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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 9/23

Transcripts from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's press conference with the New England media, and conference call with the Jacksonville media on Wednesday, September 23, 2015.

BB:We've spent quite a bit of time, obviously this week but even going back to last spring and through training camp, studying up on Jacksonville. I think Dave Caldwell, Gus Bradley and their respective staffs [have] done a really good job of putting this team together. It's a very talented team. They're young, they're hungry, and they play very, very well. Their game last week against Miami I think was a carryover from a lot of what we saw in preseason – how efficient they were, the growth and maturity of their young players. You know, when you go down there and play Miami and don't turn the ball over, don't get sacked, play as cleanly as they played and have the situational plays that they had at the end of the half, the situational plays that they had at the end of the game – to win that game, there was just a lot of really good football. And you can obviously see the influence of Dave and Gus and what they've done in terms of building the team and the players they've brought in, the schemes that they run on offense, defense, special teams, how it all kind of goes together, the type of players that they are using and how productive they've been. This is a good young team that's really hungry and very talented, so we're going to have to do a great job this week of knowing the personnel that we're playing against because they do move players around to create matchups. We're going to have to do a great job of understanding how we have to play and how they play, which is a lot different than what we've seen the last couple weeks in terms of scheme and style. We are going to have to play and execute well for 60 minutes, which is something we haven't done yet this year. So, that's going to be really, really important. But their talent level, their youth, their energy, their toughness, it's going to be a big challenge for us this week. Again, getting to know them from a player standpoint – I mean we can work them on as coaches and all that, but our players haven't, obviously, been focused on anybody but the teams we've been playing. So, it's a big, big challenge for them this week to assemble all of that information in a very short amount of time and then go out and execute well against it.

Q: How much carryover do you see from the Seahawks to Gus Bradley's defense?

BB:Quite a bit, scheme-wise, quite a bit. Their fronts are similar, their coverages are similar, the type of players that they have acquired or assembled there. You can definitely see the roles. Obviously each player's skills are different, but they have a lot of good players on their front. They were high in the league last year in sacks and then they go out and draft [Dante] Fowler [Jr.], so you can tell how important that is to the team building process there. They have a lot of really good skill players offensively, but defensively, very similar to the Seattle scheme and philosophy I would say. The turnovers – [they're] very high in the league in turnovers, especially on the road. They've had a lot of success doing that. Similar philosophy to what Seattle has, but they produce it, too.

Q: How helpful is having already prepared for a scheme like Seattle's last year?

BB: I think, again, as a coaching staff we're familiar with the scheme, and I think our players who were here last year, which is certainly not all of them by any stretch, but there's some carryover playing against that scheme. But the skills of [Chris] Clemons and [Jared] Odrick, and [Tyson] Alualu, and [Roy] Miller, all those guys, [Ryan] Davis, [Michael] Bennett, they're all different. So, we've got to, regardless of where they line up, the actual individual that we have to block has a unique skill set to the next guy who comes and lines up there. So, we'll have to do a great job of identifying not only what we're doing, but who the guy actually is because they're, you know, [there's a] big difference whether you're blocking Odrick or Clemons or [Chris] Smith. But they're all going to be in that spot somewhere along the line.

Q: What recollections do you have from the 1996 AFC title game?

BB: That was a good day – when Otis Smith scooped up that fumble and ran it back and kind of sealed it. It was a great day. A lot better when we went down there … I mean, we've had some trouble with them through the years, but that, it's a big win.

Q: How much do they disguise what they do on defense, if at all?

BB: You know, I think they, I mean look, they don't have like a million different calls, but they do a good job of making those calls go together and certainly when they pressure, it's hard to anticipate that. They don't do a lot of it, and they do a pretty good job of disguising that. But I don't think this is going to be a game of we didn't know where they were. I think we'll be able to find them. It's a question of being able to execute against it. It's being able to block them, being able to throw and create spacing in their zone coverages and have time to get the ball off and have time to get the distribution that we're looking for in the passing game or block them in the running game. They're going to load the box, play a lot of extra, one extra guy in the front that you have to deal with. It's going to come down to whether we can block and whether we can get open, whether we have enough time to create separation in the passing game with our spacing and then the execution of it. They're a very good zone team. They have a very disruptive front, and they've got a lot of good players. Disguise is part of it, but I don't think this is like an overly, that's not the thing I'd say they put the most into. They put the most into playing hard, taking the ball away, being aggressive, controlling the line of scrimmage. It's that kind of game.

Q: How does being a young, hungry football team play out on the field?

