BB: Alright back on the Dolphins here, I think you can really see the way this team has evolved over the last few weeks since Coach [Dan] Campbell has taken over. Played very physically, very strong up front, which they have been, but I think the emphasis of physical defense, controlling the line of scrimmage, attacking the line of scrimmage I think they've done a great job of that. They lead the league in negative rushing plays. I'd say that's a combination of a lot of things. It's not all one guy. It's a lot of good football players up there playing with good technique and playing aggressively. Defensively they create a lot of negative plays – interceptions from [Brent] Grimes and [Reshad] Jones – got nine of them between them. They get a lot of turnovers. We've got to take care of the ball. That's been a big factor in the Dolphins wins where they've been able to get a big edge in the turnovers. Offensively, again a very well balanced offense. They run the ball well – average four and a half yards per carry, which is pretty good. They have a lot of big-play receivers, big average per catch with obviously [Jarvis] Landry, who does everything well and his numbers are a little lower because of the number of short catch-and-run plays he has, but he handles the ball a lot plus he gets the ball on a lot of running plays with speed sweeps and slip screens and things like that. Then [Kenny] Stills, [DeVante] Parker, who has really become a big factor, have gotten a lot of plays out of [Rishard] Matthews – not sure what his status is this week but he's been a good deep-ball productive player for them. [Jordan] Cameron obviously and [Damien] Williams has done a good job coming out of the backfield, too, so they have a lot of guys who have given them a lot of big plays in the passing game plus a running game that's been consistent with good runners. Jay [Ajayi] and Lamar Miller have done a good job breaking tackles, getting a lot of positive yards, and [Ryan] Tannehill is obviously a threat to run the ball and has thrown the deep ball very well. The kicking game, the return game is always a problem with Landry – strong runner, breaks a lot of tackles, very aggressive – and they do an excellent job on their punt and field goal rushes, challenge your protections all the time, probably more than any team in the league. Certainly with punt rushes, nobody has rushed more than they do. But that doesn't really affect them too much because they can still return the ball and keep the coverage from getting down there so a lot of their return comes from guys getting held up in the line trying to protect. I think that Coach Campbell has made a very conscious effort to play the game a certain way. I think you definitely see that when you watch the film, and they've had good success doing it. They had an opportunity to beat the Colts there at the end of the game but they had I'd say a real tough pass interference call go against them. They had a touchdown called back a little earlier in the third quarter. Played well last week, beat the Ravens, beat the Eagles, so they do a lot of things well. Our goal is to play our best game of the year this week. That's what we think we need to do. Hopefully that's what we'll be able to do.
Q: How do you feel your punt protection unit has been since the block against the Eagles?
BB: I think there is always room for improvement, and I'd say that it wasn't perfect before the Eagles game, either. That just happened to be where it showed up. It's something that we've got to keep working on. Teams are doing a good job of scheming up rushes to make it hard for the protection. I think every team in the league is kind of challenged by it. They rush eight guys and you're blocking with seven plus a snapper, so it's hard, plus with the schemes and the timing and all that. They do a good job, certainly the Dolphins do a good job, and I'm sure we'll be challenged by it. They go after everybody, so I'm sure they'll come after us, too. We'll work hard on it this week as we have every week. It's something you've got to work on.
Q: Olivier Vernon has maintained his production even after Cameron Wake went down. Have they moved him around or kept him in the same spot?
BB: He's basically been on our left. [Quinton] Coples is in there a little bit for him. [Derrick] Shelby has done a great job on the right side – he's had a lot of production. [Damontre] Moore plays over there a little bit, but they pretty much stay left and right. They're pretty much left and right.
Q: Are the negative plays they've created defensively simply a result of them winning one-on-one matchups or have they schemed some things up?
BB: They're hard to block up front. They're just hard to block – [Jordan] Phillips, [Earl] Mitchell, whoever it's been in there with [Ndamukong] Suh, they're hard. Shelby is hard. Vernon is hard. The linebackers do a good job of getting downhill. They blitz Jones enough. He's got some disruptive plays, too. I mean they don't blitz him all the time, but he shows up in there with some negative plays, some disruptive plays. I'd just say in general it's hard to get them all blocked. If you put a couple guys on the down guys then you have the linebackers – you have [Kelvin] Sheppard and [Jelani] Jenkins and [Zach] Vigil and those guys running through and making plays. If you're too quick to get to the linebackers then you're singled on Phillips, Suh, Mitchell, whoever it is, Shelby, Vernon and that's a problem, too. They just have a lot of guys who are hard to block consistently. They mix in a little bit of stunting but not a lot. They play a lot of just basic good-technique defense and they just win a lot of one-on-ones with their fundamentals and their aggressiveness. They have good players, so it's a good group. It's not easy; it's hard.
