New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 9, 2008.
Q: Coach [Bill] Belichick mentioned that the Raiders play quite a bit of man coverage. As the offensive coordinator, what kind of a challenge is that for the receivers? Is this a chance for them to maybe highlight their abilities in those one-on-one matchups that they might not see on a regular basis?
JM: Yeah, anytime you play a team that plays a significant portion of man coverage, there's obviously a burden on the receivers to get off the line of scrimmage, be physical, use their quickness, whatever their strengths may be. All of our receivers have different strengths and then you have to try to create some separation down the field. This is a team that they do play a little bit more man coverage than some of the teams that we've played in the recent past. But, that being said, they use some different forms of it where they have some people that will help on the interior portion of the coverage, or what have you. It not only presents a challenge to the receivers, but it also requires us to pass protect well and keep them out of the middle of the pocket as long as we need to get open and create some plays in the passing game. It also requires the quarterback to do a great job of reading the coverage. If they have players in there, whether it is an extra secondary player or a linebacker that's designed to kind of help out those man-to-man players, he has to see those guys and make sure he takes care of the free player.
Q: You have a receiver in Wes Welker who has nearly 100 catches and is leading the league with that amount. Are you ever surprised that a guy of his size has such success in this league that's often dominated by much bigger guys?
JM: Not really. Wes' skill set is different and unique in its own right. He's a very intelligent player. He does a lot of things well. That's the thing that we are fortunate to have here in him is that there's a lot of strengths that he possesses that we don't just do one thing with him. We can move him around and do a lot of things. We try to do that with all of our skill players. Wes seems to find a way to get open against different coverages and he has abilities that allow us to move him and do some different things with him. It doesn't surprise me. Like I said, I don't think size is a prerequisite to be successful as a receiver in this league.
Q: That being the case, do you think his size offers any advantages? And, if so, what would those possibly be?
JM: I don't know if his size is an advantage. Less to hit? If you're up there trying to jam a guy, there's a lot less to hit with Wes then there are with some receivers. That could be an advantage, or at some times it could be a weakness, I guess. He's hard to get a hold of and those guys really have to do a good job of moving their feet and try to stay with his - match his quickness and stay with him at the top of his routes. He does a good job.
Q: What did it mean to have LaMont Jordan back in the mix last week?
JM: At this time of year, I think you're looking for as many healthy skill players and backs, in particular, that you can have. We know very well that playing in a climate that we play in a lot late in the year - where it's cold and the weather can be inclement - it's nice to have a different array of backs to send into the game to change the pace up and make them tackle us. Another runner never hurts and Lamont went into the game and did what we asked of him. He ran the ball hard and also played a little bit in the passing game and we look forward to building on that.
Q: Can having two former Raiders like Randy Moss and LaMont help out with intel with their defense?
JM: Anytime you have players that were in a system for a few years, they seem to know a little bit about the players and maybe some small things about the system, if that's the case. But, in the end, it's going to come down to our execution against whatever they decide to do against us. Maybe their familiarity with some of the players gives them an advantage in their preparation, but for the most part it's going to come down to our preparation this week against what we've seen them do and the matchups that we're presented with on Sunday.
Q: With the man-to-man coverage that we talked about earlier, is it assumed that comes with jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage?
JM: I think there are a lot of times that they would prefer to be up there. They do a very good job at that. They do a good job when they have to play off the line of scrimmage, too. This is a team that's very comfortable playing man-to-man coverage so I don't really think you can get to that point without having to do both. If they can get up there and get their arms and hands on you at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of your routes in the passing game, then I'm sure they feel very good about that. At the same time, they are very willing to play it from off [the line of scrimmage] if they need to and match patterns that way, too. They play a lot of it so they are very good at it. Whatever style or format of man coverage we get on Sunday, I'm sure it's going to be a challenge for us.
Q: Can you talk about Matt Cassel's development? Is there one area in particular where you've seen him make the greatest leap?
JM: I wouldn't say that there is one area. I think he's really grown as a player. The one thing that Matt never really had was a lot of experience playing in game situations. He obviously practiced a number of years here, and played in preseason games, and from time to time in a regular season game. But his overall development - as you would expect of most players - the more you play in the games, the more comfortable you feel doing in the next week or the next time out. I think he's gained confidence from week to week in the things that he's capable of doing and the way that he runs our offense. I think there's a lot of confidence in him and we continue to try and strive to improve every week. He works his butt of to try to do that, himself. It's a credit to him, but we still have a long way to go. He's going to work hard and we're going to push him hard.
Q: Which teams that you've have you seen a majority of man coverage?
JM: We see man coverage every week. Seattle played quite a bit of man coverage on us last week. I think every week when you practice, in particular, there are certain situations in every game where you definitely expect man coverage. Third down and shorter distances is definitely one that comes to mind. But every team has man coverage schemes in their system and some choose to employ that more than others when they play us. I think you have to be ready for it every week because if you're not then they can certainly take away a majority of your passing game schemes. Like I said, we played against Seattle that employed quite a bit of that last week and we're in for another dose of that against the Raiders.
Q: Are there any similarities in the Raiders defensive system based on Rob Ryan's background from his time in New England? Or is it quite different?
JM: It's his own twist. Rob does a great job there. He's been there for a few years and there are some things that you can see that he does there, or he uses in Oakland, that maybe we have some experience with here, or we've done here in the past, defensively. Rob's an aggressive coach. His players love to play for him. He plays an aggressive style of man-to-man. He mixes in pressure and they are always ready to go. That's a credit to him because you can see on film how hard they play. They have a lot of talented players and he has them playing a good system. It's his own system. It's his own defense and he's got them playing really well.