Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, September 14, 2010.
Q: Was Rob Ninkovich's performance Sunday part of the reason for releasing Marques Murrell?
NC: I think anytime we make a roster decision that there's always a lot of factors that go into it. You know, that was the decision that we made yesterday. We felt that was the best thing for the team at that time. Anybody that's on the team we feel good about them, and whatever their role is on the team, otherwise they wouldn't be here. There's a number of guys that played on the perimeter, played outside linebacker, we have Shawn Crable on the practice squad here, so we have players here in the program that we feel good about and we're going to move forward with that group. Could that change at some point? Possibly, but that's where we are as of now.
Q: Is the success of the offensive line Sunday a result of the players or the system? When scouting, do you look for players with overall talent or ones that will fit into the system?
NC: Yeah, I think it's a number of factors. Good question. I think that really the performance of the offensive line on Sunday, it's a credit to those players and it's a credit to Dante's [Scarnecchia] coaching. We feel he's the best offensive line coach that there is in the league. He coaches those players hard and he takes a lot of pride, as well as the players, in preparing themselves each week to go into whatever opponent we're facing, and it's a matter of whoever is available that week. We'll get them ready to play, and they go out there and perform, and that group played well. The offensive line played well. I think collectively as an offense there were some good things that we did. I think there are some things that we can certainly clean up. But I think the things, as far as the offensive line is concerned, there are certain traits and criteria that we sort of identify in terms that they need to have this. Talent is certainly one of those, and then there are some other factors that go into it. And once we get them here they start to understand the program. They're going to be coached hard, but if they work hard, if they put the time in, then Dante will certainly get the most out of them, there's no question about that.
Q: Can you talk about what traits you look for that might be different from other teams?
NC: I can't really speak to other clubs. I know what we look for. I think with offensive line, and probably defensive line to a certain extent: the toughness, the competitiveness. There's an element of playing strength, the mental component as well, being smart. There's a lot of variations, a lot of adjustments that are in our offense. The run game calls, changing pass protection, so being able to handle that volume I think is important and you need to be able to think quickly because there are going to be adjustments from week-to-week, and really play-to-play once you get into a game. I can just speak to the things that we look for, and when we're out looking for players you're looking to find players that have those qualities. Then you get them here and start working with them and you see how it all kind of comes together.
Q: Where do you see Quinn Ojinnaka fitting in?
NC: Quinn's got a lot of versatility. He's played tackle, he's played guard, he's started games at both guard and both tackle. He's a versatile player, which the more you can do, really at any position, the more you can do that's going to enhance your ability to get on the field. Like any player he's going to be given his opportunities, but he's been a versatile guy and he's got some experience, and that's why we have him here in the program.
Q: Is it tough to get an idea where he fits because he was not able to practice last week?
NC: We'll fit him in wherever we think is best. Whether that's at guard, it's at guard; or whether it's at tackle, it's at tackle. Dante rotates those guys through on a regular basis during practice, and we see what they can handle, and we see what the best position is for them, and then we see what the best position is for our team as well, and we'll utilize that player however we see fit. So that's how we'll approach it.
Q: Is it satisfying to see two of the rookies start the game on Sunday?
NC: There's a lot of players that played in the game on Sunday. I think everybody that was at the game had a role and played to some degree. We're confident with any player that we put on the field; otherwise we wouldn't put them out there. If we didn't feel that they could go out there and handle the adjustments, handle the responsibilities, and handle the game then they wouldn't be on the field. I think it's important for all of our players to go out there and perform well. I think we're moving in the right direction. It's a long way to go. It's a long season. We certainly have a huge task in front of us on Sunday, but it's always good to begin the season with a positive.
Q: Has 'Hard Knocks' played any role in your preparation for this week's game?
NC: I'll be quite honest with you, I haven't seen it as of yet. I might have to get to it at some point. However big a role that really plays I'm not really sure. The most important thing is how the team performs on the field. We have a large volume of tape and information from last year that we studied in the offseason, and you go through the preseason. Last night, obviously we have that game as well to review. It looks to me like defensively that they're still one of the better clubs. There's enough to deal with right there as far as preparing for what's going to take place on the field because in the end that's really what it comes down to.
Q: If it were to help at all, would it be in terms of understanding personnel?
NC: I think the most important thing, as it relates to personnel, is you have to make an assessment of the player from our perspective. You study them, you prepare, and you try to figure out what the player does well, or if he does have an area where maybe it's a weakness, or he's deficient, or maybe it's something that gives him trouble. I think what they really do on the tape, when you're watching them play on the field, in the end I think that's the most important thing. As far as anything additional that you pick up, whether or not that helps I can't really speak to that.
Q: Thoughts on Devin McCourty's performance.
NC: He was pretty competitive. I know he made a nice play there early in the game, the first play of the game I think on TO (Terrell Owens). He went out there, he competed, and I think he played hard. I think that really speaks to the defense as well. I think collectively they played hard. They played as a group. He went out there and he did his job, and he was out there for whatever how many snaps that was. There's a number of things: he's in good condition, he's prepared, he went out there, and he did his job to help the team win. I think the more people that do that in the long run the better off the team is going to be. He had some plays; he got his hands on a few balls, which was good. [Patrick] Chung was involved in a number of plays. [Darius] Butler was involved in a number of plays. [Brandon] Meriweather was involved in a number of plays. In the secondary those guys were pretty active, and defensively those guys all competed. They played hard and we were able to come out with a W.
Q: Why Ron Brace may be a better fit at the end position than at nose?
NC: As far as where they play that may be a better question for Bill [Belichick]. I think the thing with Ron, and I think with the defensive line in general, if guys are versatile, if they can play multiple spots, it's certainly going to help them. I think with Ron: he's big, he's strong, he's got good playing strength, and he can play at the point of attack. Anywhere along the front, those skills and those attributes are going to come into play. Where they end up lining up and playing, that's sort of a weekly thing based on a gameplan, based on who we're playing against, based on who's the center, who's the tackle, where is there a better match up, who fits better where. There's always a lot of factors that go into it, but Ron's lined up in multiple spots. He's played on the nose, he's played on the end, and we'll decide on a weekly basis what the best position is for him and the other players on the defensive front as well.
Q: On Ron Brace's progression from the end of last year to this year.
NC: I think when you spend a period of time in a program you get more comfortable, you get more confident in the technique, and you get more confident in the calls. Then you get out there and you can be a little bit more reactive and not think as much, so I think it's just a natural progression for any young player. And each player learns at different levels and the pace of development may be a little bit different, but Ron worked hard. He had a good off-season. He kind of had a few stumbling blocks there in training camp, but he's worked hard to prepare himself to get himself ready to play on a week-to-week basis and he was out there the other day, and had a few snaps and was competitive, so hopefully that will continue moving forward for the duration of the year.
Q: On Jermaine Cunningham.
NC: I don't know exactly the number of snaps, but there were some good things there. The things that we saw, they're starting to manifest themselves a little bit. Obviously he played with his hand down. He's a big strong guy. He's athletic, he has some quickness, and he can rush the passer to a degree. The guy hadn't played literally the whole preseason, so the fact that he was out there I think was probably more positive than anything else. Hopefully he can build upon that performance and get a little more comfortable, and have a little more confidence and go out there and perform at a high level, and help our team, which is the goal with everybody each week.