Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 02, 2009.
DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL NICK CASERIO CONFERENCE CALL November 2, 2009
Q: There's been a lot of discussion in the news lately about concussions leading to serious health problems later in life. Have you guys paid a lot of attention to it and has it changed how you do things organizationally regarding injuries?
NC: I'd say it's something that we're cognizant of. I think in the end, the people that are most qualified, and we rely on them, are the medical staff and our doctors. So whatever input that they have - and they're probably a little closer to the situation than say myself or Bill [Belichick] - we take the information that they have and then we'll figure out what type of application it will have as far as practice or players. But really, in the end they're more qualified to speak on that. That's why we have them here - to consult with them on matters. It's a serious issue. It's something that the league is certainly conscious of and in the end, player safety is the most important thing. So whatever you need to do from a player safety standpoint to make sure that players stay healthy, I think that's what you're ultimately trying to do.
Q: What was the follow up on Brandon Tate's debut in the last game? From a coaching perspective, do you feel like there was anything he could have done on that interception to maybe prevent it from being an interception?
NC: I think it was good for Brandon to get some experience, whether it was on special teams returning kickoffs, he had a few plays there offensively. He made a nice play there in the reverse. I mean, I think there were some good plays, some bad plays, just like everybody else. In fact, on the interception, he ran the wrong route, quite frankly, and he knows that and we talked about that. But he went ahead and tried to make a play, so I think he tried to do what he could on the play. But I think last week was good for him and some of our other young players to go through practice and put them in some situations that maybe they haven't been put in as of yet, whether it's two-minute, red area. So I think it's good to have him out there. He's progressing along, so we'll see how it goes this week.
Q: With a player like Brandon Tate, do you guys try to maybe limit it a little bit to him running just one of the receiver positions, or do you try and see him in all of the positions, because I know you like to have that flexibility with the receivers?
NC: Sure. I think a guy like Brandon, he's been in the meetings all year, so we might tell him, 'Alright, look, on this particular play, this is where you're going to work.' But it's hard for any young player, whether it's him or Julian [Edelman], to give them a large volume right away. You try to start them at one particular point and let them sort of build on that and get comfortable with one particular thing. In the end, you like to have as much flexibility as possible so that you can move players around and you can use multiple formations. You don't want to necessarily pigeon-hole yourself. I think he's moving in the right direction. I think he's a smart guy. I think he works hard, so I think the more he's on the field and gets those real reps - I mean, it's one thing to look at it on a sheet of paper in the classroom, and then to go out there and do it on the practice field when you hear the quarterback call the play. 'Ok what am I [doing] on this particular play?' So we'll see how it goes, but I think he's moving in the right direction.
Q: With what Miami is bringing this weekend and obviously over the past year or so, and their drafting of Pat White...When you guys are scouting college players, does the immersion of that kind of stuff affect the grade of some players, and looking back and seeing guys like Charlie Ward or Tommie Frazier, might they have been graded differently based on some of the stuff that's in the NFL now?
NC: I can speak to Pat [White], just knowing him a little bit more intimately than let's say Tommie or Charlie. I think there are some teams - obviously Miami, this is one of the things they do offensively is this Wildcat package. He played in a system that was somewhat similar, but I think if you look at some of the college offenses, really they have a spread component to them where there's a run-pass option for the quarterback. So with Pat, from his perspective at least as it related to us, I think we evaluated his as a quarterback and I think the things he did as a quarterback - his mechanics, his arm strength, we knew he was athletic, we knew he could run the ball. I think it's all going to be relative to what you do offensively. I think if more and more teams try to employ something like this, then you might factor that into your grade, but I think if you're just grading a player for what he is...For example with Pat, you evaluate him - whatever position you're going to evaluate him as, whether it's as quarterback, whether it's as receiver, or as a running back. In our particular case we evaluated him as a quarterback and then we assigned a grade accordingly.
Q: Going back to Brandon Tate, on that route, was there something he should have adjusted to based on what he saw from the defense? Or was it just a brain freeze where he just ran the wrong route out of the huddle?