BB: They're young. They're very athletic. I mean, you've got guys like [Allen] Robinson just going up and taking the ball away from people. Like I said, the front, they just keep coming at you. They've got eight, nine guys that they just roll through there. They get production out of all of them. They're hard to tackle. [T.J.] Yeldon is hard to tackle, their receivers are hard to tackle, the quarterback is hard to tackle. They're young, they're athletic, they run well. Young kickers, young specialists – I mean those guys kick the ball a long way. They've got big legs – young, strong guys. Big, strong and fast, every position. They have big corners, they have big receivers, they have big tight ends, they have a big quarterback, they've got a bunch of big backs, they've got big safeties. Both their safeties are 215, 210, whatever it is. They're big.

Q: What have you seen from T.J. Yeldon?

BB: I mean he's good. He's definitely shown he can be a workhorse. That game last week, it was very hot. There were a lot of players who couldn't finish the game with cramping and dehydration issues and so forth. They just kept giving him the ball. He ran hard. He's a powerful guy. He's got good speed, gets the ball outside, catches the ball. They use him some in the passing game, but he can carry the mail. He's a big, strong, tough runner that has good vision, can get the ball downhill. He's hard to tackle, and obviously, he has good stamina and conditioning levels. They gave it to him a lot and he delivered.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between Greg Olson's offense in Oakland last year and his offense in Jacksonville this year?

BB: I think there are definitely some similarities. Obviously, the players are different other than [Stefen] Wisniewski. That's probably the only carryover guy. They use a lot of 11 and 12 personnel. I'd say that [Clay] Harbor is kind of similar to [Marcel] Reece. He's a fullback, tight end kind of guy. [He] sort of lines up in a lot of different places. They use him in motion, change formations with him quite a bit. They do a good job attacking all three levels of the defense – down the field, a lot of intermediate routes. They hit a lot of in cuts, a lot of over routes, a lot of those 15 to 25-yard routes that not all teams throw, but they throw plenty of those. They throw the ball deep, and they have a lot of catch-and-run plays with their skill players. [Marqise] Lee is a hard guy to tackle, obviously Robinson. [Bryan] Walters is another returner if they use him, so they've got a lot of production – [Allen] Hurns – those guys have given them a lot of production. They've got two really good tight ends. [Nic] Jacobs, he factors in there too. Harbor is a good receiver. Marcedes Lewis is an outstanding player – great length and concentration and catching ability, solid blocker on the line of scrimmage. So, you know, they have a lot of weapons. Schematically, it's similar to Oakland. The offensive line, even though they're young, is a pretty experienced group. Wisniewski is experienced, [Zane] Beadles is experienced, [Jermey] Parnell obviously, Luke [Joeckel] and then [Brandon] Linder is a second-year player, but he's one of their best players, so he done a good job for them, too. He's young, but he's got a year and a half experience or whatever it is. Again, it's a young, but kind of experienced group if you will. Bortles is in his second year. Robinson, guys like that, they're not rookies, but they're young and they're talented. But I have to say that there's definitely a carryover scheme-wise from the Oakland offense. I think Coach Olson does a good job of utilizing the personnel, so the players that have different skills in Jacksonville than the ones in Oakland, he tries to feature them and take advantage of their skills.

Q: What do you like about Jabaal Sheard playing on the interior?

BB: Well we've had different looks. We've had Rob [Ninkovich] in there, we've had Chandler [Jones] in there, we've had Sheard in there, [Geneo] Grissom. I mean, it gives us truly another end if you will – three ends, sometimes four ends type of thing – a little faster, a little more athletic, more team speed.

Q: What do you think of Rob Gronkowskis leadership skills?

BB: Probably underrated. He hasn't really sometimes come across in that role. You know, what I see, Rob's very attentive, very coachable. You tell him what you want him to do, he works very hard to do it the way you want it done. He's a smart football player. He understands leverage. He understands position. He understands technique. He understands the concept of what you're trying to do. We move him around in a lot of different positions. He has, really, a lot to learn. Probably other than the quarterback, the tight end position in our offense is the hardest to play because you have all the protections, you have all the running game and you have routes from the sideline to the middle of the field to occasionally even in the backfield. So, there are really no plays off mentally for that position. His work ethic, his ability to work with his teammates, whether it's the quarterback, the offensive tackles, the other tight ends or even with the defensive players is good. He's a great guy to have on the team. Forget about the talent and all that, but just as the way he goes about his job, the way he works, trains in the weight room, his physical conditioning, his mental concentration and focus and desire to do well and improve, I mean, very, very good.

