Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio addresses the New England media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 22, 2009.
Q: I wanted to ask you a question about the blackouts you've had this season. Has that been kind of discouraging for your team having to play in front of some empty seats at home?
JD: I really remain focused on just preparing our football team and the guys are working hard getting ready for each ball game. All the people aren't able to be there, we certainly appreciated the support. We just continue to focus on our own job.
Q: What is it like for you to prepare against Fred Taylor after having had him on your team?
JD: I look forward to seeing Fred, he's one of the all-time great Jaguars players. I know that he's been on the mend a little bit the last few weeks, but I'm sure he's anxious to get back and help the football team there. He's always been a guy that has fought through and been very, very good when he's been on the field. So we look forward to seeing him.
Q: On your side, how has Maurice Jones-Drew filled in, becoming that feature back, and how has he grown in that role?
JD: Obviously, that decision was made in the offseason to make Maurice the featured guy. He's delivered and had an outstanding season for us. It was never in any way meant as type of disrespect or anything like that toward Fred [Taylor]. I think the organization felt great about the contributions he made here for the time that he was here. But it was time for more of Maurice, so that's what we elected to do. And he's delivered and had a great year for us.
Q: How are your young tackles - Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton - performing for you this season?
JD: I think they've had good, solid starts to their NFL careers. They've played from day one and both guys have gotten better since the year has gone on. I think they'll be good players here for a long time.
Q: When you look at the Patriots and the way that they've been playing, what will be a big challenge for your team here?
JD: The challenges are presented in all three phases. They've obviously got a lot of skill on offense. They've run the ball well, they've thrown it well. [Wes] Welker's already got 109 receptions. He and [Randy] Moss are as strong of a 1-2 punch as you'll find anywhere in the league. Tom's [Brady] been very good coming back from his injury. Special teams wise, they've always done a good job with their special teams. They're a defense that gives you multiple looks and kind of a game-plan - really throughout their team - there's a scheme-of-the-week, or an attack for each opponent, so it makes you work a little bit in the preparation. They're a well-coached team that's once again in the thick of things. It ought to be a heck of a game.
Q: How did you take advantage of the three extra days off last week after playing on Thursday night?
JD: A little extra film study and a little extra rest.
Q: Did you give the guys a weekend off?
JD: Yeah, the players had the weekend off.
Q: Going into this game, do you think those days off are going to give you a little bit of an extra advantage?
JD: Well, I know they've been pretty good at home. They're 7-0 at home this year. They're the ones with Pro-Bowlers throughout the roster. We're going to do the best we can to put together a group that's going to go up there, and scrap, and fight and try to find a way to get a victory while we're up there.
Q: A couple years ago, you guys came up to Pittsburgh and won in the playoffs. I know that sometimes a team coming from the South struggles when they go North. How does a team from a warmer-weather climate to come up and prepare to play in the elements?
JD: Well, I think we do the best we can to travel up there and understand that we're there for one reason. I've never really been one to worry about the elements, whether it's raining, snowing, windy, cold, hot. I don't think that really has a whole lot to do with you as a football team or you as a football player going out and giving great effort and understanding what your role is, embracing that role and giving everything you have. We're going to do the best to keep ourselves focused on the task at hand - I think there's plenty to do there - and not worry so much about whether we're feeling a little cold, or the wind's blowing, or any of those things. So that's basically the way we've approached it and I think our team's done a pretty good job traveling into the elements and playing well.
Q: How's Derek Cox played for you at cornerback this season? He stepped in there from the start at cornerback and how's his progression been?
JD: He's had a good year for us. He's one of many rookies. I believe we've got 10 rookies that will be active, or have been active, on game days, contributing. He's one of the guys that falls in that category. He's been solid. He's played all year, been very dependable. I think he's a bright young guy that works hard every day. He's got a good future. He and Terrance Knighton have been able to play all year, defensively, for us - Terrance Knighton, being the defensive tackle out of Temple. Those two young men have done a good job stepping in and filling a role and really being solid contributors for us as rookies.
Q: When you go back to that decision to draft Cox and making that trade, what did you see in him that you liked him enough to do that and are you pleased when you look back in retrospect?
JD: What we saw is a player we thought has the skill set to come in and do what he's done. And that's to come in and earn a place in the lineup and contribute to our cause this year. There weren't many guys like that left on the board. He just happened to be one that came from a small school and maybe wasn't as highly touted. But we really liked the player that we evaluated. So I give credit to Gene Smith, he did nice job of sticking to his guns, and knowing what he believed, and having the courage to pull the trigger, and make the deal and acquire a player that's been able to help us all year.