Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 16, 2010.
NC: We had a good practice yesterday and covered a lot of situational things. This morning we'll have a brief practice - kind of a lighter practice and then we'll get on the plane to head down to Atlanta. This will be another good test for our team this week. There are some different elements we will have to deal with. [This is] the first time on the road, so there are some things that come into play there as far as handling crowd noise and the line of scrimmage operation. And this is another good football team that we're playing against. [They have a] good offense, good young quarterback, good tight end, good running back, good receivers, so they've got the bases covered offensively. Defensively, they present some problems as well. They have good edge players - John Abraham. They have a good linebacking core and they signed Dante Robinson in the offseason as a free agent, so this will be another good test for our team to just kind of see where we are against another good ball club. We have a lot of respect for the Atlanta Falcons organization, for what Mr. [Arthur] Blank, Coach [Mike] Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have done. I have a personal relationship with Thomas. Actually, my first fall on the road, he and I spent quite a lot of time together. We were able to cultivate a good relationship. He's still a close friend of mine and a confident, so it will be nice to catch up with him and see how they do some different things down there in Atlanta. We're excited about the trip. It will be a good three, four days there and then we'll see how it goes. We're excited to head down there and face Atlanta.
Q: When you look at Atlanta as a whole - as an organization and as a team - what are Thomas Dimitroff's fingerprints? How has he impacted and molded the team?
NC: That's probably something you'd have to ask Tom specifically. I think his core beliefs and philosophy are a lot of the things we've done here. I think he has tried to implement [those] in Atlanta. They've had some good drafts here over the past two years. I know Thomas is a big believer in the draft. He has a very good grasp of players and handling the draft. Obviously, he kind of oversaw the college scouting department when he was here, so from a drafting perspective...He has an overall view and feel for the entire organization. He understands contracts. He understands what's playing in the league, so I think he's kind of left his mark. They've had two pretty good drafts there the past few years and have brought some young players into the program. And they've won a lot of games. The first year [he was there] they made the playoffs and last year they went 9-7. I think those are the first back-to-back winning seasons they've had in quite some time, so they're moving in the right direction. He has a lot of great people around him. They hired a great coach in Coach Smith, so they have a lot of core things in place and we'll see how they look moving forward.
Q: Can you talk about how these preseason games are key opportunities for players like Brian Hoyer?
NC: Sure, no question. Really, the backup quarterback, this is really his time to get a large volume of snaps; even in practice he's been able to get that. You want to see how they handle the whole operation, handle the team, handle the communication, two-minute situations, how they are in the red area. You want to see how they perform, and then obviously he's going to be prepared in the event that something happens to whoever the starter is. Brian has come in since day one and he's worked hard. He's smart. He understands our system. He's got a quick release. He gets rid of the football. He usually makes pretty good decisions. But it's one thing to do it in practice, but you want to get those game reps and see how he's going to respond. I think when he's been out there he's done some good things.
Q: Can you talk about his progression from last year to this year?
NC: I think even if you go back to rookie camp and some of the spring camps, some of the things that you look for in a quarterback are decision making, accuracy and the ability to get rid of the football and ball placement. Each practice, the more he did it, he made those decisions quickly. And his grasp of the offense, I mean, it takes time. Quarterback, aside from a few other [positions] - obviously, it's a difficult position making the transition from college to pro because the volume of things that you have to face is so drastically different. He's smart. He works hard. He takes coaching. He's very attentive. I think he and Tom [Brady] and Zac [Robinson] as well, have a good rapport amongst the group, which I think is important. I think one of the big things, too, is just the communication and just being able to communicate, not only amongst your quarterback group, but the offense and the offensive line, so that everybody understands and has a belief in you. I think so far, players have responded to what Brian has done and we're happy he's here.
Q: For someone who has done so well in your organization, do you have any idea as to why he wasn't drafted?
NC: I'm not sure. I mean, obviously, we didn't draft him either. It's just the way it works out sometimes. Some players get drafted. Some players aren't drafted. I can't really tell you why he didn't. We're just happy that he's here on the club.
Q: Do you think he's done a good job of correcting any weaknesses he had going into the draft over the past 15 months?
NC: I think a lot of the things that you've seen on the field, some of those things showed up in college as well. He played in a pro-style system; [It was] pretty balanced between run and pass. He played in cold weather. He played in the elements, which is important, especially for a quarterback playing up here. So he kind of dealt with all those things at Michigan State. We're happy that he's here and we're happy he's on the club.
Q: Is there a battle for backup quarterback or is Brian Hoyer the guy?
NC: I think they're always competing with one another and how they perform, that will determine who ends up [as backup quarterback]. The players determine ultimately what their role is. I think Zac has come in [and] he's worked hard. He's athletic. He's got a good arm and he's learning, so he's at the same stage Brian was at this point last year. I think in the end, there's always competition at that position and any other position. However it sorts itself out, we'll have an idea here hopefully by the end of the preseason.
Q: Bill Belichick talked about Brandon Spikes being somewhat unorthodox as a player. Does that kind of thing show up on film or do you not see that until he gets here?
NC: I think every player kind of has their own unique qualities about them, whatever they are. I think Brandon is a very instinctive football player. That showed up regardless of what tape you put on. He was around the ball. In the end, how they get the job done and how they produce - however they get to that end game or to that endpoint, that's ultimately the most important thing. I think any player has their unique skills. Some have an area of strength that they're better than somebody else. I think Brandon has come in and he's worked hard. That's a good linebacking group. They're young, they're out there, [and] they're working together. When he's been out there, he's made a few plays, which is certainly encouraging, but he's got a ways to go. I mean, it's only [been] one preseason game with X amount of practices, but it looks like he's headed in the right direction.
