Q: ** What do you expect from a Mike Pettine coached defense?
JM: First of all, he is a great coach, great coordinator, and it is always a great challenge when you get an opportunity to prepare and compete against one of his defenses. They are well coached. They're not going to give you a lot of easy yards. They have the ability to be very multiple when he wants them to be and change up their looks, their packages, their pressures and those kinds of things. I know a lot of times that got discussed when we used to talk about the Jets when Mike was there, but I also think that they are a very sound defense. They do a lot of things well and they force you to do a real good job of driving the football, staying on the field for eight, ten plays in a row in order to get points. They always make it hard on you on third down and in the red zone to stay on the field and finish drives. So, playing them in Buffalo on opening day will certainly make the challenge greater, and we're excited to get this week going and get the season started.
Q: What have your impressions been of the Buffalo secondary?
JM: I think it's an impressive group. They've got good speed and they're definitely a group that is going to stand in and challenge you. They play a lot on the line of scrimmage on the outside with their corners. We've played against and competed against [Leodis] McKelvin and [Justin] Rogers before and they do a good job of trying to disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage. They have good ball skills, and unfortunately we've seen that before too. [Ron] Brooks is a young guy in his second year that is a really physical player for a small guy, but he certainly plays much bigger than that. He can run well on the perimeter also and plays very aggressively in a physical style when he goes inside in the nickel packages that we've seen him in too. The safeties – [Jairus] Byrd is a great player and [we] certainly have to be prepared for him to play. He's made a lot of impact plays over the years, and is a very instinctive player who has great ball skills and awareness of what is going on in the secondary. And [Aaron] Williams is a young player that has moved position a time or two and now I think is really settling in on the back end as one of their safeties that is going to be out there starting and playing a lot of football for them. He has made some impact plays in the preseason as a downhill type of safety that really hits you. And again, like I said, I think this a really talented group with great ball skills that's not afraid to stand in there and make it hard for you. So, we are anticipating a great challenge. We know we're going to have to play very well to move the ball in the air, and again, it will be a good challenge for us to start the season this way.
Q: How familiar are you with Matthew Mulligan?
JM: Well I'll certainly be more familiar with him as we go. This is certainly not an unfamiliar situation for us, or any staff, to be in where the roster has a little bit of flexibility and turnover here at this time of the year. Last year I think Michael Hooman [Hoomanawanui] came onto our roster around this time and played right away. I spent some time and I got to meet Matthew yesterday. He is going to be plugging away learning our stuff, and it's exciting to have any player who comes onto our team that we add. We are going to embrace [him] and look forward to working with [him] and I look forward to figuring out how he can help us win from one week to the next. I'm seeing some tape from his days in Green Bay and St. Louis and talking to some people that he played for, and I'm excited to work with him.
Q: What are you looking for from the rookie players on offense?
JM: Every team deals with changes from one season to the next, and we're no different. This won't be our first time going out there with a young player, or more than one young player that will play for us. I think it is our job to put them in positions that give them an opportunity to be successful, and that applies to everybody on our offense. I think as long as we can do that, each guy that has earned the opportunity to play on Sunday will go out there and give his best effort to do the things that we have already seen him do to contribute. It's going to be a great challenge, like we said, for our offense, and it's going to be a team situation in terms of how we play the game, how we call it on offense and what we try to do with each one of our players and certainly try to make the best decisions we can to allow them to make an impact.
Q: What do the three rookie wide receivers bring to the team?
JM: Youth. They're all anxious to get started. They've got an enthusiasm about them. They're all three capable of playing in our offense. We've already moved them and played multiple roles, multiple positions with them, which in our system is a really big plus for us to have some flexibility with those guys. They've shown that they will study and work at the mental side of the game to be able to be flexible and play at multiple spots that we need them to. They are all competitive and they've all been productive in different roles throughout the course of the spring and the preseason. And at the same time, we understand that this will be their first opportunity to play in a regular season game, and we're going to try like I said to put them in the best positions to be successful at what they're doing. So, it's exciting to have them get started, but they've got a lot of veteran, experienced players around them. Certainly we are not going to throw them out there and not have a good idea of what exactly we are going to do with them.
Q: What is the benefit of bringing back eight full-time starters on the offensive side of the ball?
JM: I think experience in this league is valuable, and I think that it helps certainly in different stages of the year, the first game, the opening game of the year, being one of them. You'd like to say it would certainly give us some calm going into a situation like that. The line has done a nice job. It's a pretty tight-knit group and they do a good job of communicating and working together. Certainly Tom [Brady] has had a good spring, a good training camp, and is looking forward to getting the season started. It's great to have leadership from both those areas of our football team: the quarterback and the offensive line. I think a lot of the backs. I mean, this isn't their first game and they understand what they are getting into. We've got some players on the perimeter that have played large roles in the NFL before in Danny [Amedola] and Julian [Edelman] too. So, like I said, it's a good blend, a good mix of veteran leadership with a lot of experience and some younger players that we're hoping can come in here and contribute to our offense.
Q: It is unusual for a player like Shane Vereen to have the ability to make catches in all quadrants of the field?
JM: Yeah, I think certainly when you have a back that has opportunities to makes plays down the field and he shows that he can do that, that doesn't happen often. It doesn't happen often with Shane, or it hasn't happened often with Shane either, but he's made some really nice plays in the past with the opportunities that we've had to do that. Any back that gives you an opportunity to move him out of the backfield and still have some contribution from him is a plus in the passing game. I think Shane has done everything we have asked him to do in any role, whether that be blitz pickup, running the ball, catching it out of the backfield or being split outside and doing things out there too. We don't just do that with Shane. There have been other backs in our past that have made some plays out there, but all of them end up playing out there at one time or another and doing some different things. It's just a matter of how much the ball actually gets pushed out there. Hopefully if that comes up, any of them will be able to take advantage of the opportunity, and that would include Shane.