New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels sat down with the media for an interview on Friday, September 19, 2008.
Q: Quarterback Matt Cassel said his first career start against the New York Jets was just a step in his progress. How do you see him progressing as he gets more experience?
JM: He [Matt Cassel] had a lot of reps in training camp. He had a lot of reps in the preseason this year and in prior years. The one thing about any player who has never really started or played in a lot of regular-season games is that he is missing the experience in those situations. I thought he responded favorable two weeks ago when he went into the game against Kansas City [Chiefs]. He reacted well last week. Obviously, he knew last week that he was going to be playing a whole lot so he had a good week of practice. He went out there and gained some valuable experience in a game-type situation. I think he is getting more comfortable with that. I think every situation that comes up in a game you can't really prepare for in practice. The more he does those things, the more he will be comfortable with them when they come up in the future. So far I think he has done a good job. We have to continue to push him in practice so he can improve.
Q: How important is it for quarterback Matt Cassel to get use to being hit since he hasn't been hit that much over the past few years?
JM: He [Matt Cassel] told me last week that as soon as he got popped pretty good early in the game it reminded him that that is the way it is going to go. That actually makes you feel probably more comfortable as a quarterback once you get hit. If you go too long without getting hit in the pocket or the passing game then I think you get into a false sense of what is really going to happen. Just getting out there and getting banged around a little bit like he did is part of the process. He felt more comfortable once he got hit the first time.
Q: So for the first play of the game are you going to tell the offensive line not to block anybody?
JM: I don't think we are going to do that but inevitably he is going to get some contact at some point. When he does, I am sure he will remember that he is in a football game.
Q: After a hit late in the first half against the New York Jets he seemed to be shaken up a little bit. What did you tell him after that?
JM: I told him [Matt Cassel] to get up. I said 'get up, we have to get back in the huddle.' He is tough kid and he has always been tough since he has been here. He has been banged around in the preseason before and dealt with little nagging injuries like all the players do. His toughness is something that no one would question. That is what you hope for from a guy leading the huddle.
Q: What are some similarities in converting on third down and converting in the red zone?
JM: Obviously, all the third downs are one-play situations, but in the red area success or failure comes down to whether you can make that one play that they give you a chance to make. Last week [vs. New York Jets] we had a couple of chances but we didn't convert on them. It really comes down to your execution against whatever they determine to use against you - that situation. You have to be at your very best, execution across the board - all 11 guys. If you have a breakdown in the red area, on third down, or there is a miss communication, then it is really hard to convert, hard to stay on the field and hard to score touchdowns. You have to be on top of your game with all 11 guys in those situations in order to be successful
Q: Is that something quarterback Matt Cassel will improve on during the season?
JM: I think the speed of the game and sometimes the types of coverages that are used in the red area or on third down - you might see more zone defense on early downs. As soon as it gets to a third down or red area situation, they need to get tighter on the coverage on the defensive end so the windows are smaller for us [so] we have less room for error and we have to be quick with our decisions. The more game-like situations you play in and the more snaps you have in those situations, the better off you are going to be.
Q: With wide receiver Randy Moss only getting two receptions last week against the New York Jets, do you enter this week thinking, 'We have to do more to get Randy the ball'?
JM: We have talked about this before but part of Randy's [Moss] production or any offensive player's production is the way they play on defense. If they chose to take one player away, sometimes you can do that but it gives up a lot of other options. I think we go into every game plan with most if not all of all our skill players having a big part or role in it by trying to give them the ball different types of ways. He is always a big factor in that. If they [opponent] play certain things that absolutely take him out of it, like last week, then we have to go somewhere else with the football. You have to do a good job of that. If they give you a chance to hit some things to him, then you have to make those count when they do. We had a couple last week, we didn't necessarily convert on them. He is always going to be a big part of the plan. We are always going to try and do things to get him involved, as well as, the other wide receivers, tight ends and [running] backs. I don't think we are going to try and force anything to him. I don't think that is the smartest way to go. I think you just try to build the game plan around the people you have. We will see how they [Miami] determine to play him on Sunday.
Q: Are the routes Randy Moss ran with quarterback Tom Brady any different then the routes he runs with Matt Cassel?
JM: No, Randy's [Moss] skill set hasn't changed. What Randy does well, we are going to try to continue to get him to do. Matt [Cassel] has been throwing to Randy now for over a year also. Matt can make the throws that we need him to make to all the receivers. He has a strong arm and throws an accurate ball. He throws a catchable ball. I don't think we are going to change what we are going to do with those guys. Those guys are going to run the things that we feel most comfortable with them running. Things that they have had success with in the past and that we feel are good things to do this week and going forward. Matt has to make those throws.
Q: Do the Miami Dolphins cornerbacks have a tendency to changes sides during a game?
JM: I think anytime you go in a game where the cornerbacks aren't specifically always on the same side, you always think they could or couldn't match them - I don't know. We go into a game plan making all of our players familiar with all of the defensive backs. The same think up front with the linemen, with the safeties and the linebackers. We try to make sure that they understand the strengths and weaknesses of those players. Will Allen is certainly a very good player. He has had good games against us in the past. There are a lot of guys on their defense that have actually done well against us. He is one guy they could chose to go ahead and move if they want to. He has played on both sides this year. It could be something that happens but we will have to wait and see.
Q: How do you think tight end David Thomas played last week against the New York Jets?
JM: David [Thomas] did a great job. We needed a big game from him. He caught a ball but we also used him a lot in blocking and protection aspects of the game last week. We try to do that with all of our tight ends. Hopefully, we will have more guys back this week to help out there. The [running] backs did a good job last week when they were in the game doing some of the protecting and blocking to try take the load off David. David did a good job last week.
Q: How has guard Billy Yates played so far this season?
JM: He [Billy Yates] is doing well. Billy is a tough guy. He is a big, strong, physical guy. He has been in there for quite a bit of time now. We have relied on Billy over the last few years and he has come through. We don't feel like we have a hole at any spot on the [offensive line]. That is a tribute to Billy because when Billy goes in there, last year or this year, we don't feel like we have to alter what we do. We don't feel like we have to change our protections or where we are running the ball because Billy can hold his end of the bargain. He has done a good job this year and we will continue to count on him to do that.