BB: We'll get back on the practice field today and actually go out there and do some things against Miami. We had a good walkthrough yesterday. We got a lot of things covered mentally walking through it. Today we'll go out there and start running some of the stuff and try to be ready to go on Saturday.
Q: Have you made decisions on those two open roster spots?
BB: No, we have no announcements to make.
Q: With the performance Reggie Bush had on Sunday and what he's done in the second half of the season, do you think he can be an every down running back?
BB: He's in there a lot, yeah. We don't have any control over that - whoever is in there we have to defend. He's in there a lot and he does a lot of things for them. He had a tremendous game against Buffalo, but he's been productive all year, as have all their skill players. They've gotten a lot of production out of all those guys. Bush, he runs inside, he runs outside, catches the ball, they have him out of the backfield where he's really kind of like a receiver because he's got that kind of skill - he's really a hard guy to match up on. [Charles] Clay and [Anthony] Fasano and [Davone] Bess have given them a lot of production inside. [Brian] Hartline and [Brandon] Marshall have given them a lot of production outside. [Matt] Moore's done a good job. [Daniel] Thomas has come in there and run the ball well too. They have a lot of weapons on offense. They're a hard team to defend and he's a hard guy to defend because he can split out and be used as a receiver; ran the ball inside, had a lot of good runs against the Giants, had a big run against Buffalo. But he also has a lot of plays outside - the speed sweep against Kansas City for a touchdown, a 25-yard touchdown. Everybody is at the point of attack and you never know where he's going to go. He's got good playing strength, he breaks a lot of tackles - he's a good player.
Q: How has Vontae Davis grown as a player? You've gotten to see him every year since he's been a rookie.
BB: Yeah, we have. We've seen him in different roles and he's done a good job for them. Has a lot of confidence playing out there. The interception he had last week against Buffalo was really an outstanding play. He went up, it looked like he went up about eight feet to get the ball. Great timing and good leaping ability, good hands. He's a strong corner, he tackles, he forces the run, matches up against big receivers with playing strength but he's fast and he's got enough quickness to match up against some of the smaller guys too. I think those corners are hard to find, guys like the Champ Baileys and the [Darrelle] Revises and the Davises that it doesn't really matter who they go up against, they can match up against them. Some guys match up good against certain types of players and other guys they have a little more trouble with. Davis is a guy that's strong enough to play against the big guys and he's fast and quick enough to play against the faster, quicker receivers. He plays the running game, he forces the run and he tackles. He has a good skill set.
Q: How has Aaron Hernandez looked recently? Obviously he had a knee injury earlier in the season. How has he progressed throughout the season?
BB: Pretty good on Sunday. He looks fine.
Q: Has he made significant progress from last year to this year?
BB: Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah. His consistency has - he's a smart guy and he played in a pretty complex offense at Florida. They did a lot of things - formations, they had him in the backfield, they had him split out, they had him at tight end, in motion and all that. He was all over the place down there too. He's a smart guy, he picks things up quickly, concepts. I think it just really gets down to timing and seeing the same - on different routes seeing the location of the linebacker, the safety, the corner is, how quickly to come out of it, when to throttle it down, when to keep going, when to pull up, when to drift, all those kind of little things that quarterbacks and receivers, tight ends, backs, whoever they are - that's the timing and the relationship between a quarterback and the guy he's throwing it to is that they both sort of see the same thing. They anticipate where each one needs to go, where the quarterback needs to throw the ball, where the receiver is going to end up and get it there. It's easy when they're wide open, anybody can hit those. It's the tight coverage, the tough ones, the quick blitzes, things like that where you have to react quickly and make a quick decision. The quarterback has to see it quick and the receiver has to recognize it quickly and get to where he's going and they both have to see it the same way.
Q: Is Sunday an example of his importance if teams start doubling Rob Gronkowski going forward?
