Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 29, 2010.
Q: I'm not sure what your expectations were when you signed Danny Woodhead, but can you remember a situation where you signed a free agent into the season and he has contributed as much as Danny has?
NC: Really, I think anytime you sign a player, whatever point of the year it is, your expectation is that the player just comes into your program, starts to assimilate some of the things that you do, and perform to the best of their ability. However it all pans out, however it all unfolds, in the end that's up to the player and their performance and what they do on a day-to-day basis. But, Danny's come in here, he's worked hard since day one. He's a smart player. There are a lot of things that he's been asked to do. To this point, he's had some success doing those things, so I think it's a credit to Danny. It's a credit to the offensive staff and to coach [Ivan] Fears and the work that they've done. We're happy to have Danny. And the signing when it took place, we had an opportunity there to add a back to the roster. There was a spot that was available. And then Kevin [Faulk] was injured, unfortunately, in that game. The expectations of any player when you bring them in - and however they perform - it's up to them, but you hope that they come in and they can do some good things, and Danny's done that to this point.
Q: Besides Danny, you guys have remade what the offense has been with trading Randy Moss and bringing in Deion Branch. Was this all you could hope for as far as the offense's acclimation to the moves, especially with the way it has performed in the last three games?
NC: Really, the offense hasn't changed the whole year. It's the same offense that we installed last spring, and we went through training camp with, that we started the season with. I think the most important thing that you are looking for, whether it's offensively or defensively, is the consistency of the performance on a week-to-week basis. There have been some weeks that have been better than others. Offensively, there have been some decent weeks here over the past few weeks. But the most important thing is how you perform on that particular week. We know that we have our hands full this week with the Jets and their defense. It's one of the best defenses in the league over the past few seasons. It really doesn't matter what we've done to this point. The most important thing is how we perform on Monday. But really, in the end, you're just looking for consistency and overall improvement from a week-to-week basis throughout the course of the year, and hopefully we can continue you that here over this last part of the season.
Q: When looking at the game against the Jets itself, how would you describe the magnitude of what's going to unfold Monday with five games remaining and playoff positioning in mind for both teams?
NC: Later in the year, those games, they take on maybe a little more significance. We've played a lot of big games throughout the course of the year. Every week's a big game. It really doesn't matter who you play. I think the implication from the perspective of being a division game, that's important. You want to try and win those games in your division. Those are the teams that you see twice over the course of the season. So, it's a division game, it's later in the year, they've obviously established themselves as one of the better teams in the league, they have the best record in the league. It's an important game, but it's just as important as any other game. And it's the next one that's on the schedule. Hopefully, our players will be ready to perform on Monday night.
Q: When you view the Jets now, what stands out to you as being different from what you saw week two of the season?
NC: I wouldn't say there is a whole lot that's different. I would say the insertion of [Santonio] Holmes into the lineup has certainly added to their offensive weaponry, if you will. They had already had a lot of good players with LT [LaDainian Tomlinson], and with [Dustin] Keller and Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Now you add Santonio Holmes into the mix, and I think three of the last four games, he's ended up with the game-winning catch. So he's been a productive player. [Mark] Sanchez has played well this year. He's distributed the ball to a lot of different people. They present a lot of problems offensively with their personnel. [Brian] Schottenheimer does a good job of mixing the formations and giving you a lot to prepare for. Defensively, I think they've been steady the entire season. Really the only changes they've made is when they signed Trevor Pryce, whenever that was. I think that was after week one or two when he was released from Baltimore. Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of new players on the defense. They've done what they've done. They've got a good scheme. They give teams a lot of trouble. They're playing at a high level and they're winning games, [which is] the bottom line, which is what you're trying to do in this league. And they've done a real good job of that to this point.
Q: When you guys selected Devin McCourty, how did you rate some of the other corners that went around the same place as him in the draft? Were you weighing those other three cornerbacks against Devin or what did it come down to as far as picking him?
NC: I think any position, whether it's corner, whether it's safety, there is always going to be a group of players that are sort of bunched together at different levels. I think it's fair to say that [Joe] Haden, [Kareem] Jackson, McCourty, and [Kyle] Wilson, they have some similarities as players and they have some differences as well. But all four of them were productive players at their respective schools. With the draft, in the end where we pick you never know what players are going to be available, so you do your homework, you do your due diligence. We certainly evaluated those players. We made the selection of Devin when we did. We're happy with Devin. We're happy that he's here. I'm sure those other teams are happy [with] the player that they selected. All four of those players were productive players at their respective schools, and they've been productive players so far to this point as well for their respective clubs.
Q: While Shayne Graham has been productive as far as field goals, it seems to have struggled as far as far as kickoffs. This late is the lack of distance on kickoffs just something you have to live with or could you look at a kickoff specialist even though it would take up a roster spot or maybe would the improvement have to come on the coverage teams? How do you handle that?
NC: It's probably all tied together. Kickoff coverage is a product of the kicker, [and] is a product of the coverage unit. Sometimes there are elements that come into play whether he's kicking into the wind, he's kicking with the wind, whatever the case may be. We're happy with Shayne, what he's done to this point. Really, special teams, it's never one particular player, one particular spot. It's a collective effort, and I don't think that's more evident than, especially, on coverage units. And those are big plays in the game. Those can change the complexion of the game, but it's all tied together. We're going to have to deal with a number of different things here whether it's this week, whether it's next week. We're not going down to any warm climates anytime soon. We'll deal with the elements. We'll try to cover the kicks the best we can because they're a big factor in the game, this week especially with a guy like Brad Smith. He's capable of taking it the distance on every play. We'll prepare every week. Shayne, we're happy with what he's done to this point. Hopefully, he continues to improve. Hopefully, our coverage units can keep them at their end of the field. I think it's all tied together really when it's all said and done.