Q:Do you feel like you're better equipped to handle the absence of Rob Gronkowski now than you were earlier in the season?
JM:I think we've experienced playing without him before, and I think that – I don't know if we're better equipped, the same, I'm not exactly sure how to rate that. I just know that any time you lose a player like that or you can't use a player like that, you need to put your time into a few different things, and other people have to play different roles. You play offense a little differently, and we do have experience doing that. We did it at the beginning of this year for a significant number of weeks, we did it in the offseason, we did it last year during the course of the season as well, so we've experienced this before. I think for that reason, we kind of have an idea of exactly what we need to use and how to kind of formulate our game plan to max out our strengths and try to make up for the loss of a very unique player.
Q:When you lose any player, you can either try to replace him with other players on the roster or shift what you're doing offensively. Do you gravitate towards one of those avenues, or in the case of Rob Gronkowski is there one that you lean towards given his impact in this offense?
JM:Well, I don't think you can replace a player like that, a guy that can do so many unique things, with anybody. I think the thing that we rely on the most from one week to the next has always been trying to figure out what part of our offensive system to use to maximize the strengths of the players that we have available for us that week against the strengths of the opponent that we're playing that week as well, and so I think for us the formula's not going to change. The variables that we get to use, however, will, and I think that happens a lot during the course of the season. We certainly have had to deal without Rob, we've had to deal without Danny [Amendola], we had to deal without Shane [Vereen] and Sebastian [Vollmer] and Marcus [Cannon]. There's been a number of different players that have missed a game, a few games, over the course of time, and so the things that those players do well that maybe other players don't do as well, you naturally adapt during each week to try to make sure that you're not putting players in positions to do things that they're not really best-suited to do. So I think for us, the mentality is going to be very much the same. We have the players that we have, we love the guys that we have to play offense with, we're just missing one of them that's certainly a very good player. So we go to work, and we figure out exactly what the right formula for us is this week to try to win the game against the Dolphins, and then we'll worry about next week next week.
Q:Do you spend time anticipating what a defense may try to take away from you and change your own game plan accordingly, and how different are defensive game plans drawn up when Rob Gronkowski isn't part of your offense?
JM:I think the first question – I mean, you definitely have to anticipate. When you begin to put together a game plan for your players, you certainly have to base it on something. There are a lot of factors that can go into that, especially in a divisional game. One, we have experience playing against this team this year that we can look back on, and that's always a challenge in itself, because you did some things that you liked and they did some things that they liked, and how much do you want to stay the same versus how much do you want to adjust? But you do get a feeling for what they felt they had to do defensively to try to stop you, and at the same time, you put out there what you felt was best about trying to do offensively against them. So there's that plan, and you always have to start with something, so definitely when we begin, we say, 'Look, let's put together a plan based on these factors in anticipation of these types of things being played on defense,' and then you need to adjust as soon in the game as you find out that that's not the case. Then you've got to do everything you can to try to make an adjustment quickly. Some games it goes the way you think it will, some games it doesn't and you need to adjust more than others, but that always ends up being one of those things that you never know until Sunday. And then the question about Rob, I definitely think that when you have players that can be as productive as Rob has been, some defenses pay a tremendous amount of attention to him and have done that to other players on our team at different times, where they may say they want to try to double him, may say they want to try to jam him or bump him or do different things, and you can tell that that was really their plan going into the game, because it's obvious that they changed some of the things that you had seen on film to do those things. When you don't have – when he's not in there, then certainly they may be more inclined to do more of the things that they're used to doing, and they don't necessarily need to account for a player at that position to be such an incredible challenge as you presented.
Q:What makes Shane Vereen such a difficult matchup for defenses, and do you anticipate defenses keying on him more given his recent production, especially in the passing game?
JM:Shane works extremely hard. He's one of our – we have a lot of guys that do that, and he's a great worker. He's really intelligent and studies diligently each week to know the opponent and to know what his role in the game plan is and to make sure that he's on top of everything that he needs to be on top of. He's a guy that has versatility, certainly, that allows us to do some different things with him, but I go back to his preparation and his ability to handle that, because if you can't handle those different things, it's hard to even get lined up to attempt to do them. Shane can not only do that, but go out and execute them and make plays while he's outside of the formation, in the backfield, running the ball, protecting, whatever it may be. He's a valuable guy to have, and one of the things I thought he did well the other day, along with making some plays when he had the football in his hands, was he did a good job in pass protection, which I know doesn't necessarily get mentioned that much. You don't necessarily recognize that until something happens in a negative fashion, but he did a nice job of picking up blitzers the other day when we needed him to. They pressured us quite a bit, and he stepped up and was very up to the challenge. He's an unselfish guy, whatever his role is in the game plan, he'll be ready to tackle it. He'll prepare hard every week, and he certainly came up big for us the other day. Your second part of your question was about, 'Do defenses adjust?' Certainly they can, I mean I'm sure every defensive coach has calls in his arsenal that could try to discourage you from trying to get the ball to a certain player. In Shane's case, I mean, we can hand the ball to Shane. We've definitely been able to throw the ball to him some too. It may be a little bit more difficult to do that with a halfback, because you don't necessarily know where he's going to be all the time. But definitely, defensive coaches could choose to do things like that. If that's the case, I mean we really just try to put together our offense to where, if they do try to take away one player, that somebody else on our team has an opportunity to have a favorable matchup and win that matchup to give us an opportunity to give the ball to someone else. That's all kind of part of the plan, and if it happens, then that would then fall to Tom [Brady] to see that, and he would, and hopefully get the ball to the right person based on the coverage.