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Josh McDaniels Interview Transcript

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels addresses the media during his interview on Friday, October 24, 2008.

Q: Quarterback Matt Cassel had one of his better games against the Denver Broncos last Monday but what are some things he can still improve on?

JM: We have a lot of things to improve on. There are certain areas of each player's game, including Matt's [Cassel], that can get better. We went in and watched the film of last week's game [vs. Denver Broncos] and obviously there were some areas we did better at. Consistency, I know everyone has been talking about the sacks. I think there are some things we can improve on in that area. We were poor on third down early in the game. I think when you don't have a big lead or you don't get a lot of turnovers and you are struggling on third down then that becomes a bigger issue as the game goes on. We were fortunate to get some turnovers. We had some [good] field position and scored on some quick drives early in the game that got us out of that hole. Third down is something we can improve on. We did make some strides in the red area and we have to try and limit the number of sacks we are giving up on a weekly basis.

Q: Have you noticed Cassel's internal clock and the way he reads things improving week to week?

JM: I think he [Matt Cassel] is improving in that area. He actually made some good throwaways, some smart throwaways. One was in the end zone. He got out of the pocket and we ended up getting a facemask penalty on that. They [Denver's Jamie Winborn] grabbed his facemask. He had another one in that same game where he evaded the rush to the right and there was really nothing there on the play so he got rid of the ball. I think it is just a comfort level for him. That clock is going to go off at some point. Sometimes in some protections where you have more people in maybe you have an extra second or so to the throw the ball or throw it away. As he plays more, I think naturally that will get better and improve. We have to block them better too. That was part of the issue. There were some times where I am not sure anybody at quarterback would have made a good decision and get rid of the ball on a couple of those plays. This is a team thing. It is not just a quarterback thing. He can definitely improve in this area of his game but I think this is a team thing. The [running] backs, tight ends and the [offensive] line can protect a little better than we did. We can certainly do a better job of throwing the ball away when nothing is there.

Q: Now that you have a body of work with Cassel in terms of games, how would you describe how he has compared to your expectations? Has he exceeded your expectations or did you not know what to except from him?

JM: We really had a lot of confidence in him [Matt Cassel] or he wouldn't be in the position that he is in. Every week as a quarterback you do things that are really good that show up on the film and there is never a game where you play perfect. We are going in there and critiquing him every week. We are critiquing his play and he is critical of himself. I think he is improving which is the biggest thing for us right now. He is improving every week as is the offensive unit as a whole. I think that is the thing we have to grade him on 'Did we make some strides from the week prior? Did we improve on the things we really focused on?' If we do, then we keep doing those the next week and we move on to the next group of things that we need to improve on and it never really stops. The list never ends and never runs out. I think right now he is improving week to week which is exactly where we want him to be. We want to push him to continue to do that the rest of the year.

Q: Every week you guys would like to run the ball like you did against the Denver Broncos last Monday. How can you work to be able to do that?

JM: We have to move the line of scrimmage. I think we have only had three negative runs in the last three games which is really good. That is the thing we talk about a lot. You don't want to allow penetration in the backfield. Anytime you get the [running] backs going downhill...all of our [running] backs we have confidence in them running. They get to the second level and made people miss the other night. It all starts with the line of scrimmage. The tight ends and the [offensive] line did a great job of really not allowing any penetration in the backfield. We have to stay with it. We have to keep giving them the ball. We have to keep giving the offensive line and tight ends a chance to move the line of scrimmage and beat up those guys up front. As the game goes on, you run the ball 35 or 40 times you will wear people down. I think that some of those four and five-yard gains in the first half turned into some 10 and 12-yard gains in the second half which is exactly where we want to be.

Q: What has running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis improved on in practice that translated in the Denver Broncos game?

JM: He [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] is a good [running] back. We have liked what we have seen since we got him. He has good vision and gets the ball downhill. He knows what he is and he knows what he is not. I think that is really a tribute to him. He is a downhill guy that weighs 225 pounds. He is going to go ahead and duck his head and try and make some yards with his thighs and physicality. He is not a dancer and that is kind of what we like about him. He knows where the hole is at, he finds it, he hits it and he is not going to try to do much sideline-to-sideline running. Obviously when he got his opportunities in the second half last week [vs. Denver Broncos] he made the most of them.

Q: Wide receiver Randy Moss joked after the Denver Broncos game about having to talk to the coaches about getting involved in the screen-pass plays. Did he have conversations with you about that?

JM: Sure, everybody wants to run them when they work and nobody wants to run them or have the ball in their hands when they don't. We have used a lot of people in that role this year. Kevin Faulk has caught them. Wes [Welker] has caught them obviously. Jabar [Gaffney] and Randy [Moss] have caught them. We are not averse to throwing to anybody. Whatever we think is the best thing to do in that week's game plan based on how we feel the defense will play us and it may change during the course of a game. The guys love them when they catch them and there are a bunch of big linemen out in front blocking a bunch of little guys. When it doesn't look good and you get the ball in your hands, nobody really wants to have them. We have joked about it. He [Randy Moss] made a really good catch on that play. Wes made a great play on the linebacker [Denver's D.J. Williams] that was going out there to try and get in the way of the screen. Logan [Mankins], Matt [Light] and the rest of the lineman are doing a great job going down field. It has been a productive play for us and hopefully it continues to do that.

Q: With a younger quarterback do you have to work differently to get your playmakers the ball?

JM: You always have plays where you design the play to try to get it to a certain player. Whether that is a screen pass, obviously that is a one-man read and if it is there great, but there are other plays in the offense where you run those to try and limit the amount of times the quarterback, in general, has to do a lot of scanning the entire field. We did that with Tommy [Brady] too. I think that just takes a little pressure off everybody. Screen passes also help with the pass rush along with some of the role outs that we use. It changes the launch point and the quarterback is not sitting in the same spot every time. We tried to do it with Tom and we try to do it with Matt [Cassel]. I think it is a way to get people the ball. If you scheme it up really well and it works then everybody is happy. If you scheme it up well and there is only one guy to throw it to and he is covered, then we start throwing it out in the stands and nobody really likes those plays very much, including myself. You try to have a number of those in the game plan to make it easy on everybody and maybe get the ball outside so it is not the same pass rush on every pass play.

Q: Former Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice had the "Randy Ratio" thing. I wouldn't think you guys would do that but is there some effort to get Randy Moss involved early?

JM: Our offense in general is built to where any one of our skill players could touch the ball on a particular pass play. That means that maybe he [Randy Moss] will catch five or six in the first quarter one week and maybe he won't. Maybe Wes [Welker], Kevin [Faulk] BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] or somebody else will catch five or six in the first quarter. We don't really try to force the ball to somebody just to get him in the flow of the game. We try to go ahead and incorporate those schemes into our offense and our passing game. If it so happens that read takes you there a lot then great. If it doesn't, then all of our players are unselfish enough to know that we are making positive yards going somewhere else and that is what we have to do.

Q: Do the setbacks in Tom Brady's surgery concern you?

JM: I am not really aware of all that is going on. I have heard all the other stuff. I have talked to Tommy [Brady] and he obviously has a good approach and good attitude on this whole thing. However this turns out, I am sure he will work as hard as he can to get back out here whenever that may be next year. We are all behind him and can't wait to see him whenever he gets back into town.

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