Q: Tom Brady needs one more touchdown pass to reach 400 for his career. What is your perspective on that achievement?

BB: Look, Tom is a great player, we've all said that plenty of times, but I don't really care about any records this week. We really need to beat Jacksonville. Whatever our team needs to do to beat them, that's what we need to do. Setting records – that's a very, very low priority around here – other than winning – the winning record is what's important. I don't think he'll care about it, I don't think I'll care about, I don't think Josh [McDaniels] will care about it. I think whatever helps us win, I think that's what we care about.

Q: When you're dealing with a less familiar team, what do you tell your players differently?

BB: Got to get to know them. We've got to get to know them. We've got to spend more time studying them, each individual player understanding how they use them, what their skills are and understanding the scheme and how they fit within that scheme. I mean, look, there are some tests you study for where you kind of know the information and you review it – maybe division teams. There are other tests you study for where you don't know the information and you've got to study a lot harder, you have to work harder, put more into it, do more research, spend more time, and this definitely would fall into that category. Now part of that is our job as coaches to help them understand that this defense relative to the Seattle defense, this offense relative to the Oakland offense last year, the kicking game relative to the New Orleans kicking game when Mike [Mallory] was in New Orleans – things like that – how the players are used, what the players skills are. But again, each of us individually, player and coach, has to prepare ourselves. I can't do somebody else's job, they can't do my job. We all have to put that same time and effort and concentration into it and that's what this team has to do. Now the team we're playing, they have the same issue we do. We haven't played them since 2012 and they haven't played us since 2012, so the competition on Sunday really starts during the week in terms of which team can practice, prepare better than the other team over that period of time. None of us will know the answer to that question until we get to Sunday. But the competition is going. We're competing with them. They're practicing today, we're practicing today. Competitively, we need to get more out of it today than our opponents do. That's the way it is every week.

Q: Can you talk about Dion Lewis and his contribution so far?

BB: Dion has been very productive with the ball in his hands, and he's been very dependable when he hasn't had the ball. That's really the bottom line. Being able to, in the passing game protect, run routes, catch, in the running game read blocks and make good decisions and make yards on his own. I mean, we're going to block plays for whatever the yardage is – a yard, two yards, five yards, 10 yards – but then any skill player, you want them to be able to add yards to that on their own with their running skill, whatever that is – quickness, speed, power, so forth. It's a combination of all those things.

Q: You mentioned playing all 60 minutes. Is that something you can teach during the week or is it kind of instilled as the season goes on?

BB: It's been coached since day one that we started working in OTAs in the spring – obviously not very well, so we need to do a better job of it.

Q: Dont'a Hightower has been very productive since his rookie year, but these first two games, he's been very active and flying to the ball. Is his experience and talent all coming together now?

BB: Well, I mean he's been a pretty productive player for us. I wouldn't say like it all just happened in the last couple days. He was productive as a rookie, played  a lot as a rookie, was productive, and he works hard, and he's gotten better, like all players in that same category. All young players that work hard and prepare hard and try to improve on the things that they need to improve on show improvement and he's certainly done that. Dont'a is a smart guy, he works hard, he understands football, he did a lot of different things in college, he's done different things for us in the running game, in the passing game, rushing, in coverage, pressure, zone, man and so forth. He can definitely handle a lot of volume with still a good level of execution and anticipating and understanding what's going on on the other side of the ball, putting that all together. He has a lot of strengths as a player, and I'm sure every game, every year of experience, makes him better and more valuable doing those things, as it should. But I think he's been on a good, solid line of progression since he got here. I honestly think we saw that in college, too, from his sophomore year, then he was injured, then the next year, when he played different positions, but he continued to get better in college during really the three years that he played, and he's gotten better here on a consistent basis.

Q: Do you recall a certain time when Rob Gronkowski's leadership started to show itself more? I recall him standing up and being accountable for a muffed kickoff against the Browns his rookie year. Is there any moment that stands out to you?

