[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="481281"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH
Q: I'm curious to get your read on Paul Alexander, the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, taking over for Hue [Jackson] and what kind of similarities and differences you see between the two.
BB: Well I think there are certainly a lot of common denominators from two years ago when we played the Bengals to this year. Certainly a number of the players have changed, the personnel, some of the skill players have changed a little bit. A lot of them have stayed the same but, you know, it's a well-balanced offense. They get the ball down the field. They do a good job on catch-and-run plays, they run the ball well and they have a good play-action game that utilizes all their skill players – backs, tight ends and receivers. So I think [Tyler] Eifert is a key part of the offense. We haven't seen as much of him. He definitely gives them another dimension to complement their 11-personel. They still use 12-personnel but he obviously is an explosive player. I think overall it's a good balance. Good, balanced attack. You have to stop everything. Their skill players, their backs are a little bit different but good and explosive in both the running and the passing game. Again, same thing at tight end. A number of players at that position, all of them with a good skill set although a little bit different. And same thing at receiver. Obviously [Andy] Dalton has had a very productive career at quarterback. It's a veteran offensive line. It's a pretty talented group up there. So it's a solid offensive team. They do a lot of things well.
Q: What have you learned about Martellus Bennett as a coach, the way he prepares, and the impact that he's had in the locker room and on the field?
BB: I think this is about what we thought it would be. Experienced player, veteran player that's very smart, that has a lot of position flexibility, can play in the passing game, can play in the running game, can block, can catch, run after catch, make big plays, make possession plays. His intelligence gives him a lot of versatility. He's done that before in his career, multiple times, and I think that's what he's given us. Each team has its own personality and chemistry. I don't think there's any way you can orchestrate that as a coach, nor would I try to. Players are all individuals. They fit in uniquely every year because the group is always composed of different people, even though some are the same. And even the ones that are the same, sometimes there are changes in certain things that make it a little bit different. You know, we all have different years just because of circumstances that are involved in our particular year. That's about the way I see it.
Q: Was Jacoby Brissett further injured in last week's game versus Buffalo or in practice last week prior to the surgery?
BB: Well, we put out the information that we were required to put out by the league as far as the injury report goes and all of that. So I think it's best if we just leave it at that.
Q: So in your estimation, he Brissett was healthy enough to start against Buffalo?
BB: Again, our injury report was accurate as it always is at the time that it was turned in, which there are multiple times that that happens so sometimes things change. But at that particular point, based on the information that we had, we turned it in accurately. That's absolutely… that's right.
Q: When you guys were scouting Elandon Roberts out of Houston, what stood out to you in terms of what made him different or what made him unique?
BB: Personally, I first saw him when I was watching Keenan Reynolds, the Navy quarterback. In that game Reynolds threw for 300 yards or something like that. He threw a lot of passes in the game and that was the game of his career that he threw the most so I wanted to watch that. And when I watched that I kept noticing the middle linebacker for Houston. And he made a ton of plays in that game. I don't know how many tackles he had but they weren't all on the option play because he blitzed, he just showed up on plays, showed up a lot. I thought he ran well. I didn't even know who he was so I went and got the information on him and so forth. That's when I first noticed him. I'd say in scouting him throughout his college career – good production, particularly his senior year, runs well, probably plays to or maybe a little bigger than his size. He's got some explosion. Obviously he doesn't have the kind of length that some players have at that position but he plays strong, he's instinctive, he can find the ball, he runs well. When coach [Brian] Flores went down and worked him out he confirmed all of those things plus how hardworking of a player he is and so forth. Chad O'Shea's father is down there as the trainer, Mike O'Shea. And so, Mike [O'Shea] and I go back a long ways about as far as Chad does. He was very complimentary of Elandon's work ethic and toughness and leadership and so forth. So those are some of the information points.
Q: Who might be some linebackers that stand out to you over time that have that physical makeup and played with that physicality?
BB: Right, well I think when you look back in the preseason game, you saw some of that in preseason. We certainly saw it in training camp in some of our drills and 9-on-7 working against the Bears and the Saints and so forth. The preseason games, I think he saw some of those run plays, those downhill plays, some contact plays. You're right, I certainly noticed that play where he came down and hit Joe Thomas. That was an explosive hit. So I think he does do those things well. I would say on the pass coverage side of it, that was good. It's improving. He was close on some plays. It wasn't like he was out of position but you know they got the seam over him. So, you know, London Fletcher was a guy like that. Probably another player that played bigger than his size. Explosiveness, ran well, instinctive. Ray Lewis I think got a lot bigger but I remember when I worked him out at Miami, he wasn't a big guy. He was about 225 at that point, 228, somewhere in there, you know, six feet. But he was an explosive player who ran very well, in the 4.65 range or something like that, 4.62 somewhere in there. I'm not making a comparison to these players. You asked for guys that played bigger than their size. I would say those two… if you want to start with two guys. Sam Huff probably played bigger than his size too but I don't know if we want to go there.
