The Patriots made a splash in Tuesday when they signed veteran linebacker James Harrison, hoping the former Steelers great could provide some depth on the edge into the playoffs. If you tuned in to Bill Belichick’s Wednesday press conference hoping to hear the coach’s thoughts on the move, you most certainly left disappointed.
Belichick wasn’t looking to get into many specifics with regard to Harrison, often offering little more than half sentences when asked about the signing. Did Belichick have any experience with Harrison prior to meeting with him on Tuesday?
“Yeah, not too much,” he said.
Was it important to meet him to try to get to know him?
“It’s always good to meet somebody,” he added.
What are your thoughts on his career?
OK then. The bottom line is Belichick will take the coming days, as well as Sunday’s game against the Jets, to determine what Harrison might be able to provide in January. Until then, the coach won’t have much to add.
Elsewhere, Belichick did take some time to discuss some elements. He talked about Dion Lewis and his recent strong play as well as the Jets.
*In the running – *Lewis has been on quite a run in recent weeks, culminating with his career-best 129-yard effort against the Bills on Christmas Even that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Lewis is also finishing out the final year of his contract, which means this could be his last season in New England.
Belichick was asked about the increased workload for the 5-9 running back, who received a career-high 29 touches in the win over Buffalo.
“He carried the mail in college,” Belichick began. “This is different. This isn’t college, but he’s a guy who’s had some, I’d say, solid production in single games. It’s a little bit different in this league. So, I don’t know. I mean, he can do both. He’s done both. We’ll see how it goes. He’s a durable kid, though. I mean, he’s tough. He takes some hits, but he’s been pretty durable. He’s tough. He gives out some punishment, too. He runs hard.”
*Ready for takeoff – *Not surprisingly, Belichick was more than willing to discuss the Jets. He was effusive in his praise of New York, despite its 5-10 record.
“They do a lot of things well. They’ve been close really all year,” Belichick said. “Obviously, we had a tough game against them down there. Offensively, [Bilal] Powell and [Robby] Anderson are both having big years for them. I thought [Bryce] Petty was impressive. They have really good backs, really explosive backs, good skill players, good receivers, tight ends. Those guys – [Austin] Seferian-Jenkins is a good player. [Eric] Tomlinson has a solid role for them. They do a good job there – [Lawrence] Thomas at fullback. They have a lot of guys that have solid roles for them.
“Defensively, very much of a game plan team. They give you a lot of different looks. They do a good job up front. They have good team speed – their linebackers, and safeties and secondary players – so they mix it up pretty good and force you to execute offensively against a lot of different things, different pressures, man, zone, combination, quarters coverage, things like that.”
*It takes two – *The first two names Belichick mentioned were Powell and Anderson, who not coincidentally have been the Jets most productive offensive players this season. The coach discussed both during his press conference, focusing on Powell and his tough running style first.
“He’s a key guy for them,” Belichick said. “They have good backs. [Matt] Forte has got more catches than Powell does, but they’re both very good in the passing game. [Elijah] McGuire helps them in the passing game, too, but Powell’s been an explosive player for them. He’s had a lot of explosive runs. He’s got good vision, good quickness. And Forte is a very dangerous guy, too – good runner, good balance, catches the ball well. Those guys are, again, including McGuire in the group, those guys are all dangerous players. As I said, when you combine that with a vertical passing game, you create a lot of separation in the defense. It’s hard to get everybody.”
Meanwhile, Anderson has been a revelation in New York as he approaches the 1,000-yard mark in receiving.
“He had a good year last year. He’s built on it, [has] more experience,” Belichick said. “They have a very good vertical passing game. Coach [John] Morton kind of runs the New Orleans – a similar style offense that the Saints run. They do a good job on the vertical passing game and using their backs and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve thrown the ball down the field and they’ve gotten a lot of production out of the backs.”