PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK PRESS CONFERENCE
BB: Okay, well we've had several days here to really focus in on the Redskins. There are a lot of impressive things that they do. I think that Coach [Jay] Gruden and the rest of his staff have done a real good job with this team. They're tough, they're very competitive, they do a lot of things well and they give you a lot to get ready for. They're not an easy team to prepare for. They have a real good complementary system on offense, defense and special teams, so kind of if you're stopping one thing, they're doing something else or they have something else that you have to be worried about, and they do a good job executing it. They're a real good game plan team. They have good schemes and obviously a lot of good players. Offensively, they have excellent backs, good offensive line and again they're very well coached. Coach [Bill] Callahan with the running game has always done a great job and they still do that. Really good group of receivers, an explosive group, obviously with [DeSean] Jackson, that becomes even more explosive. Good tight ends and [Kirk] Cousins does a good job of getting the ball to everybody. He uses the tight ends, the backs and all the receivers to spread the ball around. He doesn't hold onto the ball long, doesn't take many sacks, not a lot of negative plays, so they're a hard team to get off track. Defensively, strong up front, good edge players – [Trent] Murphy, [Preston] Smith, obviously [Ryan] Kerrigan, good inside players, disruptive group there with [Terrance] Knighton, [Chris] Baker, [Jason] Hatcher, linebackers run well, and they're good in the kicking game. They've had explosive plays, they're a good punt rush team, they had a blocked punt against the Jets, long kickoff return against the Giants. They put a lot of pressure on punts and field goals and have come close to blocking more kicks than they've actually gotten, but they put a lot of pressure there and we have to be ready for whoever their returners are going to be – [Rashad] Ross, [Jamison] Crowder, Jackson – whoever it is. They're all explosive guys. They can attack anywhere on the field and do a good job. They have good quickness, change of direction. Your contain and leverage on those guys is going to be tested. Those are the things we've got to be ready for, and as I said, they give you a lot. They've got a lot of good players and they have a very good scheme. They're well coached so it will be a tough challenge for us here.
Q: What did you experience with the trade deadline yesterday? Was it a buyer's market, a seller's market?
BB:I don't know. I was concentrating on the Redskins. We met yesterday morning, practiced and watched film and tried to get the team ready to play Washington.
Q: Was there any sense that because there were more trades …
BB:I was working on Washington. Nick [Caserio] is really kind of the person that would be involved more in that area. I mean obviously we would talk about something, but my focus was on the Redskins. That's what it's been on, that's what it is on.
Q: How committed are they to their running game?
BB: They're going to run it. They're going to run it, and you've got to stop them. They don't stop themselves. You've got to stop them. You've got to defeat blocks. They're going to have schemes that challenge you. They're going to challenge your run force. They're going to challenge your blocking angles and leverage inside and then you've got to tackle the backs. They're hard guys to tackle. They get a lot of yards on their own. They have a very good scheme, very good players and good backs, so sometimes you're in position and they still make yards. And they complement those runs, like if you're stacking those runs, they have a good arsenal of play action passes that they get to. If you're taking certain runs away, then you're probably going to have a hard time stopping the play action that goes with them. It's a;; tied together well. They have a good scheme, a good system and they do a good job of attacking defenses. They do a good job.
Q: Should they fall behind, do you think they will stay committed to the running game?
BB:I think until you're out of time, but they made a lot of plays in the passing game to come back last week, but they're going to run it and they've run it against everybody with varying degrees of success. You've got to stop them. They're not going to not run the ball this week. I don't think for one second that's going to happen. As I said, they have very good backs, they're very well coached and they have good offensive line, obviously starting with [Trent] Williams. He's about as good as there is. But they do a good job.
Q: How much does the return of DeSean Jackson help their offense?
BB: They led the league in big-play passes last year and he had a lot of them, so he's a very explosive player, just tremendous at all three levels. He can catch and run, he can get over the top of the defense, and he's a very good intermediate route runner who can get open and create space and take intermediate plays and turn those into big plays, too. [He's a] big threat.
Q: How does the deep coverage by Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon help your cornerbacks, if at all?
