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Bill Belichick Transcript 9/27: 'We're learning more every week'

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during a press conference on Saturday, September 27, 2014.


BB:** We've got the faithful here – Friday faithful, Saturday faithful.

Q: Where does Matthew Slater rank in your hierarchy of great special teams players you've coached?

BB: He'd be right up there. Yup, he'd be right up there. [Larry] Izzo was a different type of player. He was a linebacker, played more of the inside positions. Slater is the speed guy. I'd say both of them were tremendous off the field in terms of leadership, responsibility, work ethic, setting an example, doing a great job. I feel like I've really been fortunate here to have in 14 of the 15 years, to have those two guys in that capacity – great players in their role and great leaders off the field and on the field. We have a lot of other good guys to go with them, but those two are really special. I don't think you could ever do any better than Larry Izzo but Slater is right there with him, might even be better. But they're right there.

Q: We know Jerod Mayo is a smart player. How does his intelligence come into play when he's a guy that brings pressure? Even though he doesn't do it that often, he's pretty effective when he does.

BB: I think that's a big part of it. We have different combinations that we can run there. Some of those are called, some of those are controlled on the line of scrimmage based on what the offense is doing or their line calls or the formation or the tendency that we get, that type of thing. I'd say Jerod is right in the middle of all that communication. If Jerod can see that pickup is going to get slid one way or another or that you can kind of tell some times that they've identified or pointed out a certain guy that the line is going to be responsible for then a lot of times he can anticipate that he'll have either a free opportunity or an opportunity to penetrate based on the fact that the back is picking up or the line is going to somebody else. That's part of the whole awareness and instinctiveness that he has.

Q: Is that a choice for him?

BB: It depends on the call. It could be. It depends on the call. It's something that we got into I'd say back when I was with the Giants. We had [Lawrence] Taylor, [Carl] Banks and Pepper [Johnson]. Similar type of thing: three linemen and three linebackers and so you can't block all of them with the line. You have to put the back on somebody. So, we knew that they would almost always treat Taylor as a down guy and then was it Banks or was it Pepper? Those guys understood too – they could tell if the line was going to go to Banks then Pepper could create some opportunities. If the line was going to go to Pepper, then Banks would either be on a tight end or a back, that type of thing. Sometimes we'd use Taylor in coverage to try to draw the protection and then pull out. It's a similar type of concept. They have five linemen and you have six potential rushers. The sixth guy that the line doesn't have then could potentially get matched up on a back or tight end or be free. Sometimes the line tries to counter that by taking whichever one of the two comes. So, let's say they block the four they want to block then the lineman takes, if either one of them comes, he takes them. If they both come, they either have to throw a hot or the back has the other one, that kind of thing. But then that gets into a guessing game. There's a lot of communication on the offensive line that a good linebacker or defensive lineman can pick up on and if you have some flexibility in your front, your pass rush then you can sometimes take advantage of that.

Q: What about Jerod's skill set makes him good at that job when he does go?

BB: He's quick. He's very athletic and quick. I think he wins more with his quickness and athleticism. He doesn't have the same kind of power rush that [Dont'a] Hightower has and Jamie [Collins] is pretty unique. He really has a lot of length so he can sometimes swim or arm-over or get underneath some of the 5-10 backs and sometimes even the six-foot guards kind of thing. He's also got a lot of explosive power so Jamie has a good combination of quickness, power, athleticism. Hightower does too, but I'd say High has a little more straight out power. He's even shown that against some of the offensive linemen. I think Jerod is probably more of a slippery, instinctive kind of just able to create it that way as opposed to just running over some guys like sometimes Hightower or even Jamie can do. I'm not saying he doesn't have good power, but it's just the matchup.

Q: When you're playing a team like the Chiefs that has such a good pass rush and you're on the road where it might be tough to communicate, how important is it to establish the run?

BB: You're going to have to throw the ball sooner or later. I don't think you're going to go in there and run the ball 70 times. You're going to have to throw the ball at some point. Communication is obviously important. I think the most important thing is just being able to get off on the snap count. That's where those guys do a great job, [Tamba] Hali and [Justin] Houston and even Dee Ford. They can just jump the count – and not be offside, I'm not saying that – but just get a great jump on the ball like [Cameron] Wake did down in Miami on his strip-sack. He was able to time up the cadence, which we've got to do a better job of coaching the center, the quarterback. We have to do a better job of keeping those guys off-balance so they can't get that kind of anticipation and jump on the count. That's part of the challenge. I would say that's really more of an issue especially on tight end and tackle positions then it is just the communication. There are not a lot of those when you just don't know who to block. I'm not saying it never happens but it's more getting off the line and being able to block them.

Q: What were some of the things that drew you to Bryan Stork during the pre-draft process?