Q: How much of a challenge is it to block Suh?
BB: Yeah, he's hard to block, it's no question. He does a good job of getting off on the ball, so guys that are late off the ball, tackle is trying to cut him off on the back side or a guard or a tackle who is late on a pass set on him, a lot of times he's by them. He's got good quickness, very good strength. Kind of like [J.J.] Watt, he's got the combination of power and quickness, so if you're overaggressive he can just arm over you or slip you. If you kind of play soft and wait for him to make his move he's got enough power to run through blockers – guys that are in front of him like centers and guards. He can split those double teams, guys that try to combination block him. He's got good pad level and can split the double teams. He's made some really good plays in pursuit – screen passes and plays like that, running 25-30 yards to get to the ball. He's had a lot of disruptive plays and again similar to the Watt conversation, if you take away one thing he can hit you with something else. He's got a lot of different skills.
Q: You guys have gone on the road early in the past, including spending a week out in San Diego last year. Is this similar to that?
BB: Not really. It's just more of a function of all the activity we've got going on here.
Q: Do you need a weight room down there, like on Friday where the players would normally have workouts?
BB: Yeah, I think we're all set. College football, there's not a lot of teams playing.
Q: But you need a weight room?
BB: We'll be at Florida Atlantic. They've been great. They have a good program down there. They have good facilities. One of our coaches, Nick Caley, was there last year, so I don't think there will be any issues. It will certainly be as good as we had last year in San Diego.
Q: Has the emergence of DeVante Parker changed how they use Jarvis Landry?
BB: No, I'd say Landry has been – which Landry's role is I don't even know how you would define that other than that he gets the ball a lot. He's in the backfield, he's in the slot, more in the slot than outside, but he'll be outside. They've used him in different motion packages. They're creative in the ways they get him the ball so you can't just say this is where he's going to be because you don't know where he's going to be. But I would say you know he's going to get the ball 10-15, 20 times a game targeted – somewhere in that neighborhood, so you've got to know where he is, that's for sure. I think Parker has kind of had an opportunity with Matthews being out and he's stepped up and made a lot of great plays for them. Matthews has given them a lot of production through the year. He's had a really good year, too, prior to the injury, obviously. Stills is a home-run guy that has a high average per catch, and he catches a lot of downfield, intermediate and deep balls, but he's dangerous on catch-and-run plays, too – under routes and slip screens and things like that. That's part of their running game, so if you have too many guys inside, they just toss it out to those receivers and let them run with it. He's dangerous, too. They get good production from their tight ends, especially Cameron, and Williams has caught like 18-20 balls, whatever it is, out of the backfield. Some of those have been big plays – wheel routes, seam routes, things like that. So their skill players are really good and they've got a lot of them at every position. They're deep.
Q: What have you seen from Steven Jackson as far as his grasp of the offense?
BB: He has familiarity with the offense from when he was in St. Louis so I'd say it's coming back to him at a pretty good rate. He's only been here a few days. Each day we'll just keep building on the day before, the week before and just keep moving forward. Hopefully Wednesday will be better than last Friday, Thursday will be better than today and just keep moving forward.
Q: What have you thought of Jordan Richards' production as his playing time has increased?
BB: He got a good opportunity to play last week unfortunately with Patrick [Chung] and Devin [McCourty] out. I thought he had a lot of good plays. He tackled well. He knocked the ball out. Played for us, kept his role in the kicking game – was productive there. It wasn't perfect. There are some things he's still got to, things he hasn't done or hasn't done as much of, but he's aggressive, he's instinctive, plays hard and did a good job for us on defense and in the kicking game. He's a real mature kid, smart, works hard, very dependable player – dependable person, dependable player. You can pretty much count on him every day, no matter what the situation is, to be in the right place, do the right things, be prepared, be ready to go, have the answer to the question you're going to ask him. He's on top of it.
