BB: We're still on a run through the division here, Miami and now the Jets. It seems like quite a while since we played the Jets. The Jets are playing well. They're a very competitive football team. They're in every game. They've been in a lot of tight games; it seems like every game comes down to the last possession, kind of like it did with us, like a lot of our games with them have in the last, four of the last five times we've played them. [They have] a real good running game, the backs and the quarterback. Of course, they use their receivers quite a bit too in the running game with reverses and those kind of plays, option plays. Defensively, [they have] a strong front, good at stopping the run, physical pass rush team, really those front seven guys are all, they don't come off the field too much. They're using a lot less nickel and dime than we've ever seen to try to keep those guys on the field as much as possible. They're a pretty disruptive group. Obviously it will be a big challenge for us in the kicking game with [Percy] Harvin and [Jeremy] Kerley, two of the top returners in football. They have strong coverage units too, their gunners and linebackers, [Nick] Bellore is always a problem for us. We'll have to do a good job there and play well on special teams. This will be a big week for us. I think we need to play better than we did the last time we played them. I just don't think that will be good enough; [it] barely was good enough last time, I don't think it will be good enough this time.
Q:** What do you think has been the biggest difference in your run defense since the last time you played the Jets?
BB: Well, we'll see how it goes against the Jets. I don't know. We played other teams and different matchups and all that. The Jets are pretty healthy. They had one change on their offensive line, but the rest of those guys have all started 14 games. They've had pretty good consistency at tight end. The running backs are very good. The quarterback is a good runner. So we'll see whether we can improve against the Jets in the running game, that's what we need to do.
Q: Chandler Jones dropped back into coverage a few times last week. In his three seasons with you, how has that part of his game progressed? I don't know if he did that in college much.
BB: Yeah, not much at Syracuse. But he's done that since he's been here. He's had that. That's 10 percent of his job or whatever, maybe less. But he has a decent knack for it. He has a little bit of natural awareness, instinctiveness on what to do and where to go and trying to sometimes draw the block of the lineman before he goes and disguising whether he's dropping or not dropping. Again, it's a percentage of his game. It's part of a changeup. Obviously it's not his main thing. He's done a good job on that and it allows us to do some other things. If the protection goes to him, that creates hopefully some opportunities somewhere else. He's, I'd say, done a pretty good job of that for a guy that really hasn't had much experience.
Team photographer, Keith Nordstrom, offers his best from the Patriots game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Q:** It seems like you guys have a handful of players who can rush the passer and drop into coverage. How helpful is that to your defense in terms of forcing the offense to think about something extra?
BB: Yeah, I think it's helped us a lot. I think it's been a good – and I think [defensive coordinator] Matt [Patricia] and the defensive staff have done a good job of utilizing those guys so there are potentially seven rushers really, six depending on what front we're in, the personnel we're in. Six or seven rushers and not being sure exactly which three, four are coming, which two, three are dropping creates some protection issues and puts a little bit of, I'd say puts the defense a little bit on the attack in that standpoint, as opposed to the offense knowing, 'We have to block these four guys and if these guys come it's a blitz.' That's not always the case with us. But I'd say the Jets are kind of, they have a similar setup with [Calvin] Pace who is really a defensive end, but he plays linebacker and he's in coverage a lot, but when he comes he's not really a linebacker, he's a defensive end. He's a hard matchup; he's a tough guy to block. Then they use [David] Harris and [Demario] Davis who are good, big guys and explosive kind of blitzers. Having a guy to block them is one thing, getting them blocked is another thing. I think that definitely puts some pressure on the offense and not just the assignments, but like I said, actually getting them blocked.
Q: Chandler Jones was lined up to Akeem Ayers in some situations on Sunday. What went into that thought process and is it tough to have two guys who are relatively new to learn how to play alongside each other?
BB: I wouldn't say Chandler is new. He's been here for three years.
Q:** In terms of the relationship, just learning how to play next to Akeem.
