New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, August 19, 2008.
BB: We are back on the field here today. It is a short week, it is only two days after the game but we are going to have to accelerate everything this week in our process. We watched the film this morning on the Tampa [Bay] game and we will get into Philadelphia [Eagles] this afternoon. We only have a couple of days to get ready for them. This will be another good week for us in terms of getting ready for a quality team, a team that has a lot of offensive and defensive scheme. They are very well coached and have a lot of good players, physical team. There is a lot to get ready for in a short amount of time and we will have one of those games later on in the season so this is a good chance for us to get into a little bit of that and practice that type of situation. It is not quite the same but there are some elements of it. Get the corrections from Tampa [Bay] put behind us this morning and move onto Philadelphia [Eagles] this afternoon. Like I said another good opportunity for our football team to grow and improve against a quality team coming in here again on Friday night.
Q: How much does a veteran quarterback like Tom Brady lose by missing preseason reps?
BB: It is true for all players. You would like to have them out there to get those reps but at the same time if they are not able to then they are not able to and those provide opportunities for someone else. With Tom's [Brady] situation, I would say everything he would probably be doing, he's done before. It is just a question of fine tuning it, working on timing and all those kinds of things. [These questions] are the same kinds of conversations we had last year when Randy [Moss] wasn't out there so I think that works to his advantage. Some of the practices that he [Tom Brady] hasn't participated in are still things that he has done before, not new things. But to the extent if there are new things and the player misses those then we will need to catch him up on it because the rest of the team has got it. We just have to balance that off when that happens.
Q: Do the other players on offense lose something with not having the starting quarterback out there?
BB: I think that really all of them have plenty of work to do themselves and plenty of things they need to work on. There is always a timing element with the quarterback and the receiver but that goes both ways. We have had receivers not be out there, quarterback not be out there, tight ends, running backs or whatever it is. Most importantly I think for each player at this point in training camp, is to do what they can do - It is not so much about what someone else is or isn't doing. There is always going to be people that are not on the field that you would like to have out there, that is pretty much going to be true to the first day of practice till the end of the season. The people that are out there, what each of us can do is work on what we need to work on and what can improve us and the other things will just have to run their course.
Q: Both Tom [Brady] and Randy [Moss] have said that the offense is way ahead of where it was last year at this time. Does that help, knowing that Tom [Brady] has not been able to play - that the practices are so much ahead of where they were a year ago at this time?
BB: Well, sure it definitely helps that they have had a year together. Again, like I said, a lot of things that we do, they have done before and collectively as an offense we have done before. Last year, that wasn't really the case with Randy [Moss], Wes [Welker], Donte [Stallworth] so this year to a certain extent we are ahead of that with Jabar [Gaffney] and all the receivers. But again, that is only good from a historical perspective, we still have to go out there and execute it this year. That is what we are all working on. Where that exactly will all end up, we will just have to wait and see.
Q: Can you speak on players Vince Redd and Gary Guyton?
BB: I think both players have good physical skills for their position. Vince [Redd] played at Virginia, looks like an outside linebackers in a 3-4 system, kind of a cross between a defensive end and a pure outside linebacker. He played well at Liberty, he's a strong kid and runs well for his size. He's a smart kid and has played at a high level of competition at Virginia even though he transferred to Liberty but he played at a pretty good level there in a good program. Same thing with Gary [Guyton]. Gary was very productive for Georgia Tech. He played both inside and a little bit of outside. He was a pretty versatile player for them down there in terms of run defense, blitzing, pass coverage, inside, outside, played on the end of the line, played on the center, played on the guard, at times he even played in the tackle bubble so he has had a lot of different experiences in college and I think some of that versatility has showed up here for us both in the kicking game and on defense. Both players have a long way to go, we all know that, but they have come a long way and have made a lot of progress. Hopefully, they will continue to improve. They are working hard, they have been out there everyday for the most part and that is the best way to improve is to keep working and develop some consistency and I think they are doing that.
Q: With Marcus Pollard being released, are you comfortable with where Benjamin Watson and David Thomas have done in this camp?