BB:Rob has always been a very accountable player. Even that first year he was here, in the first preseason game, I don't even think he went out for a pass. I mean, he was in protection. We were in what we call 1580 protection, the tight end was in, we were in those protections a lot when he was in the game. We were sending Aaron out and then the next week … So, I mean he did that to the best of his ability. He did it well, and the mistakes he made, he learned from and all that. The next week, Billy [O'Brien] and I talked about it, and we were like, we've got to get this guy in the passing game. He's more than a tackle; we've got to get him out there. So, we put emphasis on that, and he did that. Rob does a great job in the running game, too. He's one of our best run blockers period at any position. I'd say for me, him and [Mark] Bavaro, they're the two best that I've ever had on a consistent basis for all the different things that they have to do, not just one particular type of block or something like that. Rob takes a lot of pride in whatever he does. I mean, he takes pride in a good block just like he takes pride in a good catch or he takes pride in breaking a tackle, or for that matter, recovering an onside kick – whatever it is. He does a great job of trying to do his job, whatever it is he's being asked to do and doing it well. He's been in a lot of different roles for us, but I can honestly say I've never seen him do anything but try his very best at those roles, whatever it happened to be. He's not a one-dimensional player, and he sees football as a total team game and works hard at every aspect of it.


Q: How much carryover do you see from Greg Olson's offense in Oakland last year to what he's doing this year in Jacksonville?

BB:I definitely see some, yeah, definitely see some. Still it comes down to Jacksonville's personnel and that's what we have to stop. They have a lot of really good players that we have to deal with. Scheme-wise, I think there's some carryover, but I think there are also some differences. Coach Olson does a good job of moving players around. They move their skill players around. They change formations a little bit with [Clay] Harbor and some shifting and motion and that kind of thing. It puts pressure on the defense to recognize where everybody's at and adjust to it. They have a very good mix, balance offensively, like they did last week against Miami with the running game and the passing game, getting the ball down the field, moving the pocket, staying in the pocket, play action, drop back, deep balls, like I said, catch-and-run plays. So, there really is a lot we have to defend. They do a good job.

Q: What's your opinion on Jared Odrick from going against him with the Dolphins? Are the Jaguars using him in similar ways?

BB:He's a great player, and we had a lot of problems with him in Miami. I was glad to see him leave the division. We only have him once a year now instead of twice this year. He's very disruptive, and he's given us a lot of problems through the years. He's definitely playing more on the outside at end than in Miami, they used him primarily inside. Miami had their edge guys – [Cameron] Wake and Koa Misi and [Dion] Jordan and those guys outside. They used him more inside. But he's effective. He's long, he's got good quickness, he's got a lot of power. He does a good job outside. He made the big plays last week against Miami from the outside position. He's very hard to block out there to try to run out in the C gap and that off-tackle area with him. It's hard. He's a very difficult guy to handle. I think in this, Coach [Gus] Bradley's defense, that was a position that they used Red Bryant in out in Seattle and a little bit last year in Jacksonville. Odrick is very athletic, he adds a lot more pass rush to that position than just a run player, and then they also use him inside. They move all those defensive linemen around – not all of them – but they move several of them around quite a bit and put them in different positions to try to create favorable matchups on the offensive line, so depending on how they feel like their individual player matches up against your blocker, like who they want on who, they have a lot of flexibility with Odrick, [Tyson] Alualu, [Ryan] Davis. Sometimes those guys are inside, sometimes they're outside, depending on how they want to match them up. They definitely have some versatility there and it puts pressure on the offense because they're not always in the same spot.

Q: What is your opinion on Telvin Smith?

BB:He's been really productive. Fast, I mean, this guy can run sideline to sideline, makes plays all over the field. Nobody is going to really outrun him. He, along with [Paul] Posluszny in their nickel defense gives them a lot of speed. They play a lot of zone defense, obviously, but they can break on the ball and close down that space in a hurry, along with [Aaron] Colvin when he's in there as one of the inside players, so those guys all play good. But Telvin is almost kind of like having another DB on the field. They don't play a lot of dime, and when they're in regular, it's almost like they're in nickel because of his speed and athleticism. It kind of gives them another guy that, he's not a DB, but he's a lot of ways like a DB. He's probably faster than a lot of safeties that play in this league, so he gives them a lot of range and playmaking ability. And their defensive line is so good that they do a great job of keeping the blockers off of the linebackers. Like Posluszny and Smith a lot of times, the linemen can't quite get up to them or if they do, then they create space in the defensive line and the defensive linemen make negative plays and penetrate, so the longer the line hangs on those down guys, then the more Posluszny and Smith make a lot of tackles. But if you try to get to them too quickly, then you run into trouble on the other side with all their defensive linemen. They have a real good front. Smith is kind of a different player in that group because of his speed and athleticism. He adds a lot to it.

Q: You have used a lot of no-back formations. When did that become a big part of your offense, and what is the reasoning behind it?