BB: Yeah, well I mean Akeem has been here for a couple months too – not as long. But Akeem is a pretty smart guy. He's picked up things very well. I'd say at this point I don't think that's really a big factor. [Alan] Branch, Akeem, Jonathan [Casillas], they don't have as much experience as some of the other players we could mention, but I think whatever we need them to do, whatever their assignments are, I don't think there's a thought of, 'Oh, we're not sure if he has it, if he's been here long enough, if he's repped it enough.' I think we're pretty – anybody can make a mistake out there, but I think we're past all that. Whoever is in there is in there. We expect them to do it and they've had enough reps to do it and I think they're all confident in doing it. We saw that last week in Jonathan, in the San Diego game. I think that was a big step in there as well. Whoever it is we, like I said, we feel confident that they'll be able to do it.
Q: When you acquired Akeem and Jonathan, did you have an idea of the full breadth of their abilities or have you learned that and evolved their roles as you've worked with them?
BB:** I would say it's about what we expected. That's what Akeem did at Tennessee. He played linebacker and he played defensive end. I think you can see him doing pretty much what he's done for us in the previous three years and going back to UCLA for that matter. I think he's a player who's got versatility. He's got the skills to play linebacker and he can rush and he's smart. So it's not where the defenses run together or the roles run together, he can do that. I'd say the same thing about Jonathan. We've had an interest in Jonathan since he was a UFA at New Orleans, so that would be three years ago, whenever it was. We felt like he was a player with value on defense and in the kicking game and on multiple roles on defense. So it might be regular defense, sub defense, in the running game and as a coverage linebacker. So his opportunities have been limited, you certainly didn't see as much of him on defense as what you saw of Akeem, but you saw a lot of Jonathan in the kicking game and he was an impact player in the kicking game for New Orleans and Tampa, and we practiced against him and we saw him firsthand and all that. I'd say he's done all those things for us and that's kind of what he did for those two organizations, different, but similar.
Q: As the season goes along and you have to monitor other rosters and look at your roster and see fits, who is mainly in charge of keeping track of that? Is it your whole pro personnel department and then they kick it up to Nick Caserio and then you? How does it work?
Patriots team photographer, David Silverman, offers his best photos from the Patriots game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
BB:** I'd say it's a combination of a lot of different things.
Q: Is that initial appraisal of Jonathan, as you mentioned when he was a UFA, or with Akeem at UCLA, is that something that you say, 'This is a starred player, if we have an opportunity to add him, that's one we want?'
BB: Each situation is different. I don't know. We spend a lot of time in the offseason – pro players, college players. Some of them you get; some of them you don't. Some of them you play against and some of them become available at some later point in time. How they become available or what are the specific circumstances or dynamics of that individual and his particular situation, probably each one of them is a little bit different.
Q: Do you have certain players you follow in college and keep track of with another team and constantly update yourself on because you think he would be a fit with you?
BB: I think when we put our final grade on a college player they fall into a couple different categories. Certainly there's the, 'He's a good player, but just doesn't fit for us for whatever reason. He's a good player, he would fit for us,' or 'He's a good player, he would fit in a certain role for us depending on what he brings and what role we need in that – he has a role, do we need that role or do we need it at that particular time?' So, one of those three categories. So obviously if a guy fits for us and we feel like he is a guy that we would like to have on our roster, and then of course we monitor that as he goes through his pro career. We update that and sometimes we change our minds; sometimes we don't. Then when those players become available, again based on the circumstances – where we are, what the player's situation is, contracts, so forth and so on, then you either act on it or try to act on it. Sometimes you can't. I'd say the players that we say, 'This guy probably isn't really a fit here.' I'm not saying he's not a good player, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying it doesn't really his skills what we're looking for or whatever. But then there are players that we swing on that too, 'Well, maybe we were wrong on this guy. We didn't think he fit, but look at what he's doing for some other team, we would like him to do that for us.' I think as you go through a player's pro career, sometimes you're wrong on guys. You see them play in this league and you see what they can do and you change, you modify your evaluation based on more information.
The New England Patriots take on the New York Jets during Thursday Night Football at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Q:** Who are the key point guys on those evaluations?