Q: How have you seen Chris Hogan pick up some of the subtleties of your offense and how he's transferred those things and applied them to the regular season?
BB: I think we have a very hard-working group of receivers. It'd be hard for me to pick out one. I'd say nobody works harder than Chris [Hogan]. But nobody works harder than [Matthew] Slater. Nobody works harder than [Julian] Edelman. Nobody works harder than [Danny] Amendola. They all work very hard. Chris [Hogan] didn't have the benefit of those other guys like Malcolm [Mitchell]. Chris' situation, even though he has some NFL experience, I think some of the things we asked him to do in the passing game were new to him, maybe a little bit different in our offensive structure. He's worked very at those – the communication, the route adjustments, the technique – and has played different positions which that's part of our offense too. As you know, moving those guys around a little bit. So there's definitely a learning curve but he's done a good job with that. He's tough, out there every day, really wants to get it right, work hard on the things that he needs to improve on. He's very diligent about that. You know, working on those coaching points that coach [Chad] O'Shea and coach [Josh] McDaniels give to him. I think there's still a ways to go. It's not like we're there yet. But he's worked hard at it. He's made a lot of progress and he's made a lot of big plays for us.
Q: Did Hogan's speed surprise you guys or impress you at all since he's been with you?
BB: I think you saw his speed with Buffalo, Phil [Perry], especially in the kicking game. His coverage plays on kickoff and punt, I mean you see it in the return game too just not as much I would say. I don't think his ability to run, his speed, I don't think you could really question that. Again if you watch the kicking game plays from the Bills over the past couple years, I think his playing speed is very good. Maybe you haven't seen [Matthew] Slater play a lot on offense but I think based on what you've seen of him playing the kicking game, you would be able to see his speed in that phase of the game too, right? Not saying it's the same but it's similar. I think when you watch Chris play, you don't see a slow player. You see a player that has good playing speed. I think he's shown that on multiple, multiple occasions. You know, might not all be on offense but you can definitely see it. So I wouldn't say that's been a big surprise that he plays fast. I think we saw him as a fast player when we played against him.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="481286"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]MATT PATRICIA, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Q: What is it that makes A.J. Green a unique challenge for a defense to try and stop?
MP: Yeah, I mean obviously a phenomenal player. He has a great combination of a physical skill set, he's big, he's long, he's dynamic, he's fast, he has great hands, he's very explosive, he can get in and out of his breaks and he can go up and get the ball. So, even if there are situations where [Andy] Dalton's in trouble, the quarterbacks in trouble, he can throw the ball up. [He] strongly relies on A.J. to be able to come down with it and go up and fight for it and get the ball and it's just his physical size is an issue out on the perimeter, and then obviously combine that with the speed to get vertical through the defense and get behind everybody. That creates a big matchup problem for us. You know, the other thing, too, is he does a great job with the catch-and-run plays, getting open on the move, the ball getting to him. The quarterback's obviously very good. He gets the ball to him while he's on the move and allows him to keep his momentum in those plays where he's on the move and he can run and get yards after the catch. He's definitely a guy they're going to try to get the ball to early in the game, get him going. Very productive for them. He's obviously one of their best players on offense and very difficult to handle.
Q: What kind of threat does Tyler Eifert provide, especially in the red zone, when he is on the field?
MP: Yeah, I mean just an excellent player from the tight end standpoint. They've done a really good job of playing both of the other tight ends, [Tyler] Kroft and [C.J.] Uzomah has been out there and been very productive for them, and then once we get to Eifert being out there is another very big, long, tall kind of guy that has great reach and range from a passing game situation. So, definitely a go-to player for them in those red area and third-down situations. [He] can really catch the ball well. He has got good quickness to kind of get in and out of breaks. He's got enough suddenness to create that separation where now he can use his length to be able to get the ball, and again, Dalton being a very good quarterback can put that ball away from the leverage of the defender. A guy like that that is reliable and dependable to come through in those critical situations now has all that more value in the red-area, again, when you're trying to defend the red-area to throw him the plays in the target areas of the red zones. A lot of those passes then tend to go high in the back of the end zone and a big, tall, physical tight end type of player can go up and get those and compete for those passes and those situations and come down with some big plays. He's definitely a threat from that standpoint. He has good vertical speed too, so even out in the field he can push the vertical passing game and get into those seams that they do a great job of throwing. Again, another situation where you kind of get that space between the linebackers and the secondary players – that area that the quarterback can get the ball into and when you have a big target like that he can be very productive.
Q: How have you seen them rotate their running backs, in particular using more of Giovani Bernard outside of his typical third-down type of skill set?