BB:It helps them, but I think as a corner, you don't count on that help. I mean, you count on it on inside routes, but you don't really count on it on go routes, but if they can get there on that … The big part of that position is the quarterback. If the quarterback controls the free safety by looking him off, looking one way and throwing the other way, then that corner is probably not going to get any help. Now there are other components of that – the pattern, the protection – the quarterback's ability to do that and so forth. So I'm not saying that's a given, but again as a corner, it's not like when you have a half field safety and you know that guy's going to be back there at least on your half of the field. A middle of the field safety, there are some guys that can get over and guys that get great jumps on the ball and are instinctive and all that, and Duron and Devin have given us some of those plays, but I think as a corner, you can't just sit there and say I have help over the top. You might, but you can't really count on that. Then there is a certain field position where you don't have it for sure. Once the ball gets to the 35, 40-yard line going in, the ball is not in the air that long. You're just running out of space. So the plays that he's more effective on in those field positions are the seams and the in-cuts and those types of things. Again that player, he's the quarterback of the defense. He sees the field, he defends the deep part of the field and gets to the ball based on his recognition of the routes and the quarterback and the overall matchups. Sometimes that affects him, too. It's hard to know exactly where that's going to be when you start talking about outside the numbers. Inside the numbers, that's one thing. Outside the numbers, you just can't count on them. I'm not saying those guys can't get there. Our guys have gotten there and have made good plays out there, but you can't sit there defensively and say, "Well he'll be there for that play," because if the quarterback looks him off, he won't be there.
Q: If a guy is playing man-to-man defense, is it possible for him to have good coverage even if he doesn't look back for the ball or is it just luck?
BB: There are certain situations where we're coached not to look back for the ball. There are other situations where we are coached to look for the ball. So it depends on a lot of things. It depends on your relationship with the receiver, where you are, what part of the route you're in, what part you're talking about, because once you get down the field you're not really in a double move situation. You start looking back for the ball in the eight-to-10-yard range, and if the ball is not thrown there is another part of the route that may exist. I wouldn't say it's luck. I think it could be. Sometimes a guy just happens to put his hand in the right place and it hits the ball, but I think a good defensive back that plays the ball properly with his back to the ball can definitely affect the catch and legally affect it and put his hands in the right place based on reading the receiver, his hands, his eyes, his overall mannerism on the catch, which the receiver is trying to disguise that, too. Guys like Randy Moss who were great at it, not raising his hands to catch the ball until the ball is almost past him. You couldn't do that against him, but the other receivers, when they move their hands to catch the ball, defensively if you match their hands, then that's where the ball is going to be. I think there is a lot of technique involved there, but I'd say more technique and more concentration and finish to the play than luck, but it might be a little bit of that, too.
Q: Malcolm Butler talked yesterday about how if you put your hands in the wrong place on DeSean Jackson, he can blow right by you. How much of a lesson was that in joint practices last year?
BB: I'm sure it was good. They have a lot of good receivers and they have different skills, but that's the way it is with our players. You wouldn't defend [Julian] Edelman the same way you'd defend [Brandon] LaFell, the same way you'd defend [Rob] Gronkowski. Each guy is different and you're different, each of us is different, so how one defensive back matches up against a different receiver, it's all a little bit different and you have to figure out what works best for you against different styles of receivers. That's the great thing about practicing against another team is you get to work against your eight, nine, 10 receivers, however many guys you have in camp, plus the tight ends, and then go to another team and you get to work against another dozen guys and you'll see something from them that's different from the guys you're seeing on your practice field. That part of it, you can't really put a price on that because it's experience that you wouldn't otherwise have gotten. And you're on a practice field so there is a level of trial and error, experimentation, whatever you want to call it, that you're probably a little more willing to do than when you're in game situations. That's how you get better is you practice the technique, it doesn't work, you practice it again. Maybe you end up not using it in a game because you don't have confidence in it or maybe you start to develop some confidence in it and you're able to refine it in practice and it becomes a tool for you in the game. I think all that is important.
Q: What have you seen in the progress of Logan Ryan?
BB: Logan is one of our hardest working players, both in the season and off the season. He prepares hard, studies, is really very focused on his job. He has a good understanding of the passing game – timing, route progression and route combinations. So he works really hard at that, he always has. He did that at college, and has built on that here, so that was never a weakness – like McCourty, like Harmon, like all those guys who were well coached by Coach [Greg] Schiano in that system. But he's continued to work and improve on that and build on it. He does a good job and has played a lot of different positons for us. He's played inside, he's played outside, obviously man, zone, blitz, all that. So he's got a variety of skills and he works very hard to try to maximize his matchup skills, what we were just talking about here, how he matches up against receivers differently than the way another player would do that.
Q: Since the rule changed, you guys have consistently deferred to receive the second half kickoff. What are the factors that go into that decision?
BB:We talk about it each week, every game. It's one of the things we discuss prior to the game as a staff and we try to do what we feel like is best for that particular game and that particular situation. Again, all the factors that you would think would go into it go into it. Sometimes we withhold that decision until we actually get and see what the field conditions are for that particular game, like last night or like Thursday night, a game like that. Obviously if you're playing in a dome in Indianapolis, we don't need to get that information. But games that are weather games, that could affect that decision, too. How you want to start the game, what your offensive or defensive game plan is, not talking about the first play but in general, here's how we want to try to start the game – maybe that affects it. There could be a lot of factors, so we try to consider them all and do what we think is best.