Q: With the injuries along the offensive line, do you know now what your plan will be going into Miami or will you try to figure it out during the week?
BB: Any time there is uncertainty about a player's availability then that's something you have to evaluate as you go through the week. If the player is there, what's his role? If he's not there, who replaces him or how does that configure? That's going to be a question if any player is in that category. If a player is out, then OK, who do you replace that player with? That's fairly clear-cut. It may be taking a player who's not as good as the player that you lost, but that's more clear-cut.
Q: I guess what I'm saying is there have been so many moving parts, how do you go through practices this week? What's that rotation on the offensive line?
BB: The players that are available, you put them in the positions that they're going to be in. We're not going to take 10 linemen to the game, so we're going to have to have somebody play more than one positon, whether that's a starter playing another position or whether that's a backup playing two positions. You've got to handle the numbers of those spots with fewer than 10 players. That's what it is. If a player is on the fence as to whether we 100 percent can count on his availability then if he can practice we see what he can do and evaluate it. If it's more of an end-of-the-week decision then we wait until the end of the week and make the decision then. What we can't control we don't worry about. The guys that are there do what they can do. Once we have more information then we'll make a decision based on the information. If we had to play today, it'd be one thing, but we don't so we'll postpone that until we get closer. I mean at some point you've got to draw the line so once that comes, whether that's Friday or Saturday or it could be Sunday morning, at some point you've got to draw the line.
Q: How much do you factor an offensive lineman's ability to play multiple positions when deciding to acquire them as opposed to just their skill set?
BB: I think there's a place for both. Somewhere along the line you're going to need versatility, but everybody doesn't have to play a lot of positons. If they can just play one well, there is a lot to be said for that. But you've got to be able to play it pretty well. Steve Neal never played anything but right guard for us. That was it. He played right guard good – it was great. Mike Vrabel played everything from free safety to tight end, so that was good. I don't think it's either or but somewhere along the line somebody is going to have to have some versatility. You just don't have enough guys to have depth at every position. But at the same time you're going to put some players out there that need to play well, so being able to play six different positions isn't as important as having one guy who can do one thing well, whatever that is. The less you can do probably the better you need to be able to do it. The more you can do maybe you can be not quite as proficient in one area, but your versatility creates some value. No matter how versatile you are, eventually you're going to have to get in there and do something, whatever that is, and if you can't do it very well, then really how much value is the versatility?
Q: What kind of progression have you seen from Malcom Brown?
BB: A lot. I'd say it kind of maybe started around the bye week somewhere there after the Jacksonville game, somewhere in the area. I think he's really come on through the season, which isn't always the case with first-year players. It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he's become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it. He's really hit a good slope, good incline. He's worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie's plate. There's a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it's not easy, but he's improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he's improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It's been good.
Q: When you bring in a player this late in the season, do you have a ceiling in mind for what they'll be able to pick up, or do you have to wait until they get in here and take it on a case-by-case basis?
BB: Yeah, the latter. Unless you know the player, it's not really applicable now but you come from another team and you had the guy a year or two before or whatever, that's one thing. But that doesn't happen very much now. I'd say unless we've had the player or if we haven't had the player then it's a new experience with that player and guys learn at different rates, they pick things up differently. Some things maybe they've done before, but call them differently. Some things maybe they haven't done before. Maybe the concept comes to them quickly, maybe it doesn't. Sometimes it doesn't happen in practice, but then it happens in the game. Sometimes it happens in practice but then it doesn't happen in the game. I think it's just experience that each guy you have to go through it with.
PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL WITH MIAMI MEDIA
Q: How important is the bottom third of the roster when you're constructing your roster?
BB: I don't think we really look at it that way. I would say the way that I look at it is every roster spot is important. You can number them however you want to number them. I'm not sure who's one and who's 53, but everyone is important and there has got to be a reason for each one and an expectation for each one and a role for each one or a potential role for each one. What we try to do is based on those criteria the best person that we can have for that spot, that's who we want. We try to make the most out of every opportunity we have. That also includes the 10 practice squad spots because those players are really part of your team, too. I mean they're not on your team, but they kind of are on your team. In a lot of cases they're certainly the next guy – they're in the on deck circle. All those spots, they're all important. I wouldn't single any of them out or dismiss any of them. I think they're all important.