Q: In regards to Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren learning a new system for them, are you seeing the learning curve and are they making the kind of jump that you think is necessary for them to make this team?
NC: Sure. They've made a conscientious effort to take the coaching and just kind of understand how the defense is played. I think they're both smart football players. They've learned the techniques of how to play in our defense. Predominately they've played in 4-3 systems - four down fonts - for most of their careers. Gerard has played a little bit in the 34 at different points, but in the end, regardless of who the player is and where they've played, we're going to train them in our system and then teach them the techniques that we believe in and that we preach. But they have both worked hard. They're both smart football players; they understand what you're trying to tell them and they try to go out there and apply and execute it on the field. They've worked hard, and I think they're moving in the right direction as well.
Q: When you look at those guys in the offseason, what is it that you see that tells you they have the skills to work in a 3-4?
NC: I think you have to just look at their skill set and look at the D-line in general. I think there are certain things that are universal regardless [of] how it translates into your system. As far as defensive linemen are concerned, you look at their playing strength. You look for their ability to play laterally down the line of scrimmage. There's a run-pass element. So even though they're playing in maybe a different system, you can still evaluate them based on certain criteria and the skills that you want those defensive linemen to posses.
Q: Is Ron Brace behind having missed two weeks of training camp?
NC: He hasn't been out there, so I think he's working to get himself up to speed. He'll have plenty of opportunity to get on the field and show what he can do. Its' good to have him back out there and we'll see how it goes here the next few weeks.
Q: Was he showing in the spring that he had made that jump from year one to year two that you talk about?
NC: Sure. There are certain things in the offseason that you can monitor, between the classroom work, between the offseason coaching sessions. He was headed in the right direction and unfortunately, he wasn't able to be out there until yesterday. Ron will work hard and I'm sure try to get himself up to speed. It's good to have him out there and we'll see how he does.
Q: How good of a long snapper is Rob Ninkovich?
NC: He's done it. He handles the operation. He is able to get the ball back there quickly. I think he had one the other night in the game and there really wasn't an issue with the ball handling. You're trying to develop a little confidence between the snapper and the punter, even if it's long snaps or short snaps. I think one of the things with Rob is just the overall versatility. The more you can do, whether it's defensively, on special teams as a coverage player, and then you add in the long snapping component, that certainly enhances any player's ability to carve out a niche for himself on the roster.
Q: Is that something where you consider that being his full-time job, or is it just building depth just in case?
NC: Whenever the player can do [something], whether it's block, run, tackle, long snap, whatever it may be...Like I said, when you start to construct the roster in terms of roles and who is going to do what, the more things the player shows he can do, that's certainly going to help his ability to be on the club.
Q: At what point do you start to think about roster spots as far as backing up multiple spots and injuries, etc.?
NC: I'd say we're probably not at that point yet. We're still just focused on the next thing in front of us, which is today's practice and obviously the practices with Atlanta. I think as we get a little bit further along here towards the end of the month, then obviously you're going to have to make some decisions, but I wouldn't say we're at that point just yet.
Q: How much time do you spend keeping track of which teams have surpluses certain positions and which players who might be cut from other teams?
NC: That's part of your due diligence that you do as a department this time of the year. There have been 15 preseason games played to this point. We have basically all of those logged on our video system, so we'll go through each of those games individually. You're watching the entire construct of the team and then you start to go through and kind of make a guestemation of 'OK, this player may be available. OK, how would he fit what you do?' I'd say it's pretty commonplace for any team this time of year. It's part of the process. That's essentially, from a departmental perspective, that's kind of where our focus is - looking at all those other teams and seeing who in fact may be available and where there might be a surplus or where they might be light. And whether or not that leads to any further discussions later on in the month, we'll deal with it at that time.
Q: I'm sure it varies a little bit, but how much time do you generally spend looking at those games?
NC: However long it takes to get through a game. However many plays there are, you just go through the game. However long it takes you, some take a little bit longer than others, but however long it takes you to kind of get a feel for the majority of the players and kind of have a sense for their strengths and their weaknesses, and then you sort of move on to the next game. It takes time. There's no formula or magic button you can push. It takes time, but it's an enjoyable part of the process.
Q: Can you talk about the roster moves yesterday?
NC: Yeah. Torry [Holt] went to IR. We brought Buddy Farnham back and signed Brian Simmons. I think the decision with Torry [was that] we just felt that was the best thing for the club at this point in time. Torry came in, he worked hard, and he did everything we've asked him to do. [He's a] total professional and he's been a really good player and had a really productive career. But in the end, we have to make decisions that we feel are best for the club, so that's what we did.
Q: Was it an injury that sprung up in practice?
NC: He may have missed a few days there at some point, so in the end we went with the decision that we felt was best for us.
Q: Was it one of those decisions where you had to weigh 'well, he may be back mid-season. Is it worth the roster spot?'
NC: I think there are always a lot of factors that go into it. You're trying to manage the entire team, especially this time of year [when] you're dealing with 80 players. We try to manage the team the best we can and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are reflective of that notion, so that's what we did.
Q: Did the team send anything to Logan Mankins?
NC: Any decisions or conversations that we have [with] a player will remain between ourselves and the club.