BB: The pro scouts evaluate pro players in the league. The college scouts evaluate colleges and potential draft choices. Then there are certain, again depending on the situation, sometimes coaches have seen certain players or possibly coached them depending on who it was and where they were. Again, it can be a combination of any of those. I mean, [director of player personnel] Nick [Caserio] obviously is the key guy in all this, but on any individual one there could be other people that are involved. There wouldn't be any that wouldn't include Nick, I'll put it that way. But there are some where I'd say Nick is maybe the guy who has the most information, sometimes it might be somebody else who it gets processed through Nick or myself. There's no set formula.
Q: Can you reflect back on your decision to draft Rob Gronkowski? It was an unusual college career for him, only playing two seasons and injured the third. What do you remember about that evaluation and weighing the risk and reward?
BB: I'd say you pretty much nailed it. That's what it is. There wasn't a ton to go on. It was limited. Certainly his college production in the passing game was limited. But you know, we brought Rob up here, we spent some time with him, talked to some people at Arizona that I think gave us good information about Rob in terms of what it was like to be with him on a day-to-day basis. If you meet Rob for 10 or 15 minutes, you might get an impression that may or may not be what it's like to have him in your office, in a classroom and on the field for six, seven hours a day. It might be a little bit different potentially. Obviously there was a medical concern that we had to clear that hurdle, but our medical people did that. That's pretty much it.
PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Q:** Can you talk about the rivalry you have with the Jets?
TB: It's a great rivalry. We've always had some pretty interesting games against them. A lot of them have come down to the wire, especially recently. They've got a real good defense. They're good up front [and] do a great job against the run. We're going to have to go out and play really well. I know the records are what they are, but we don't look at it like that. It's a good challenge for us. We lost going into the Meadowlands last year, so we're anticipating getting their best game.
Q: You had a good stretch where you were starting really fast, but that has taken a step back in recent weeks. Do you look at that differently from everything else in terms of how you try to fix it?
TB: Yeah, we like to start fast, and we talk about that every week. It's pretty frustrating when we don't. We try to do things to get us going and get our best plays and you talk about the plays you want to run early, and we just haven't done a good enough job of stringing enough plays together in order to score points. You just don't want to fall behind. It's hard to fall behind in this league and expect to come back and win. Your margin of error just gets less and less as you go, so we've got to focus quite a bit on that. Certainly a team like the Jets, who have done such a great job with time of possession, especially against us, we've got to figure out a way to stay on the field and convert more third downs, score more points and ultimately try to keep their offense off the field. It's a big week to try to do that.
Q:** Have your struggles early in the game been a lack of execution, or are the defenses surprising you with their looks and making great plays?
TB: It can be a little of both. You want to create that momentum by sustaining play after play after play, which leads to a great drive and points and hopefully a great kickoff and then defense and then back on the field, kind of like what we did there in the third quarter [last week]. Our execution offensively, I think we can do a lot better than what we've been doing these last few weeks, and we've talked a lot about that. It's frustrating for all of us when we're not scoring the type of points that we're capable of doing. I just focus on what I have to do and I can certainly do better in that area, making better decisions, better throws, and we're going to need it this week against this team because they challenge you in a lot of ways. They've got a multitude of things that they do. They've always done that. They really test your communication and certainly execution is something that we look on all our past games we've played against them and said, 'Gosh, our execution just wasn't very sharp,' so we've got to be very sharp this week.
Q: Is your mobility something you look forward to now? Do you drive home at night thinking about your next great scamper?
TB: I don't know if I'd characterize it as a great scamper. I think if those opportunities present themselves then I'm going to try to take advantage. Maybe there is a little more awareness now than there has been in the past. Once you make a couple of them, you kind of get a feel for it. If that's what we need to do, then that's what we need to do, and if they're not going to account for that, then I think that's kind of an easy play to make. You just have to have the awareness and be able to do it. It's a mental thing; it's a physical thing. Mentally, hopefully I'm ahead of where I've been in the past. However we need to convert third downs and stay on the field and score points is going to be something that I'm trying to do to help us win.
Q: What kind of exercises and drills have you done recently to help with your running ability? Has that changed recently?
TB: Those are highly top-secret, confidential things that we're doing. Yeah, it's just things that I've learned over the years that are really working and paying off this year.
Q: You seem to be using the resistance bands a lot more in the last month or so. Is that something you've added or is it just a little more public?