BB: Everybody is important. Offense is about team execution, especially in the passing game. We don't know where the ball is going to go when the play is called, we don't know what coverage their defense is going to be in. Everybody has to be ready. Whatever happens then Tom [Brady] makes the best decision that he can based on what he sees and what play we have called. All the receivers have to be ready to beat their man or get to a space where they're open. Tom will try to make the best decision he can and get it to the guy that gives us the best opportunity. You can't call a pass that just goes to one receiver, I just don't understand that. A screen pass, that's one thing. When you send five guys out for the pass and [say], 'I'm just going to throw it to this guy,' it just doesn't work that way, at least not around here, maybe it does somewhere else. I just can't understand that. I know everybody thinks that's what we do. I just don't understand it.
Q: We've seen you use offensive tackles as extra tight ends as extra blockers. Is that something you had always planned on doing or is that something you adjusted to during the season based on the circumstances?
BB: Based on the number of players you have at that position, sure. At times we've had three tight ends on the roster, at times we've had three tight ends that were healthy enough to play or were on the roster to play. Other times we've had less than that, two or one or whatever it was. If you want to use those formations and you don't have the tight end then you find somebody else to do it, whether that's Mike Vrabel or Nate Solder or Russ Hochstein or whoever it is, if we're going to use those formations.
Q: How pleased have you been with the production when you do that?
BB: It's good. It gives us some things. I think like a lot of things, it could be better, I think we can get more out of it. We do get some things out of it. It gives us different matchups. We're able to do certain things to the defense that we wouldn't be able to do without that. Could we do it better? Sure.
Q: One of the interesting parts of that is that when you have that, another player goes out and the offensive tackle that comes in has to stay for a play.
BB: Right, if you do it the way we do it. Right, where a tackle is moving to tight end, if you bring the guy in as a tight end then he goes in, he comes out but now there's another moving part to that where the tackle goes to tight end then he goes out then he comes back in at tackle.
Q: Why is that?
BB: Because that's the rule. You can't go from being an ineligible player to an eligible player without going out for a play. Or if there's a timeout or an end of a quarter, something like that, then you could change it.
Q: Is that just fairness for the defense?
BB: Talk to the people that make the rules. It's a league rule, it's not a Patriots thing.
Q: What is your assessment of Marcus Cannon in that type of situation, when he's the one coming on to play tackle and he stays on before going off?
BB: The biggest issue with Marcus was just his unavailability for a period of time, training camp and then the first six weeks of the season. He sat in a lot of meetings and observed things but he wasn't really able to do them. Now each week, he's getting more and more reps with our offense, with the scout team, additional individual work, things like that so he's continuing to progress but in all honesty, in real terms, this is probably like the start of the season for him. I think what he's done is probably the equivalent of a training camp roughly. He just hasn't had as many snaps, but that being said, I think he's coming along well. He's out there every day, he's working hard, he's doing all the things that we do offensively and then he takes the scout team reps and is able to get work against our defense there. He's blocking Rob [Ninkovich] or Mark [Anderson] or Shaun [Ellis], whoever it is. That's good competition. The scout team is good competition for those guys because they're working against the best players on the other side of the ball. He's coming along. He has a long way to go but he's making progress.
Q: What goes into the decision when it comes to three-man fronts and four-man fronts? Do you practice both during the week? Do you go into the game saying 'this is what we're going to run' or do you wait and see what happens?
BB: Your spacing on defense, it could be either or both. It just depends on how you want to play the game. If you want to play it in one look, then you practice that look. If you want to have a couple multiple looks, then you practice multiple looks. You get into the game, you might keep them multiple, you might favor one or the other. Again, we go into the game and we prepare for what we think we're going to see, but we don't know what we're going to see. Then you get into the game and you find out that you may be getting a little more or a little less of this than you thought and that may alter what you want to do or it might not. There's no set formula on that.
Q: When you have a situation like last week when you have to change on the fly, the game is obviously going on -
BB: You make that decision during the game. You decide whether you want to do what you decide is best for the game even though your personnel might not be ideal for it or change to maybe what your personnel fits but may not be ideal for what you think they're doing. You just have to weigh that and decide what you think is best.
Q: What is Matt Patricia's role in that? Does he step away from the sideline and get away and figure it out? How does he handle that adjustment?