BB: Stork had a good career at Florida State -- really a three-and-half year starter. [He] played some guard then they moved him to center. [He] played obviously in a good program down there, played for a real good coach – [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line] Coach [Rick] Trickett. He was strong; he was part of the Florida State workout the day we were there. He's an athletic kid that runs fairly well. He's a smart football player. He's into football. He's really a football guy; loves football, works really hard at football. He wants to be a football player and he's dedicated himself to it; all those qualities that you love in any player but especially an offensive linemen. He's got strength; he's got a good frame for a center. He's got good length and height. He played in a good program, he's well coached, pretty good fundamental player. I thought he was as good as any center that we saw this year, the last couple years.

Q: How different is the learning curve for a center who not only has to get on the same page with the guys around him, but the quarterback behind him?

BB: I would say that's the added load to that position, is the quarterback, the cadence, the change and the communication and the potential changes with the identification of the defense, recognizing the fronts. I would say the passing game in general I think is the biggest change for the offensive line. It's more for the center than for the other positions relative to the amount of variables and as you pointed out the communication with the quarterback and then the cadence and actual timing and delivery of the snap and so forth. It's not easy. It's not easy to play offensive line in this league and it's not easy to play center and it's not easy to play center as a rookie.

Q: Ryan Wendell has played some guard in the past. Do you still view him as a multi-positional guy?

BB: Yeah, Ryan has worked at all the positions all the way through the spring – center and guard. He's played both for us. Ryan's a really smart player. He's one of the smartest players that we have, that we've had. He really understands everything that we're doing, including all the communication with the quarterback and so forth. I don't think learning or his ability to move from one position to another – he's really good at that.

Q: Is his intelligence something that you guys noticed right away when he was on the practice squad?

BB: Yeah, I mean, you know, the biggest thing for Wendy was just his continued development as a player. I think he's smart enough – he's as smart and tough a player as you would want. He's a little limited I'd say overall with his size and his athletic skill set but he's worked on that. He's very strong in the weight room and he has good playing strength. He has good leverage. Part of that is because of his height but he has good leverage. He's a good technique player who was well coached in college with Pat Hill at Fresno [State]. He's certainly improved on that since he's been here. He's a guy that just started [here] but a little better, a little better, a little better and just did everything a little bit better – technique, athleticism, quickness, explosion, strength, experience and just kept getting better. I really remember when I talked to Pat. I was asking Pat about his team and what he thought about different guys in the draft and so forth. One of his kind of throwaway comments was, 'Well, if you need a camp center, just a guy to get you through camp, Wendell would be a good camp center because he's smart and he's tough, but you're probably going to have more athletic players, bigger and more athletic players, on your team but he'd be a good camp guy.' And he actually wasn't. We didn't even put him on the practice squad at the end of the training camp. He came back. We had some injuries, he came back around midseason to the practice squad and just started progressively improving from there. He didn't really even make the practice squad [his] first year. Somewhere around now, the first of October, the middle of October, somewhere around there is when he actually came back to the roster his first year. It seems like he's been here forever but he spent two years on the practice squad then five years. This is like what, his seventh year, [but] it seems like he's been here forever.

Q: What kind of relationship do you have with [General Manager] John Dorsey and [Defensive Coordinator] Bob Sutton from the Chiefs?

BB: Not a lot, not a lot. I've had a long relationship with Andy [Reid] but Sutton is an Army guy, so… I'm not real close with, other than Coach [Bob] Knight and Coach [Bill] Parcells. I'm trying to think. I went to school with a couple of guys from Army. Sam Walker, his dad was a commandant, Jack Ryan, his dad was a swimming coach but other than that, I wouldn't say I have a lot of close ties with the Army group, if you know what I mean.

Q: Tamba Hali has started every game going into his ninth season. What makes him so productive?

BB: Great motor, tremendous work ethic and effort on the field. [He] never takes a play off. He's going to play really hard every snap. He's strong, he's 270-275 pounds, whatever it is, but he's got really good playing strength on top of that. He has good athleticism and quickness. He's developed a lot of good pass rushing moves. I'd say he's probably one of the best technique pass rushers in the league. [He] uses his hands extremely well, kind of like [Rob] Ninkovich, [Mike] Vrabel, guys like that that we've had that have been really good hands-type rushers. He's all of that plus 275 pounds of explosive speed and power so he can get the edge, he can speed to power. He's got a good counter move to come inside and he's got good hand – he's good at hand-to-hand combat at defeating hand placement, knocking hands off, slapping them down, getting to the edge, getting the elbow, getting the tricep and creating that edge. He's got a great motor and he's a great finisher. Really it's pretty much across the board. This isn't like a guy who only has one move. He's got probably eight, nine, 10 good pitches in addition to being strong, explosive, athletic and a guy who plays hard on every snap. He's really an impressive football player. There are so many things to like about the way he plays and the productivity he has. He's also very good on the strip-sack. He has great awareness of the ball. he gets a lot of sacks but he causes a lot of fumbles too, because of his awareness and he has good length where can sometimes reach around the blocker and knock the ball out of the quarterback's hands, even if he isn't able to wrap the quarterback up. But if he can knock the ball off then it's even better than a sack – it is a sack but it's even better than that. He creates a lot of pressure. I don't know how many sacks he has but he's probably got three times that number of pressures. He's definitely a factor on a lot of plays that don't show up in the stat sheet. You have to have an awareness of this guy.