NC: Yeah, I think he just ran the wrong route out of the huddle. It was an honest mistake. He knew he had made the mistake on the play and we corrected it and we move on. As far as what happened on the field, he was trying to make a play and it just happened to work out [that way] and we just move on to the next one.
Q: When you bring in guys to work them out at this time of year, how much of it is to put together a list in your own mind of guys just in case someone gets hurt? How much of it is for practice participation? How much of it is just to keep an eye on other guys?
NC: Yeah, I think it's two-fold, because you have some players, especially when you get to this time of year in November, so you have some players, some veterans who may have been on rosters in 2008 and may have been productive, and then they haven't been in a camp. Maybe they ended 2008 on the injured reserve, or whatever the case might be. So there might be some good football players who had been productive that are still out there, so that's part of it. The other part of it is that you start to look at players that might be able to go on your practice squad. If there's a player that you liked coming out of college or you liked during the preseason, and you see some positive attributes on that particular player, then you want to bring them in, work them out, spend some time with them, have the medical information, and then make a decision on your practice squad. Or maybe it's even something for next year as you start to look into some of the reserve future type things. I'd say it's two-fold. Obliviously, it's commonplace throughout the league. Some are a little bit more on an emergency basis. For example, if you have an injury in the course of a game, then you have to act swiftly. Then also it's just maintaining that list of players who could be candidates to either sign to your roster at some point or to put on the practice squad for a myriad of reasons.
Q: Going back to Brandon Tate, when you guys were evaluating him the word that keeps coming up is 'electrifying.' How close did you guys grade him to someone like Percy Harvin and did you see them as similar types of players?
NC: I think both players were good with the ball in their hands. Both had good quickness. Both had good playing speed. They had different roles. The way that Florida had used Harvin, he was almost more of a de facto running back because he was very involved in the running game and they played him in the slot. I think Brandon played a little bit more in the perimeter from a receiving standpoint, and he also played in the slot. I would say they were similar from the standpoint that they were both good with the ball in their hands, but they were playing in different offenses and their schools employed them a little bit differently. So there were some things that were similar and there were other things that were a little bit different. PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DEAN PEES CONFERENCE CALL November 2, 2009
Q: How do you feel like calling the defense from the booth is working out?
DP: I think the advantage of it is the ability to see the game and see the personnel changes and see the formations - just to see the game, period. Also, I feel very comfortable with the guys down below to make adjustments and for us to communicate and them to talk to the players. They've been doing a very good job of doing that and obviously Bill [Belichick] is down there too and can make adjustments and tell guys certain things. I think so far it's worked pretty good.
Q: Can you look at film of what other teams have done against other Wildcat or is Miami different where you can only focus on what teams have tried against just Miami and that offense?
DP: Yeah, I think what you do is when you're playing a team, you really just kind of focus on just that team you're playing and how they run their particular offense or particular sets. Now, you also look at teams they've played and the success or lack of success they've had playing certain fronts or certain coverages or certain techniques. Everybody always tries to look at what you can do to help yourself stop the team. But, I think if you're watching somebody else's Wildcat, or for that matter any formation, [it] can be totally different with two different teams. Like I say, that's not only Wildcat, that could be just a two-back pro formation or a slot formation. What one team does could just be so entirely different than the way another team runs that same formation, so I think you always really kind of study the team you're playing and what they want to do from it and their personnel and how it fits that particular set.
Q: How impressed were you with the way the New York Jets defended the Wildcat and brought people down to fill in the gaps? Does that emphasize that you might have to bring some guys down there?
DP: Again, I think you do whatever your personnel dictates that you do, whether that's bringing extra guys down in the box - whatever that might be. Obviously they [New York Jets] held them [Miami Dolphins] yardage-wise very, very well. I thought they played them pretty well. It's hard to believe they lost the game after holding a team to 104 yards of total offense. But hey, you have to do all the things in every aspect of the game. But I thought they did a good job. Again, you have to do what your personnel dictates and allows you to do. Obviously, I'm not privy to their game plan, but evidently Rex [Ryan] felt that was something he needed to do and could do and I thought they were very successful with it.