BB: I basically talk to those guys at the end of every series. I talk to Scott [O'Brien] in the kicking game, maybe not after every play but you know, after a series of plays or whatever - our kickoff coverage or our punt protection or whatever it is. At the end of the series, I usually talk to Billy [O'Brien] and Matt or other coaches, it could be Dante [Scarnecchia] or it could be somebody else about the series that happened. We talk about what we need to do or what they're doing and what we can do about that, whatever it happens to be. That's part of the whole. We talk about that on the headset too. It's hard on the headset too because if we're on offense, we're calling plays, we're substituting people. That's not really the time to have a philosophical conversation but when you come off the field after we've scored or we've punted or whatever the situation is, okay, next time we get out there, do we want to go no-huddle, what do we want to do the next series or what are we going to do the next time they give us a certain look or what are we going to do in the next third and medium, third and long, second and long? If there is a particular situation that we're not doing well in, what are we going to do the next time that comes up? It's the same thing defensively - what are we going to do if they put three receivers in the game, what are we going to do if they tighten the formations? Yeah, we talk about that in between series.
Q: When you come together with the coordinators and coaches, do you initiate the conversation about what you see or do you ask what they're seeing or is it a case by case basis?
BB: Yeah, all the above. I rely a lot on them. We talk, it's not like we've never talked about this stuff before. We talk about it going into the game. 'Look, this what they do well, this could be a problem, what are we going to do about this?' Or, 'We're not expecting much of this but if they do it, what's our answer going to be?' Or, 'We're concerned about these matchups, how are you going to handle those?' Then you get into the game and you talk about it. You say, 'Okay, we were concerned about this matchup and it looks like it's still going to be a problem.' Or, 'I think we kind of got that under control but this might be a bigger issue than we thought it was over here.' Or, 'We expected this type of a game plan but they're really doing something, they're mixing in some other things with that and not just staying with what we thought they were doing to do.' Again, that changes during the game too. Where you are in the first quarter, second quarter on that by the third quarter that sometimes they shift away from something. You see, 'Hey, they're really trying to go to a certain guy.' So you try to decide how you want to handle that. Like in the Philadelphia game, they started going to [Jason] Avant, they were feeding it to him. There was a point where you recognize, 'Alight, they're obviously looking for this guy now, he's got six, seven catches, we have to start paying more attention to him.' DeSean Jackson went out of the game. I'm just saying, things like that happen in the game that you talk about them then. I talk them out with the coaches and they talk them out with me, however you want to call it.
Q: Do you look at the Polaroids as much? Bill O'Brien and Tom Brady obviously rely on them.
BB: The pictures are definitely an aid. You can sometimes get a lot out of picture. Sometimes you can't really get anything out of it. It depends on what you're looking for and when it was snapped. There's certainly value to those. There's also value to seeing what you see. That's what we all do. Definitely if I ask Dante [Scarnecchia] about what happened on this blitz or what happened on this blocking scheme, that's what he's looking at. If I ask Chad [O'Shea], 'What happened on this route?' Then, 'Hey, we got jammed' or, 'The corner did this and the safety did this and that's why we ran it that way.' I can't see all 22 players at once but I can focus on whatever I'm focusing on but that may or may not be an issue on that play. We definitely talk about those things.
Q: Is that a real coaching skill, if you're Chad O'Shea on field level to watch your receivers and see what kind of leverage they're getting and see how it works in combination in live time? To be able to process and assess what's going on accurately?
BB: It's a skill but I think it's a realistic expectation too. That's what we do out there in practice every day. We watch the play and then after that you tell a player, right there at that point in time, 'Look, when that happens to you, then this is what you do. You did this but you really need to keep it tighter. You should have done this or you should have done that.' We do that on a daily basis.
Q: You're big on situational football. Is this something you would do in training camp, like all of a sudden in the middle of practice you would say, 'Team A or Team B is doing something completely different, now we have to switch' and you pull that on the coaches or players?