Q: Now that you're almost a quarter of the way through the season, how much more self-scouting do you have to do now that there's more film out on you?

BB: I think there's a big difference between where any team is now and where they were the first week of September. That's a big part of it. There's a lot of film out on us; there's a lot of film out on our opponents now. When you go out in training camp and preseason and you just run what you run, but when you're in these regular season games, everybody is trying hard to win them and they're doing the best they can. You can really see what a team can do, what they're trying to do and certainly that starts to create tendencies. So, yeah, absolutely, I'd say this is the point where this third, fourth, fifth game and from here on where you really have to be aware of the tendencies that you're starting to create or not create as the case may be, whatever it is and start to do that. I think, on the flip side of it, we're much more aware of what they're doing now, what defenses they're running, what plays they're running, how they're doing them and so forth and so on than preseason where everybody is just kind of out there running their plays. Now you can really see how some of those are being, what they're trying to do, maybe how they're trying to disguise them so they're not so obvious but the things they really want to get to one way or the other. That's becoming a lot more noticeable and prevalent. I think as we go through this next month of the season, you'll really start to see how teams handle different matchups, what appear to be strengths. Can those strengths be maintained now that teams are starting to game plan to neutralize them? Can the weaknesses be avoided or covered up or masked in some way or another so they don't become a problem so that you can continue to work to your strengths? I think every team in the league is going through those kind of conversations over the next I'd say three, four, five weeks.

Q: At what point do you have a feel for you team's personality?

BB: Yeah, I think we're learning more every week. We certainly know a lot more about our team now than we knew going into Week 1. This will be three out of four games on the road, which I think that's somewhat of a measuring stick as well just in terms of overall toughness and competitiveness and handling adversity and those kind of things. It's never easy to play on the road in this league. I'm not saying it's easy to play at home but there's even more challenges on the road. Yeah, I think we're learning a lot about it. I know a lot more now than I did three weeks ago. I think our players, they've learned a lot too. Not just the younger guys, but just how our whole team fits together. It's one thing to practice with a guy; it's another thing to play in preseason games with your teammate. It's another thing to go into regular season games where everything is on the line and play with them. We've gained a lot of that experience as well as a team and the different groups that are within the team. I think that's all valuable. We've all learned from it. We've certainly made some adjustments and I'm sure we'll continue to do that. But yeah, I think that's a key part of it, to see as your team evolves what things you need to correct or maybe there's a strength that you didn't realize was a strength or maybe it's a problem that's more a problem than what you thought it was going to be and how are you going to address it? Yup, that's where we are right now, no question.

Q: What strikes you about the way Andy Reid has been able to turn things around?

BB: I'm not surprised. Andy's really a good coach. He does a great job preparing his team. I thought he always did that, did that in Philadelphia. [I've] competed against him many times. They do a good job of, they're well coached, they have good fundamentals. They make you beat them. They usually don't go out there and just give the game away. You're not going to get that from them, rarely. You have to go out there and play a really good football game. They do a good job with the personnel. Obviously they've turned over a lot of players. They had of player turnover last year. Then even after their good season last year, they've got 21 new players this year. That's almost half their team has turned over again. He's not afraid – I'd say that goes to [General Manager John] Dorsey too, but they're not afraid to make changes to improve the team. They try to create competition. They have a lot of free agents or undrafted guys or guys make their team and guys that have been cut from other teams and that kind of thing. I think obviously Andy does a good job of creating competition within the team and then let the competition play out and the best players play. But I think that's a healthy environment and it creates a team that's hard working, that's competitive, that is able to play through adversity because they don't have the expectation that anything is going to be given to them. They're going to have to work for it and that's the way it is in this league. He's always done that. Andy is an offensive line coach by trade so that brings out a level of toughness in the offensive line, the defensive line. Obviously they have a great passing game and he's always done a great job with that, with the West Coast offense and so forth but there's a good element of toughness and a hardnosed element to his teams which comes from him, all those things. But you know you have to go out and play a good football team against an Andy Reid coached team. You can't expect that they're going to make a lot of mistakes and plays to – you're going to have to earn everything. I think that's always the mark of a good team.

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