Q: Is the best way to win in the NFL to have a good quarterback? How important is that position?
BB: There are 32 teams. There are 32 different ways of doing things. In our case, we just again try to do what we feel like is best for our football team. And again that's at each position and then at some point there has to be an overall integration because some positions play off each other, even though they're not the same positon. But as you get in the kicking game, tight ends and linebackers and fullbacks and things like that, there is some type of interplay there. Again, all the positions are important. We want to have the best quarterback that we can. We want to have the best center that we can. We want to have the best left guard, right guard, left tackle, right tackle, nose guard, inside linebacker. I mean we're trying to get the best we can at every position. Linebacker, coach, trainer, video person – you name it – we're trying to get the best person we can at every position in the organization to be competitively the best at that spot in the league. I think that's how you get good, is you get good at everything. You don't just pick out one thing and try to be good at that and then give back that advantage by being bad somewhere else. That's just our philosophy and that's the way that I look at it.
Q: Miami is going to be going through a coaching search this offseason. What did you learn in your time from your first head coaching job to your second?
BB: I really appreciate the question, but honestly I don't really care what they're doing down there. I'm just trying to get our team ready to play the Dolphins this week. Miami has got a lot of things that we have to work hard to prepare for – their explosiveness on offense and defense and their returners in the kicking game, the way they rush kicks and block kicks and all that. I don't really know about some other job or some other year of whatever. I'm just trying to get this team ready to play Sunday against a good football team that has played a lot of good football here since Coach [Dan] Campbell took over.
Q: Why is Chandler Jones such an effective pass rusher?
BB: Chandler has a lot of good things to work with. He's long. He's smart. He's got a good understanding of what we do and he's an instinctive player to kind of sometimes anticipate what the offense is going to do. He plays hard. He's had a good year for us. I think he's got a lot of things going for him. Similar to what we're facing this week with Miami – there are a lot of good pass rushers on that defensive line with [Derrick] Shelby, [Ndamukong] Suh obviously, [Earl] Mitchell, [Jordan] Phillips, however that goes, obviously [Olivier] Vernon, [Damontre] Moore and [Quinton] Coples have given them other guys to put in there and rotate in there. A lot of good pass rushers on the field for Miami.
Q: Outside of quarterback, is the offensive line the toughest position to have injuries?
BB: Yeah, I don't know what number you put on it or something like that. Look every team has some personnel situations that they have to manage one way or another. That's why you have depth. That's why you have all the players you have on your roster to be able to be competitive at all those spots because really you never know where it's going to hit. Again as we talked about earlier, each position is important, each guy is important, each role is important. It becomes even more important when you need it. If you don't need it, if you don't really get to it, it could be you or I as backups but if you never have to play it doesn't really matter, but as soon as the player has to go in there then we find out how important those are. I think everything is important. You just try to do the best you can to have the best depth throughout your team as possible. Some places you have more depth than others. It's impossible to have quality depth where you're really comfortable with all those guys on your team. There are too many of them. It's hard enough to have that with your front line players let alone another group of them but you do the best you can. A lot of times you have young players that will be better in time and sometimes that's worth waiting for. I think you have a lot of that in Miami. You have a lot of young players. You have a lot of guys that are playing well – guys like [DeVante] Parker that have started to come on here in the second half of the season and are going to be really good. I think you've got a number of those guys on that team. Again there's a balance there between experience and knowing what to do and a younger developing player with talent that hasn't peaked yet.
Q: There's a report down here in Miami today that said that when the Dolphins visited you guys in October, they took extra equipment staffers because they didn't want any of your people tampering with their gear. Did you know about that, and what are your thoughts on that?
BB: I'm just worried about what we're doing, trying to coach our team. You'd have to talk to them about it.
Q: How important is home-field advantage to you guys?
BB: I think the most important thing is to have a good team that's playing well. I think there are plenty of examples through the years of Wild Card teams going to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl and not playing any games at home. There are examples of teams with the number one seed and all that, so I'm sure you can find things on both sides, but in the end you need to play well. You need to have a good team, and the team needs to play well. That's the coach's job is to get them to play well, so that's what we're looking at. Whoever we have to play, wherever we have to play them, whatever it is it is. But I think having a good team and playing well is more important than who or where you play.