BB: I think in training camp you're really trying to build a foundation of what you do. Definitely we have situation practices in training camp. We'll create a situation - it's 15 seconds to go, we have the ball at midfield and we need a field goal, we have no timeouts or we have a timeout or we're defending that situation or whatever it is. That may incorporate if it's a field goal, then that incorporates the kicking situation into it as well. Yeah, we definitely practice those. I think the preparing for the game is more of a weekly thing and a lot of times as a coach there's kind of two ways you can attack it. One, you can go out to practice, we run 30 plays on defense. I know the play, I know the defense, I want to see how the defense handles a certain play so I run a play action pass against a certain coverage and I want to see whether we can cover it. That's one way of doing it. The other way of doing it is you draw up the play, I call the coverage, whatever happens happens and let's see how it goes. We don't know what's coming and you can't really prepare the player for it, if you know what I mean. That's more realistic in the game but you don't quite get sometimes the exact matchup that you really want to coach. Like you tell players, 'Okay, look when they do this, here's how we're going to do it. You're going to cover him, you're going to cover him and you're going to do that.' Then you run it and see whether you have it or not. You make sure going out to practice that you've covered that. Okay, 'You understand this situation, this happens, this happens, you do that, okay.' Then you run it. But if you kind of randomly hit those, then you don't necessarily get that part of it, you just have to, you call a play if they blitz, you pick up the blitz. If they play a three man rush, then you run the play against a three man rush and get the spacing that you need on it. I think there's a place for both. Do we change it around? Yeah. We throw things against the offense and the defense that they're not expecting because the coaches and players don't know what plays are being called. I control that or somebody else controls it so the coaches don't know. Then there are other times when the coaches absolutely know what it is so they can make sure that the players are able to handle that situation against whatever it is we happen to be doing. Same thing in the kicking game, we create those situations in the kicking game too. There's 10 seconds to go in the game, we're up by three, punt the ball out of bounds, we're not going to give the returner a chance to handle the ball. Or we're down by seven, there's 30 seconds to go in the game, they're punting, here's our punt rush. Now are the gunners in tight? Is one of them in tight? Are they split? Who knows? How do we run that rush against, we're not sure what look it's going to be. Sometimes we know but other times you really don't know you just have to - we make the players figure it out as it happens. It may or may not work out that way in the game but it's a good process for them to go through.
Q: Going back to the extra tight end discussion, why not just bring in a guy like Marcus Cannon as an extra blocker instead?
BB: We could do that. Obviously we think the best way for us to do it is the way we're doing it. If there was another head coach here, [if] you were the head coach, maybe you could put Cannon at tight end. You could do it, I'm not saying you can't do it.
Q: I'm just wondering if there's a difference between the two ways.
BB: I'm not saying you can't do it. We just think that's the best way to do it. Just like we could put [Logan] Mankins at right guard and put [Brian] Waters at left guard. Could you do it? Yeah, I've watched him play left guard his whole career. We just feel like that's the best way to do it.
Q: Does the fact that Nate Solder played some tight end in his career at a different level play a role in that? Or is it a non-factor?
BB: I don't know. Honestly, I'm not going to make a decision here based on what a guy did when he was 18 years old. I'm going to make a decision based on what I see the player do. Now, the fact that he did that as an 18-year old, maybe as I'm watching him I can project it better because he does it better. I can't, 'Okay what did this guy do in high school? Alright that's what I'm going to do with him.' It's just hard for me to look at it that way. I respect it, I do. But I have to look at what I see, what I see the athlete, what his physical skills are, what his mental, the way he plays the game, his style of play, [ability] to process information and all those kinds of things that go with a play and an adjustment and something that happens after the snap and all the things that he has to do at that position and that's what I have to make my decision on. I really can't worry about what he did five years ago. I wasn't coaching him, I wasn't there, I don't really know what the level of competition was that he worked against, honestly. I think most of our decisions, once we get the player, our decisions are based on what they do in our system, not what they've done somewhere else.
Q: Can he catch the ball? Does he have pretty good hands?
BB: We'll find out someday, won't we?
Q: That's what I'm waiting for.
BB: Maybe someday we'll find out.