Back when Bill Belichick first got into football, studying game film meant that exact thing...film.
First, there was tracking down reels of the game film that then in turn had to be loaded and projected onto a screen or wall. Scouting an opponent was first about even getting your hands on their game film before you could think about breaking down their strengths and weaknesses. And even then, it was a long, tedious process.
Now, it's no longer film and it's no longer hard to track down footage of your opponent. Everything is available to everyone, sortable by any category or situation a football coach or scout could dream of, while instantly delivering results.
Film became videotape, which then became a fully digital enterprise. It's been an incredible evolution and one that Belichick has seen from its inception, starting from the early days of his football life when he was the one loading up film reels and learning from his father how to break them down.
"You can really get to everything, between the different angles, the TV copy, and so many different ways to look at plays," said Belichick on Friday morning of the advancement of film study. "Before, when I came into the league, you had the film. You had one, kind of look at it. If you want to cut out plays, like short yardage, third down, or something like that, you could do that. It was a little bit of trouble, but you could do it.
"The concept now of looking at… you want to look at all the plays when [Mike] Gesicki and [Jaylen] Waddle are in the game together or whatever it is, this back and this receiver, these two receivers, this combination of linemen, whatever it happens to be, it's really limitless the way you can put all that together and how quickly it can come together, so it gives you a lot of options."
With all those options it could be easy to be overwhelmed and caught up in minutiae that ultimately won't really matter when the game plays out on the field. Still, it's an incredibly powerful tool for those who know what they're looking for.
"You can get caught in the weeds with so many little details and all that," said Belichick. "I think you've just got to be careful that you don't miss the big picture. It does provide for some very detailed analysis. If you want to watch a certain player against another certain other type of player, if you want to watch a certain tackle against two or three speed rushers on pass plays, you can pull those plays in ten seconds. That would've taken a month to do when I first came into the league."
There's another level to the process when it comes to the players, who might not be putting together a full gameplan but can now easily isolate a specific opposing player that they'll be matched up with.
"I was fortunate enough to have one of the smartest guys to ever play the game Eric Weddle and he took me under his wing and I just followed him wherever he went and basically learned how to break down film from him and that evolved over the six years I was with the Chargers," said safety Adrian Phillips. "Then I get here and learn a whole new different style of defense a whole new different style of breaking down opposing offenses from Coach Belichick and from [Devin McCourty] and you just see a different side of it. So when you put those two together and you kind of mold it into your own, I think I've all evolved a lot in the mental aspect of the game."
"You've got to spend different days looking at different things because one time you might watch for third downs or you might watch for just man coverages in general," said Jakobi Meyers. "I feel like I've gotten a lot better, our coaches are teaching us how to break it down, separate it and actually look for something specific."
There's little debate on how important a tool film study is to football and how much information is available, which can often translate into a significant advantage.
"It is interesting how detailed that can be," said Belichick. "With a larger staff, we kind of divide that up so we can get into it a little bit deeper look, a deeper dive into some of that. Again, the archives that you can keep are pretty amazing as well. If you want to look at all the reverses in the last 10 years, they'll be ready for you in a very short amount of time. It's a great resource and figuring out the best way to manage it, use it, is really the challenge."
ESPN lists Bourne as one of 2021's free agents
I've written a couple of notebooks this season about Kendrick Bourne and what a great addition he's been for the Patriots, check out last week's here and one from earlier this season after his big performance against the Titans here. ESPN's Bill Barnwell listed Bourne as one of the best free-agent signings in the NFL this year as the national media is becoming aware of his contributions this season.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, Patriots
Another member of the All-Underrated Team, Bourne represents the best value from New England's offseason spending spree at receiver. I don't doubt that quarterback Mac Jones has been helped by all the veterans — and tight end Hunter Henry has nine touchdowns — but Henry, Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor have a combined average annual value of $36 million on their deals and have 1,261 total yards this season. Bourne's three-year, $15-million deal, on the other hand, has been a bargain.
The former 49ers wideout has been the poor man's Deebo Samuel, racking up 776 receiving yards while adding a quietly impressive 117 rushing yards on 11 carries. He doesn't have Samuel's ability to make an impact as a traditional running back, but when you're averaging 11.8 yards per target, you're doing something right. His mark there leads the league, just ahead of the guy with 11.6 yards per target in second place ... Samuel. In a league in which signing a successful free-agent wide receiver is virtually impossible, Bourne has been the exception to the rule.
Attendance remained the same as it had been for the previous two practices this week as the Patriots wrapped up their prep for Miami inside the Socios.com Field House. Kyle Dugger was the only absence noted while there were no additional returnees from the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
If Dugger and defensive back Myles Bryant are unavailable it could force the team to tap some of their defensive backfield depth like Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, Shaun Wade and practice squadder D'Angelo Ross.