It was a lazy Friday in Foxborough following the Thanksgiving holiday but after taking care of the turkey a day earlier Bill Belichick and his troops were back at it as they prepared for the Jets on Sunday.
"Just trying to pull everything together," Belichick opened. "What we did on Tuesday and Wednesday and then, obviously, some situational things and so forth, like we normally do at the end of the week. We'll get that going and be ready to go Sunday."
One aspect of that preparation will be dealing with the Jets uncertainty at quarterback. Rookie Sam Darnold missed New York's previous game – a 41-10 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills – with a foot injury. After resting during the bye week, Darnold hasn't practiced this week and it appears he is unlikely to play Sunday.
That would mean veteran Josh McCown would take the reins, and Belichick talked about the first meeting between the teams last season when McCown enjoyed a productive day in a 24-17 loss.
"Most recently against us down there and he played well," Belichick said. "He can throw, can run, obviously a smart guy. He has a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to make coverage or protection adjustments or check plays. I wouldn't say it's a huge part of their offense, but they do it. I'm sure he would do a good job of whatever they asked him to do.
"I thought he played well against us in the first game. Threw for – I don't know, 350 yards – whatever it was, and moved the ball. So yeah, we've seen him. We've seen [Sam] Darnold, so we'll hopefully be ready to go, whoever it is."
The Jets trip was the main focus of Friday's press conference but here are some other highlights.
Head Jet – New York has a solid group of talented young defenders, none more so than defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Now in his fourth season after arriving as the No. 6 overall pick out of USC, Williams definitely has the respect of Belichick.
"He plays mostly inside, but he's hard to block," Belichick said. "He's a good football player. He's long. He's got good power. He's very explosive. He's quick, athletic for his size, a hard guy to cut and get off his feet. He's very good instinctively. He recognizes things quickly – screens, combination blocks, things like that. It's hard to get him on those wham plays, stuff like that. He does a pretty good job of seeing and recognizing those. He's one of the best players we play against. He's outstanding."
The Duke – Rookie cornerback Duke Dawson was activated off injured reserve during the bye week and reported earlier in the week that he's physically ready to take on a full workload. Belichick was asked about his potential role on Sunday, and the coach explained that Dawson has made progress and he is active and anything else remains to be seen.
Most of his work during the summer came out of the slot, but Dawson has the ability to play outside as well and Belichick talked about the difficulty in determining exactly how he would be used.
"Yeah, that's a hard question," Belichick said. "It changes week to week because our opponent changes week to week. He has done multiple things but he doesn't really have a lot of experience at any of those things, so we'll just have to see from week to week and see how it progresses. The kicking game – I mean, all that's factored in. We'll just have to see."
Seeing double – Belichick joked a little about the McCourty twins, explaining how he doesn't normally need to see his players' numbers in order to identify them, but an exception needs to be made for Devin and Jason. He also talked about Jason's strong play this season and discussed the corner's ability to perform in a variety of roles, which has been quite beneficial for the defense this season.
"He plays multiple spots on the defense, so he really has moved around probably more than any other player in the secondary over the 10 games we've played," Belichick said. "But even at corner, he's played inside. He's played outside, unlike really any other player we have. He played safety. He's a smart guy. He's a versatile player. He's shown a lot of versatility considering he missed the spring, but from training camp on he's done a lot of good things for us.
"He's been very dependable, and tough, and durable and played multiple positions for kind of the newest member of the secondary, if you will. I mean, not counting J.C. [Jackson], but he's had a lot of responsibilities that guys like [Patrick] Chung or Devin have had. As a corner, he's actually taken the brunt of those."