with some versatility. But again I think, as always, the key with the young players is there are certainly going to be things that you like what you see from them and then there [are] going to be mistakes and then the question is trying to figure out how much higher the player's going to go, how much more consistent he's going to be. What's that player going to look like a year from now, or halfway through the season, or you know kind of the benchmark you would use to evaluate that type of player, so some of it is what you see, some of it is what you think you're going to see based on his work ethic, skillset, how you feel like he'll play when he gains more experience and maybe more confidence, and so those are all I'd say relatively hard things to – well if it was easy to project then there wouldn't really be much of a decision – but the ones that are kind of harder to project are the ones that are, everything's not quite there in front of you, but will it be? Or will it be close to that? And sometimes that's what you're betting on when you make those roster decisions which, yeah, I'd say is a little bit, you know, where we were at with Malcolm you know in the '14 season. Yeah, definitely did some things in training camp that caught your eye, you know, filling up the roster but it was carrying an extra guy, but we carried him because there would be significant upside to that player if he continued to work hard and improve, and could correct some of the technical things that he needed to do, and Malcolm's obviously done that, done a great job of that, and now going to the top of the corner list. But at this point in time in his rookie season you didn't see that then, you'd have to envision that, and again that's kind of the hard part. But it's good to have young players back there to work with, it's a good group. They really work hard, they're dedicated and we're definitely young in that position, other than E.J. and Logan, who's, this is only his fourth year, but he's now the player that has the most experience on our team in that position.

Q: I was wondering if you had any update on Tom Brady, and whether this would be the type of thing that might have kept him out of a regular season game or if it was more of a precautionary decision on your part?

BB: Well, as I said, I made the decision, and yeah I don't really have anything else to add.

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