Q: Have you seen a jump in Kirk Cousin's productivity since he's been named the starter, perhaps because of an increase in confidence?
BB: Yeah, I can't really speak to that. I'm not around him. But just watching him play, he plays confidently, he plays with a command. He does a good job with things on the line of scrimmage like the cadence or checking plays based on the defensive look. I would say watching him from where I watch him, he makes a lot of good decisions. I don't think he struggles with that at all. If he has an option on a play, he usually takes the one that looks the best. He makes good decisions on that. I think he does a good job of using the cadence, using the formation and so forth and timing. Again, you just don't really see a lot of mistakes there – delay of game penalties and timeouts and plays that are obviously not run properly. They get to the line of scrimmage, they do it, like all of us some plays are run better than others or maybe a guy gets beat on a technique or something, but as far as running the team, managing the team, making good decisions, the clock management at the end of halves, handling field goal range, handling all those kinds of things, I think he does a really good job with that, like he did in college and practicing against him. You saw some of those things to a lesser degree because [Robert] Griffin [III] was playing quarterback at that point. But we worked against both of them. I think he's got a lot of strengths. He's a smart guy, he's competitive, I'm sure he's got a lot of confidence from his teammates and his coaches. I think we've seen that from a couple staffs with him. I'm sure he does a lot of things in the building that a lot of people down there like and that's why he's taking the snaps.
BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL WITH WASHINGTON MEDIA
Q: Does anything Tom Brady does anymore surprise you?
BB:You know, Tom's been very consistent. He works hard, prepares hard, takes care of himself, spends a lot of extra time doing things for recovery and training and so forth. He's always been pretty good like that, been very consistent every day, all year long. He's been a model of consistency that way.
Q: Is there anything that Tom Brady does now that's better than he did several years ago?
BB:I think everybody improves every year. You learn things, you go through experiences, and you learn the things that … There's always something that's a little bit new or a little bit different in every game and every week of preparation and so forth. I think we're always learning. I'm sure he is, too. Tom's very astute. He studies hard. He pays attention to details and the game is always changing and evolving. Situations come up and sometimes the rules are a little bit different or the situation is a little bit different than another one that's similar to it and it requires some type of adjustment or change, so yeah, I think he always works hard to stay on top of it.
Q: Do you still some strength in the Redskins running game despite them struggling the past few weeks?
BB:Yeah, absolutely. They have great backs. Coach [Bill] Callahan and Coach [Jay] Gruden have a long history of a lot of success in the running game scheme-wise, and techniques, so I think they do a great job of that and it's very, very challenging. They have good zone plays, good scheme plays, good backs, good blockers on the edge, good blockers inside. Their passing game complements their running game with the play action so it's a lot to stop. If you're stopping one run you may not be stopping the complementary run or you're not stopping the play action that goes with it and then they end up hurting you on that. They do a good job. They're really well coached. They have excellent backs. Those guys make a lot of yards on their own.
Q: How has the Patriots approach to the draft and developing players helped the team as opposed to building through free agency, and was that a philosophy you've always had dating back to your years as a younger coach?
BB:Well, I think we're all in the business of developing players. I mean nobody plays forever. You always have to restock your team with talent, plus you have the NFL system that's set up in such a way that you can't keep everybody and there's turnover on every team with free agency and so forth. I think, yeah, that's always been important, developing players is definitely important. I think in Cleveland prior to free agency you were able to keep players so a lot of times your team pretty much stayed the same from year to year. Trades were infrequent and it was just the developing of the players that you brought in – draft choices, free agents that made your team in the 70's and 80's. Over the last couple decades, developing players from Plan B to free agency and with fewer rounds in the draft now – we're not into those 12 round drafts that we had back in '91 or '92, whatever it was – those undrafted players and just the overall opportunity to work with guys and try to develop them, it's been important in the NFL. We did a decent job of that in Cleveland with guys like Wally Williams and Orlando Brown and some of those offensive lineman, Bob Dahl, you know, guys like that that went on to have good careers and Pro Bowls and all that that nobody even heard of, Herman Arvie, when they came out of college, and other positions as well but some of those guys in particular. So I'd say yeah that's always been important. But you can build your roster in a lot of different ways. Every day is an opportunity and some days provide more opportunities than others, like final cut down day when there are hundreds of players available or the draft when you can select from hundreds of players or even after the draft there are a lot of players to be signed. Those opportunities are really there, some more frequent than others, but you're kind of always working to develop and improve your roster. Practice squad positions, those 10 spots are opportunities for that as well, so I think that's all part of team building.