BB: All the players that are here, we are comfortable with to some degree and on the other hand there is always room for improvement with everyone. I think with Marcus [Pollard] that it wasn't really going to work out here the way that we had hoped and he had hoped. At the same time, there are still a couple preseason games left and time before the season opener and I think there are some other teams that are looking for tight ends and maybe there is a better opportunity for him somewhere else. That is for him to determine but rather than do it on the last cut, his options will be more limited. We felt like in fairness to him and out of respect for Marcus and what he has done in his career, he's had an outstanding career, coming from a small school and has become a very productive player and he deserved that.
Q: Going back to David Thomas, how important has it been for him to be healthy given what happened last year?
BB: It has been great. He got some work in the spring. The bad news was that of course he got hurt early last year but that kind of worked in his favor a bit. He was able to get those things taken care of and rehab and have a good offseason program and be ready for spring camps and be ready for training camp vs. some other players that played through the year with some nagging stuff and then by the time they rehabbed it, it has kind of rolled a little bit into this season and that has happened in the past too. We have been through that before. The bad news for David [Thomas] was '07, the good news he really got off too a good start in '08. Kind of getting off to a good start, he's been able to maintain that momentum and the start there in the spring has carried over in the training camp and the preseason.
Q: I know the tight ends have the big role of blocking up front. How has he worked on his blocking in the off-season? Has he made some improvement in that area?
BB: David [Thomas] works hard. He works hard at everything. He's a very competitive kid. He's smart. He knows how to use his strengths, leverage and position to his advantage. He competes hard. He has good playing strength and good quickness. He has done a good job with that. He is not a 280lb tight end, that is not his style but he can be an effective blocker and he has shown that he has the ability to do that. Which is the same thing that he did in college.
Q: When you are evaluating your defense, particularly against the run, where to do value the statistic yards per carry?
BB: Well, the main thing we are doing right now is evaluating the technique and the way we defend each player. Whatever we can do to get better, that is how we are trying to coach it and get it better. Obviously, you would like to have the yards per carry, yards per play, yards per pass, yards per game points as low as possible. However, the lower they are, if they could go lower that would be better. Lower is better on defense. Ultimately, defense gets judges by the amount of points that are scored against them. You might have one stat that maybe on a league wide basis a little higher than another but the real bottom line is scoring defense, as the real bottom line on offense is scoring offense so sometimes those numbers are a little bit misleading. I'm not saying that they are or aren't but depending on the total performance of the unit that one particular area may or may not be that significant relative to the overall performance of the unit. Sometimes some of those numbers are a little bit circumstantial and sometimes they are not. If you are giving up a lot of yards per carry in a running situation, that is not good. A lot of those yards per carry come in longer yardage situations where it really doesn't hurt you as much than it's not necessarily a bad thing. So again, some of it is circumstantial but the big part for us right now is playing every play better regardless of what down it is or anything else. It's just to try to make sure that everybody understands what their responsibilities and techniques are and try to play the best we can. Where we can do it better, where the breakdown is and how we can prevent that from happening again.
Q: As you get deeper into the preseason games, do you spend more time game planning?
BB: I am not really sure what someone's definition of game planning is. What I would say is that we spend a little more time preparing our team for the opponent. Maybe spend a little bit more time this week on what Philadelphia does but not necessarily spending more time on plays that we are going to specifically run against them. Another words, in the regular season you look at a teams strengths and weaknesses. You maybe want to stay away from their strengths and attack some of their weaknesses. You might design or emphasize certain plays to try to attack those weaknesses. I think in the preseason my attitude is more to run the plays that you want to run and if it happens to be their strength than you find out how you can execute against the strong point of a team. If it happens to hit into one of their weaknesses than that's fine and hopefully you will be productive there vs. trying to get every play to go into the softer spots of your opponent. I think you get a good evaluation on just running your plays against them and to a certain degree I think its not that bad that they know where you are. Another words if you surprise somebody by coming from somewhere that they don't expect, that is great and productive but I don't know that you really evaluated your players or your system. Where as if they know, where you are and what you're doing - then you can either do it or you can't. It is good to find that out too. As you go through preseason you certainly spend more time preparing your team for what they are going to see not necessarily changing what you do to attack that.
Q: Along those lines, in the running game you have had some negative running plays and no yardage running plays. How many of those plays can you look at the result of those are from running into the strength of the defense?