MP: Yeah, well I mean they use both the backs very well. Jeremie Hill, I'll start with him being the bigger back, kind of the more downhill, power running back. Strong, explosive, likes contact, will get into the line of scrimmage, get the tough yards, does a good job of running with his pads low, just a downhill, really just a tough, physical type of running style and he's got really good balance, which means he can also push the ball out into the edge. [He] does a good job of breaking tackles so you really got to get a good angle on him where you can wrap him up and try to drive through the tackle. He's definitely a problem from that standpoint and being able to handle him. Then Giovani Bernard next, kind of being that different change of pace back. As you might say, a third-down sub-back but really he's going to run all the same runs and they're going to run their offense with him in there and he does a great job of getting the tough yardage, too. He'll come downhill, he'll hit the holes. They do an excellent job in the run game. Their offensive line is very experienced. They've been playing out there together for a while and they do a good job in the run game of kind of scheming the run plays up, creating the space and opening the gaps. Bernard does a good job of exposing that, too, and then with a little bit of a different kind of dynamic to his skill set where he has some different bursts, and speed, and quickness and ability to move in and out of those holes. The same run play may look two different ways to defend because of the back so that makes it a little bit more difficult also. Both of them are productive in the run game. I think they'll run either one and they'll try to get both of the guys the carries to get the run game going, and you know, that's what they want to be able to do. They want to control the game with the run and be able to throw the ball vertical downfield, use the play-action game, use the drop back game and get the ball to their receivers and the tight ends. [Brandon] LaFell obviously being over there is another excellent, tough, physical wide receiver that catches the ball extremely well. He's a really good route-runner. He's really smart, can read coverage so he's playing extremely well right now, too. They have a really good offensive skill set combined with the tough, physical offensive line. That is what makes them so difficult to defend, but both of the backs are extremely good and they use both of the backs in the passing game also. They'll get them out into space, get them the ball and let them be able to work out there in the perimeter along with in the screen game. They're just running their offense. Dalton does a great job of finding the open player in the pass game, controlling the run game, getting the run looks into the specific defensive fronts that they want and really just running the things they do well.
Q: What did you see on the play that Cyrus Jones got ejected and can that be a teaching point for you with him? Secondly, what did you see from Elandon Roberts and his contributions on Sunday?
MP: Well, just starting with Elandon, I think obviously a guy that we've had in through training camp and saw some things in his skill set that we liked as a player, as a linebacker. He works extremely hard, he loves football, he's really trying to improve and get himself better and takes to the coaching. Really been very pleased with his approach to everything. There's obviously a lot he can do to improve on and get better. I was happy to see him go out and make some plays there on Sunday. There are some plays that we went back and looked at that we've got to get better on and that's true of the defense as a whole. But certainly has a very explosive mannerism about his play, his playing style. He's really instinctive. He does a good job of reading the offense and being able to decipher what they're doing pretty quick, so just a young player that we're trying to improve and trying to get better. Trying to see, hopefully, we'll just keep seeing that improvement here as we go forward. He had an opportunity like a lot of young guys out there. Woodrow Hamilton was another one and all of our guys that played on Sunday that, again, just coming out of the previous week we're just trying to get better than we were the previous week, so that's our main goal for everybody out there on the defense. And I think in regards to the other question, our basic statement and the way that we coach and the way that we always want – we have to stay penalty free. We don't want to get penalties and we don't want to do anything that's going to hurt the team or cause the team to be in a bad situation, and certainly defensively we've got to do a great job of making sure we don't have those penalties, whatever the situation is. That's really all I'm going to say about that.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="481291"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]JOSH MCDANIELS, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Q: How does having two tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett open up options for you and the play calling? And how does that open up the offense for you?
JM: You always try to use your players and put them in position to do things that they do well. Certainly Rob [Gronkowski] and Marty [Martellus Bennett] are capable of doing a lot of different things. They block in the running game, they pass protect, they catch the ball and then run with the ball after the catch in the pass game as well. You know, our goal each week is to allow our players to go out there and do the things that they have confidence in doing and hopefully do that as many times as we can throughout the course of the game. They certainly give us some flexibility and hopefully we can build on that as we go through the course of the season.
Q: What is it about the tight end position that is making it evolve as the centerpiece of the offense?
JM: When you have a tight end position where players can do multiple things, there are sometimes some decisions you have to make about how to defend those players. Some teams choose to treat them and defend them more as receivers. Some teams are concerned about the running game and the impact they can make in the running game. There are some teams that try to do a mixture of both. When you have people that can do more than one thing on the field, sometimes defenses have to make decisions about how they want to defend them. Our players have to be ready for either one. We've seen both approaches so far this year and we're going to have to prepare for each over the course of the week because we're not 100 percent sure how each team is going to try to attack us. I game plan for us and our guys do a good job of studying and being ready for either one depending on how we get played on any given Sunday.