Q: Do you feel that with all the things the Dolphins are going to throw at you, do you feel your players have to be extra sharp in terms of making adjustments and substitutions, etc?
DP: Yeah, but I think that goes really every week. When you see a team that has multiple personnel groups on offense, you always have to be sharp and our guys have to do a great job of communicating and obviously tackling is going to be an issue this week as it is every week. You're facing two excellent running backs here. It doesn't matter which one of them has the ball. And receive-wise, these guys can stretch the field. I know they haven't necessarily always done that, but there were some plays in that Jets game where receivers were behind the defensive backs. He [Dolphins QB Chad Henne] just didn't hit them. That still scares the heck out of you when you're watching the film and watching the receiver run by a defensive back. I think we'll always have to be sharp and our communication has to be good.
Q: Tully Banta-Cain has had a nice start to the season. What has been the biggest surprise to you in his performance to this point?
DP: Tully did a good job when he was here before and I know he's had a good start to the season. But I think the thing with Tully is he came into a situation already knowing about the situation when he came back from San Francisco. He's worked really hard. I think he's prepared very hard. I think he knows what the expectations were coming back here. He knows what Bill [Belichick] wants and what we expect. I think he adapted so easily because we already all knew him and knew what he could do and what his strengths and weaknesses were. He's tried to work on his weaknesses and tried to improve just like all the other players. I think he's had some excellent games. I think he's had some so-so games just like all of us. But, he's working really hard and that's the biggest key.
Q: You've used a lot of different personnel groupings in the secondary to start the season. Would you say that's a case of figuring out the best combination or more adapting your personnel to the opponent you're playing? It seems as though you have the secondary personnel more defined than you did at the beginning of the season.
DP: No, I wouldn't say it's necessarily more defined. I think it's the latter of what you said there. Every week, you are trying to look at what is the best matchup you can possibly have - whether that be linebacker, whether that be secondary, what front you're going to play and what coverages you're going to play. All those things come into account. Maybe certain weeks means certain coverages- these guys are a little bit better at playing that coverage and we're going to kind of concentrate more on that coverage. A lot of it depends on who the receivers are and what the formations are. There're just so many things you take into account when you put your personnel on the field. That's what you're really trying to do is put that best personnel that you can put on the field for a particular - whether it be a personnel group they have or overall scheme or whatever it might be. I think that's one of the things you try to do as a coach. So sometimes that means different combinations of different people and I don't think that it's ever that we're down on one guy or high on another guy. It's just, 'Well this guy might do this thing a little better and that's kind of something we need this week.' And that's kind of why you see a multitude of different personnel groups. But that's not only in the secondary; That's kind of across the board.
Q: What's been keeping Ron Brace off the field? What does he need to be doing better to see some time?
DP: Well, I think Ron's working hard and he's learning the system and he's doing a good job in there. I think it's just a matter of us trying to say, 'Who fits the role that we need this week in this particular spot?' So it may not necessarily have anything to do with whether Ron has not done well or has done well. It's more a factor of 'this guy kind of fits what we want there.' Again, he's working really hard. He's working every day and he's in here all the time studying. He's doing a good job. It's just a matter of...you never know when you might see him. It's just like all the players. There's nothing negative there, it's just a matter of we've been using some other guys in certain positions because we need them to fill a certain role.
Q: On the flip side, we have seen a little bit more of Myron Pryor. What has he done well to earn that time and what have you see from him?
DP: Myron's done a good job. Again, those guys are going to work their way into the system and just a lot of times, it depends on the front we're playing. Maybe we have a better grouping with a certain group of guys. A lot of the times it's based on their offensive personnel - 'will this guy hold up against their offensive tackle or guard or tight end?' - or whoever it might be. We just try to figure out and do the best job that we can as a coaching staff of which guys need to fit in there. Sometimes that means your role is really increased and sometimes it's decreased. I don't think that's ever going to change, but in both of their cases, we're very happy with them. They're working very hard. They're doing well. It's just a matter of Myron played quite a bit in this last game in our sub package. We felt he gives us a little something because of the way we were going to play a certain front. That was kind of his role in that Tampa game. So that can change week to week. We're pleased with both Ron [Brace] and Myron.