BB: Yes. Some of it is. Some of it could be better executed. Some of it is bad play or play into a bad look. Those are plays that are tough, they are tough to make go and in some cases we might build something else into that play to get out of it. Add audible to it or change the blocking so that you could do it better. The issue you get into in preseason when you are playing at least two players in every position and sometimes three players in every position is realistically how many plays do you want to have in a game. You are not playing a full 160 play game like you normally do, each guy is maybe playing 30 plays. You plan for 160 play game but if nobody is in there for more than 30 (lets say just to pick a number) then your working on a lot of stuff that you are not going to get to run and then what they do run, they haven't been well prepared for it because you have all this other stuff that you can't get to and each guy only gets one play at it. I just don't feel like that is the best way for us to go. Not criticizing what anybody else does or doesn't do or anything else. That is just the way I look at it. I would like our players to have confidence at what they do out there in preseason. They know what to do so we can evaluate them. We are not coming back in here after every play saying 'he didn't get a chance to practice that play and he didn't know what to do on this play.' I would rather say that it is a tough play against that look. We understand that's not going to be the greatest thing in the world but at least we know what to do. There are some other looks where it is more favorable and it should be good.
Q: When you drafted Shawn Crable - he seemed to fit the prototype of what you look for at a player in his position and in this defense. Is there anything that you value more than others when you look at a player's skill set at that position? Also, what are the things that Shawn has done in camp that have impressed you?
BB: Well, in our defense those player skills need to be, number one being able to play at the end of the line of scrimmage against the running game, two: being able to rush from the end of the line of scrimmage and number three, the players value in the kicking game and in pass coverage. There are not very many players who are top coverage players who are top pass rushers so usually, I don't want to say it is one or the other but there is a higher level at one thing than the other. Because our outside linebackers are closer to defensive ends than they are pure linebackers, the pass rushing becomes a little bit more of an emphasis than pass coverage although they certainly have to be able to be competent at both and the same thing in the kicking game. You are not going to get a lot of 250-260lb linebackers that are as athletic as a 220lb linebacker. You might lose something in coverage or lose something in space in the kicking game but you are not going to find 220lb players who have the same kind of power, explosiveness and strength that a 260lb guy has. You have to be able to use those strengths of the respective players and position where they can be productive. Shawn played down a lot at Michigan and rushed a lot sometimes as a defensive end, sometimes as an outside linebacker but they did play a system similar to ours that is coached by a coach that was in our system. You could watch him play and see him do a lot of the things that we do and have a good way of evaluating it. With a lot of these defensive ends guys like [Mike] Vrabel, [Rosevelt] Colvin and [Willie] McGinest and guys like that through the years that where they played. In Shawn's case, you could actually see him play outside linebacker and play on his feet. It was a good opportunity to evaluate him. He is making progress. Like all of the rookies, he has a long way to go but he is making progress.
Q: With Tom Brady not able to practice with the first team offense, do you run different things in terms more of evaluating whichever quarterback is in there rather than what you would run with Tom and seeing the first offense get certain reps?
BB: We set up our installation at the beginning of training camp and then we go through our practices and preseason games and run our offense. We run our offense because that is what everyone needs to do. Whatever players are out there on the field, they need to learn how to run our offense regardless of what position they play. Whoever does play, at some point is going to have to again, run our offense. It is really hard to design an offense or defensive system for one player and then you design another play for another player and another play for another player. I don't think that is a good way to design a system. I'm not saying you can't do it. I just don't personally think that is a good way to do it. I think you design a system where the plays compliment each other and then you get players that can run that system. Then you have some flexibility within the system to utilize the skill sets of different players. You have a fundamental system and that is what everyone needs to learn how to do. Without that you don't really have much of an offense or a defense. If a player can't run the basic system then I think it is pretty hard to start modifying the whole system for that one player. If you do that then you better feel like that…like if you have a player like Vince Young and you want to develop a system for him and he is a key player then great. I think that is a good thing to do but whoever the next guy is, he better be able to run that system too or you will have to change offenses every time you change one player, or change defenses every time you change one player. It is really hard to coach like that and I don't think that is a good formula. Everybody learns what to do, everybody learns the system, that is the system we are running here so everybody is in the same boat.