Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
Q: When you originally signed Isaiah Stanback, was it as a quarterback or did you sign him thinking he could play multiple positions?
NC: Yeah, we evaluated Isaiah coming out of college. We thought that he could play quarterback and he was subsequently switched to receiver in Dallas. Then when we signed him, we brought him in to work at quarterback, but I think Isaiah is kind of a unique player from the standpoint that he has a pretty unique skill set. And he has performed multiple roles since he's been here in practice, whether it's quarterback or receiver. As the weeks progressed, he did some different things at receiver and he improved. So you know, he's a situation where he's a unique player, he's athletic, he's big, he's strong, he's fast, he has good hands. And week to week, we go through the process and based on his performance and based on what he's done in practice, he went to the game last week and actually played some snaps for us at receiver. I think it ended up being 40-plus snaps or whatever it might be. So, we'll go through each week and see how it goes and then make a decision about what we feel his best spot is going to be for us now and then moving forward.
Q: Does he bring value in the return game? I know he did some of that in Dallas...
NC: Yeah, it's something that I don't think we've really looked into that much as of yet because we're working some other guys at that spot right now, whether it's [Terrence] Wheatley, whether it's [Matthew] Slater, whether it's [Darius] Butler. But with his skill set, in terms of playing him in the kicking game because of his size, because of his speed, because of his playing strength, I think it's something that week to week- we'll go through practice and if there's an opportunity that arises where he needs to return, I'm sure that's something that [special teams coach] Scotty O'Brien and the rest of the staff will look at. But in terms just his overall physical attributes for special teams, I'd say there's a lot of positives there.
Q: When you have a guy like Laurence Maroney who fumbles and then sees decreased playing time as the game goes on, how do you handle that with him? Do you treat it like a physical mistake or does he have to earn back trust?
NC: Yeah, I think we have a lot of faith in Laurence and his ability with the ball in his hands. That situation came up. If you were to look at the game whether it was that play or there was a handful of plays...and I think as the game wore on, we ended up playing in a lot of spread formations and multiple receiver formations, which brings up Kevin [Faulk]'s strength as a football player - getting him into space as well as the passing game and some of those things. Offensively and from a coaching standpoint, we have a lot of confidence in Laurence and his ability and what he can do with the ball in his hands. I'm sure he's anxious to bounce back this week and I'm sure the next opportunity that arises, he'll look to step up to the challenge. But, we have a lot of confidence in Laurence, in his ability for our offense.
Q: You talked about running a lot of spread offense. Is there some cost of doing that once you get into the red zone? Does it become difficult to run that type of offense when you get close to the goal line?
NC: I wouldn't say that. Really, and I think Bill [Belichick] has talked about this, it's just, when you get down to that area, the windows are so tight. You have to make a decision if you want to spread the defense out and try to use your sub-runs and throw the ball or do you want to tighten them down and try to get a little bigger and try to run the ball. So, I think you really have to look at your opponent each week and say, 'OK, this really is the best personnel grouping', or, 'this is the best way to play them.' So the situational aspects of the game - red zone and third down - in the end, that's what the game boils down to. We've had our moments where we've had some good plays in the red area and we need to continue to improve. And, realizing that when we get down there, you have to take advantage of the opportunities, because you don't get them all the time...So, you're dealing with limited space, so you have to figure out how you're going to deploy your personnel and deploy your offense once you get down there.
Q: What went into the decision to put Brandon Tate on Injured Reserve? How tough was it tell that to a guy who had worked back from injury only to play two games and then has to sit out?
NC: Brandon, since he's been here, has had a great attitude. He understood the situation when he was drafted that there was a long road ahead of him and he needs to do everything in his power to try to get himself healthy, and he worked to that point. Sure it's disappointing because each week he was getting progressively better and I'd say this about Brandon - the way he handled the way we drafted him and even this situation here, I think he's handled it great. He understands that it's a tough situation, whether it's him or any other player that gets put in that situation [being placed on Injured Reserve]. It's tough, but I think the most important thing is to stay positive and you try to look forward to next year. I'm sure Brandon will do that. He's been mature. He's done a great job since he's been here, so it's unfortunate those things happen during the year, but you have to move forward. We have to move forward as a team and I think Brandon will move forward as well and deal with it in a positive manner.
Q: The fourth-down call against the Colts generated a lot of passionate discussion among sports fans. When the heat gets turned up like that from the outside, has anything caught your eye in terms of how Bill [Belichick] stays the course in situations like that?
NC: I think every week- and it goes with our core philosophy of how we deal with things- is its own entity. And once you get through the game, you're going to realize that we've had to bounce back from some games, whether it's early in the year against the Jets, or early in the year against Denver - and those were both close ball games. You move forward. You put it behind you. You try to learn from it and then you realize that it's such a quick turnaround because each week you have to prepare for the next challenge and the next opponent. That's been our belief. That's Bill's belief since he's been here and he imparts that to the players. That's the only way you can deal with it because what's done is done, so you have to move forward and there's a long season still ahead of us. We just have to make sure these next seven games, that each week we're prepared and we're doing everything in our power to give us the best chance to win. And that's what we're going to continue to do.