Q: How tough is this Bengals defense compared to Week 2 against Miami in terms of how they put stress on you?
JM: It's definitely a different team. Some of the scheme is certainly similar in terms of their coverages and the way they play their fronts and so on. There is some similarity but I'd say this defense is probably – it's been in place for a while now. You know Coach [Marvin] Lewis has been there for a long time and they've got a lot of players there that have really been involved in this system for a number of years. They know it very well. Rarely, if ever, do you see them out of position. They're very well coached – Coach [Paul] Guenther, Coach Lewis – those guys do a great job of preparing them each week. There's some looks that they give you in the blitz game that have always been challenging and that will be no different this week. We're going to have to do a good job of making sure that we're aware of our assignments and know what we need to do to prevent them from making some big plays in the pressure game. They've got a big front. Very active, long defensive ends. Really tall, long arms, can really extend and press you away from their body, get their hands in the air in the passing game. And if they get anywhere near the quarterback they can usually get ahold of him because their length is so good. And then [Geno] Atkins and [Domata] Peko have been in there for a long time. Atkins is a very quick, active, powerful, disruptive guy – one of the better defensive linemen in the league. And Peko has been in there for a number of years. Very difficult to move, gives you a lot in the running game, can also do some things in the pass game, push the pocket. Linebackers are real active; you've got a lot of different guys there. They got [Vontaze] Burfict back who makes a big difference for them in terms of just running their defense, making plays, tackling ball carriers, making impact plays. And their secondary, this is probably as physical a group of safeties as we're going to play all year and everybody in the back end catches the ball well. So, when you make a mistake they usually capitalize on it. They did a tremendous job of that last year and they've already started to do that again this year. It's a team that you better make sure you do your job on every snap or they're going to make some big plays on you. They've got talent at all three levels, they're deep, they play a lot of people. As I mentioned, the system can be challenging when they start dialing up some of their pressures that they use in different situations. [It'll be a] great challenge for us this week. A team that we have some familiarity with but we have to get back on these guys in terms of knowing who we're playing against and how they play and really be ready. This is a really, really good football team we're playing on Sunday.
Q: How much have you seen the double A-gap blitz from the Bengals defense thus far through five games?
JM: Well, they use that quite a bit. And they have all kinds of different adjustments and looks and pressures off of it. It's not all pressure. There's definitely some coverage and they drop out of there and you think they're blitzing and they get you to do some things you don't want to do. You have to block those people somehow, someway in every pass pattern that you want to call if they line up in it. They have as an extensive a package out of that front as any other team in the league. They do a lot of great things out of it. It's not all one thing or the other so there's a lot of things that need to happen after the ball is actually snapped. You need to make sure you take care of your assignment. You need to read things after the ball has been given to the quarterback and hopefully we're all on the same page and we can execute our assignments. But it takes a lot of work. It's going to take a lot of preparation for us this week. Like I said, they're as well-versed in that as any other team we're going to play.
Q: What have you seen thus far from James White in running the ball between the tackles?
JM: Yeah, James does a of things for our offense and one thing about James is he's unselfish, he studies and prepares extremely hard, he knows his job and he's willing to do whatever we ask him to do to help us win. So, he's been a valuable guy for us in terms of blitz pickup for the last two years. He has certainly made a lot of plays out of the backfield in space with the ball and then he's continued to improve as a runner, too. So, James does a lot of different things. He wears a lot of different hats and we count on James for a lot of important plays. He does his job, whatever role that is, and we're looking forward to continuing to try and improve with James as we go through the course of the season. He's still a young player who hopefully his best football is still in front of him.
Q: How valuable do you feel the experience Jimmy Garoppolo got in the beginning of the season will be to his growth as a player going forward?
JM: I think when you come in as a young player in the league and you're preparing to play and you don't have the opportunity to get in there and get as much experience in games, you work hard at it, you try to make sure you're as prepared as best you can, and then I think when you get in there you realize all of those little things that your coaches talk about, and that you've studied during the week, and the film that you watch, the meetings, and the tip sheets and the things that happen in practice that you learn from, how very valuable every single one of those is by itself. I think that when you have an opportunity to know that you're going to play in a regular season game, prepare that way and then learn from it and do it again the next week – I think that's extremely important because now hopefully you really understand what it takes, how much work it requires to be totally prepared to see anything that you could see on a Sunday, and then you stick with that preparation. You don't change your routine. Now you know what it's like to do it as a starter and you want to work as hard as you can to make sure that you feel totally prepared and ready to go each Sunday that you go to the stadium, whatever your role might be. And those guys, both he and Jacoby [Brissett], they'll know that they could only be one play away from being in the game, and so your preparation shouldn't be any different than it was when you were starting games and you knew that you were going to play on Sunday afternoon.