TB: I think that's just been a little more public. But I love using those. They're a great tool.
Q:** Where can you buy them?
TB: You guys don't need them in here.
Q: You had I think four passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Were those just good plays by the defensive linemen or is there something that you can do differently?
TB: Yeah, I think that's a great point. I think there is an element of both those things. Sometimes, you can really feel the rush and you can see your guy start to creep behind the defending player and you throw it and you know, 'Man, that's a bad decision,' because there was really no lane to throw it. Sometimes that lane closes really quickly. They're reading your eyes and you don't see it because I'm looking down the field. There was one that I was trying to throw to Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] in the right flat going away from the lighthouse that he just made a good play. Those are tough. It's hard to read the coverage and read the d-linemen. There are other times where, yeah, I can kind of [peripherally see] the d-linemen and then still make the throw. So, sometimes it's a good play, sometimes it's a bad play by the quarterback. Regardless of that, I think the point is you've got to advance the ball and move the ball down the field. If they're going to be batting down balls, they're not rushing, and we should be throwing somewhere else. It ends up going for a zero play in the stat book, and you don't want too many of those on offense. You always want to be moving the ball down the field. If the defense makes that play, then you can't obviously have four of them. That doesn't help our team win at all.
Q: How has Rob Gronkowski evolved as a teammate on and off the field since he came into the league?
TB: He's grown up a lot over the last five years. It's been a lot of fun to see it. His football IQ and understanding of what it takes to be a professional and consistently and dependably be that type of player for our offense that he's become, has been fun to see. He's got the size advantage, the speed advantage, and he's really becoming so aware out there of different coverages and things they're trying to do to stop him. Now, after this time, he and I are really getting on the same page with a lot of things that are adjustments to adjustments to adjustments and that type of thing. It's just been great playing with him. He's a huge part of our offense, really gets us going. He's a threat on third down, he's a threat in the red area, he's a threat on big plays any time in the game. He's a great player.
Q: How much one-on-one time do you spend with him after practice? Is he so important to your offense where you feel like you need to make sure you're on the same page on every level?
TB: Yeah, it's a lot of communication. After practice and so forth, we do a lot of things after practice with a lot of guys and you're always trying to work on things that you didn't maybe get a chance to work on during practice. Gronk typically gets a lot of balls in practice, so it's usually for a lot of the other guys who don't usually get a lot of balls in practice. But he's always there willing to work on whatever he needs to work on for us to be a better team. Whether that's a new type of route or a new type of concept that we're trying to run, that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to get on the same page so you can really anticipate each other and then you can make those plays that end up being really critical. We've had a bunch of them this year. The little things always become big things, and to identify what those little things are and make corrections before you get to the game day is what's really important.
Q:** How big of a challenge is this week, where you guys still have a lot to play for and the Jets don't, but they played you tough in your first matchup? Is it a mental thing or are you just looking at the tape to see how good they are?
TB: Absolutely, it's certainly that. I don't know why those scores go the way they do against other teams. Against us, they always seem to be close. You just don't want to go down there and have a bunch of poor execution like we've done in the past. I think we've really got to focus on our execution and try to go out there and play good for once. I think that's kind of what we've been talking about is playing our style of football for 60 minutes and see what that looks like because we haven't done a great job against the Jets doing that.
Q: What is a valuable football player as opposed to an outstanding one?
TB: It's a good question. It all kind of depends on the team and what your role is on the team. Everybody's role is valuable. In professional football, certain positions always get more attention as to their value. I know on our team, Coach [Bill] Belichick thinks everybody is important. Everybody has to do their job because if you don't do it, then nobody else can do it for you. Certainly my position, nobody can throw the ball or make the reads or call the plays in the huddle. That's what my job is to do. And you've got to do it every single day. You've got to do it every single week. You've got to be dependable. You've got to be durable. You've got to bring the energy and enthusiasm and ultimately try to help your team win. That's the only reason we're playing is to win games, not to throw touchdown passes or catch touchdown passes. You're doing whatever you can on every play to help the team win the game. That's to me what being valuable is.