Q: What were your conversations like with Jay Gruden during the joint practices last year and how have you seen him develop as a head coach since then?
BB:Well, that was a really productive week for us. I thought we got a lot done. Coach Gruden and his staff were great to work with. I thought the padded practices were very beneficial for our football team, the competition, the opportunity to play against schemes that were different from ours and obviously compete against good players that we didn't see on the practice field every day. Then they handled us pretty easily in the game. It was never really very competitive. We had a couple red-area stops to kind of keep the score close but we were really never in that game, or not in it for very long. We learned a lot from that, too. I thought it was good to work with him and his staff. They're obviously a well-coached team and a team that is very competitive in every game.
Q: How do you get a team to improve their tackling and how difficult is that now due to the practice restrictions?
BB:It's hard to practice it, there's no doubt about that. It's hard to practice it. Whatever the restrictions are, they are. There's nothing we can do about those. You just try and do the best you can to coach everything, whatever the techniques or coaching points are that you need to get across – blocking, tackling, running, catching, throwing, kicking, and so forth. I think it's something that is a skill that's probably practiced less at lower levels – high school, college – than it was in previous years or decades maybe. Therefore that's kind of rolled into the next level. And again, the amount of time we have and the amount of opportunities really to do that, sometimes the risk of doing live tackling, there's definitely a risk to that. You've got to try and balance all that out. I'm sure every team in the league is having the same conversations. How do we improve our tackling, how do we practice it without taking too much risk. I know we've had a lot of those conversations, and like I said, I'm sure every team in the league has had them.
Q: Where have you seen the most growth from Rob Gronkowski in becoming a complete tight end?
BB:Well you know, Rob's come a long way. He barely played in college. He didn't play much as a freshman and then rotated a little bit. Then his sophomore year he played a lot and had a good year his sophomore year. Then he was injured and missed his junior year so he basically had one year of college football. He needed everything – needed snaps, needed just to see things, experience them, running game, passing game, pass protection, you name it. And of course tight end, as we all know, is kind of right in the middle of every play. There's no kind of plays off for that position. They have a key block or they're in pass protection or they're in the middle of the pass route somewhere. There's a lot for him or any tight end to experience. I'd say it's been a cumulative effect for Rob. I don't think there's any one day or one week, but just over time Rob works hard. He trains hard. He practices very hard on the field. He's very competitive. He still gets better every day and there are things that he knows he can improve on and he works hard to do it. I think we've seen a lot of strong components of his game, but he's still working to improve all those on a regular basis.
Q: What signs do you look for when you are developing a quarterback to make sure he is going in the right direction?
BB:Well, I think that's a question that, you know, the coach has to answer because only you as a coach, the quarterback coach, the offensive coordinator, the head coach, whoever it is, knows what you're telling the guy to do and what his reads are on certain plays, what he should check to, if he should change a play, if he should stay with it, what his read progression is and so forth. Sometimes there are things that happen on film that if you're just not part of those meetings you don't know if there was a mistake in protection or if a receiver ran the wrong route or if he ran the right route and the quarterback made the wrong read. You just don't know those things unless you're part of it. As I said, the Redskins have a very good and experienced coaching staff. They definitely know what they're doing. It's what we all do. We all try to do that. We try to give the players a plan or system to work in, let them do it, watch them improve, evaluate their performance, but there are a lot of things within that that if you're not really a part of it then it's hard to tell exactly, particularly at that position, how much the quarterback is right, how much somebody else is right, what are some things that are happening that he can't control and what can he control. There's a subjective evaluation there that's really only the person that's working with them have a good opportunity to make.
Q: What growth have you seen in Kirk Cousin's game?
BB:Good, efficient. He's got good quickness in the pocket. He's a hard guy to get back there. He doesn't get sacked very often, gets rid of the ball on time. He does a good job of spreading the ball around, all the receivers and tight ends and backs. They all handle the ball, so he does a good job of utilizing multiple receivers. It's not like he just locks in on one guy all the time, anything like that. He hasn't broken off a lot of long runs, I'm not saying that, but his ability to move and avoid people in the pocket, get the ball out, find receivers, utilize again all the receivers that he has. He's smart. It looks like the plays that they have to audible to and check based on the defensive look, I'd say just looking at it from our side of it, he usually gets the team in a good play. They go away from the strength of the defense and into the weakness where you would expect them to go, things like that. I think all those things, I've been impressed with all those things on film.