BB:I think we've kind of had that empty backfield. It really started back in the 80's, when I was with the Giants with David Meggett. It was kind of a mismatch type of formation where you get a back either out on a linebacker, or if they don't put a linebacker on him and they leave a corner on him, then one of your receivers inside gets matched up on a linebacker. So, unless they are in a substituted defense, where they can match up across the board with DBs, you can usually get a linebacker outside on a back extended away from the formation where a lot of linebackers don't play a lot. Or if they keep the linebackers inside, then you have your receivers working against those guys on the inside part of the field and the corners are outside on the backs. I'd say that's kind of the basic overall philosophy of the formation. We've used it quite a bit through the years. And our quarterback does a good job, Tom [Brady] does a good job of that, and Josh McDaniels does a good job of creating matchups from different formations. That's one of the ones we use.

Q: In what ways are you seeing Blake Bortles develop since his rookie year?

BB:I'd say first of all just overall this team has really improved over the course of last year and then from '14 to '15, you can see it in preseason. Against Detroit, the first half of that game was a lot of the frontline players on both teams into the third quarter … I thought that they moved the ball very effectively. Bortles creates a lot of problems for you. I thought last week against Miami was another good example of the overall effectiveness of the offense, decision making, no sacks, no turnovers. He's able to make plays with his feet. He's able to make plays in critical situations – third down, two minute – and then he's able to make plays when he has a chance to get the ball down the field, which we saw a couple of those last week with [Allen] Robinson. But that's come up all through preseason really. They've done a good job of it, and he's done a good job of it. I think this offensive unit has really done a great job. The offensive line is young but experienced. They're very good at the tight end position. They're young and athletic at receiver. They've got obviously a great back in [T.J.] Yeldon, but other guys there, [Bernard] Pierce, [Toby] Gerhart, [Denard] Robinson – I don't know how much we're going to see of all those players, but they're all good players. They have good players, they have good depth, and then they don't make very many mistakes. They do a good job. They're really efficient in everything that they do.

Q: How important is Devin McCourty to what you guys do on the back end?

BB:Devin has done a good job for us. Came into the league as a corner, so he has coverage responsibilities at various times and his range and speed to patrol the deep part of the field, tackle, Devin is a very smart player so in terms of making adjustments and communication back there, he does a great job of that. We're really fortunate to have Devin. Devin has played a lot of good football for us and continues to do that. He's one of our most durable and dependable players game-in and game-out, year-in and year-out in a variety of assignments, whether it's at corner or at safety or some other matchup position in the game plan, returning kickoffs, covering kicks. He creates a lot of value and a lot of depth and a lot of versatility for our team. And he's a great kid and a team captain multiple years. He gives us great leadership and communication.

Q: Tom Brady threw a lot of passes last week in Buffalo. Is balance in this league overrated, or do you try to go into a game and establish balance, but change based on how the game is going?

BB:We just try to win, so we try to do what we think is best for our team to win. That encompasses offense, defense, special teams, complementary football, and how it all fits together each game is different, each matchup is different, so there is really no set formula that we're going to do this this many times or we have to do this or we have to do that. We try to do what we feel like is best and that always changes week to week because we have a new opponent, and that new opponent has different strengths that we have to make sure that we try to neutralize or take care of.

Q: Allen Robinson had a big game last week. What is your opinion of him as a young receiver? Also, Marqise Lee got back last week – what is your opinion of him?

BB:Those players, we did a lot of work on in the last couple years coming out and it's a very talented group. I think Lee has the ability, as does Robinson and [Allen] Hurns for that matter, have the ability to affect all three areas of the field. They can go deep, they're good intermediate players and they're dangerous on catch-and-run plays. They're hard to tackle, and Lee is particularly elusive. He's had some very explosive plays in college, and he's hard guy to tackle and get on the ground. [Rashad] Greene the same way, he's another, so, that whole group … [Bryan] Walters has played well for them. He's been a hard guy to handle. I thought he was really productive in the preseason. So that whole group is a very talented group. They do a good job. Coach Olson and Bortles do a good job of moving those guys around, putting them in different spots. You don't really know exactly where they're going to be or what they're going to do because they give you a good mix, a variety of formations and route combinations, but you've got to defend them deep, like I said, you've got to defend the intermediate passes and particularly in play action, those over routes and in cuts and things like that – they hit a lot of those, more than most teams do, and they're very dangerous on the catch-and-run plays, the slip screens, the under routes, the hitches, breaking a tackle and going. I really like Lee. I think he's got a dynamic skill set and he's got a great personality – loves football, loves to practice, loves to play. He's a good football player.

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