Q: I just look at Darrelle Revis' impact on everything, whether it's his impact on your offense or the way the defense plays. Can you speak to his value, briefly?
TB: He's a phenomenal player and I've loved playing with him. I've hated playing against him, and I've had my fair share of those opportunities. He's a great teammate. He's a phenomenal player. I think the thing that I'm so impressed with is his coverage skills without getting penalties. That's a rare thing to be backpedaling when the guys who are some of the best athletes in the world are running at you as fast as they can with the size and speed of the way the receivers are, and to be able to cover those guys like he does is pretty amazing.
PATRIOTS CORNERBACK DARRELLE REVIS CONFERENCE CALL WITH NEW YORK MEDIA
Q:** You've obviously been back here to play against the Jets in the Meadowlands but what do you expect doing it in a Patriots uniform will be like for you?
DR: You know what, I don't really know. I'll probably just approach it like I did when I played with Tampa last year, just treat it like another game.
Q: What has the experience been like in New England this year? What's it like after watching them from afar for so long now being part of the Patriots?
DR: I really haven't been paying attention to those guys. We have things that we have to focus on here and that's all I've been trying to do, is just win here and focus on what I have to do up here in New England. I still talk to some of those guys and everything, but I've got to focus on what I'm doing here.
Q: Have you been used differently in terms of the structure of the defense in New England compared to with the Jets? It seemed here that Rex Ryan would just put you on the number one receiver and let you go.
DR: It's two different schemes. Rex is more aggressive with his approach and up here it's a mixture of man coverage and zone too. So it's just two different systems that I've played with two different cultures that have two different styles of defenses.
Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 16 as the Patriots prepare to play the New York Jets in New York this Sunday.
Q:** What do you think of the situation Rex is now in with the Jets struggling and his job on the line?
DR: I mean I'm really not trying to pay attention to that. I'm really not. Like I said, me and Rex have a lot of history and we all know that. Some of those guys are dear to my heart and everything, but like I said, I've got to focus on the things that I am doing here and I wish Rex the best.
Q: Are you shocked that the Jets are 3-11?
DR: I don't know. I don't know. Like I said, they have a lot on their plate over there in that situation this year. It's kind of sad for the position that Rex is in right now, but at the same time [the record is] something that they've got to change.
Q: Do you think they could have used you?
DR: I'm over here. That ship has sailed. I missed that boat. I caught the New England Patriots boat.
Q:Did you want to come back to the Jets in the offseason?
DR: Right now my focus is playing against the Jets. I'm not really thinking about the offseason right now. I'm thinking about focusing on the next game and the rest of the season.
Q:After watching him as an opponent, what's it been like to play on a team with Tom Brady? What has impressed you about him the most?
DR: I can why we win as an organization and why we're always winning the division year-in and year-out is because we work. We work hard, man. Even though we work hard, we do have to earn it and we definitely do go out there and try to earn it. But at the same time it's not just Tom. Yes, Tom is a big part of it, but we all come to work, especially Tom too. We compete all the time going against each other. We may trash talk a little bit, even before practice or even during practice. I think it's just getting guys' competitive spirit up and just competing against each other.
Q: That level of working hard that you just talked about, is that at a different level than you've seen before?
DR: This is my third team, so this is probably – when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback, definitely he's going to raise everybody's competition level up, just the way that he approaches the game. He's definitely done that throughout his career, just being that leadership type of guy, putting the team on his shoulder at some points, and he's done that. At the same time, like I said, it's all of us, with leadership and just making sure everybody's doing their job and competing.
Q: What is your most vivid memory of playing for Rex Ryan?
DR: I don't know, it's a lot, I can't name one. We had some good runs up there; we had some great runs. Like I said, there are a number of them. It's even games, even certain games, there's so many of them. I don't even know where to start at.
Q: Do you hope to stay with the Patriots next year?
DR: I don't know what my future holds. Right now, it's just focusing on this week. Q: Would you like to reunite with Rex maybe somewhere down the road?
DR: I don't know what my future holds. Like I said, my focus is this week. We'll see. The future will take care of itself. Q: Before the game against the Jets in New England, did you get to catch up with Rex pregame? What was that like?
DR: No, I didn't catch up with him.