Friday press conferences are a little different from the ones on others days. Rather than a strict focus on the upcoming opponent or aspect of the Patriots, Friday can often lead Bill Belichick down a number of directions not necessarily pertinent to that particular week but rather to football in general.
That was most certainly the case this week as the Patriots prepare for their trip to Buffalo for a Monday night matchup against the Bills.
Earlier in the week the coach mentioned the Bills use a variety of personnel on special teams and about balancing the roles between guys that are core special teamers and others that do multiple things in other phases of the game.
These are topics that cut near and dear to Belichick's football coaching heart, and he spent a large chunk of his 14-plus minutes discussing some of these nuances.
"Some guys are on every special team, that's their primary role, and others are backups but also have roles in the kicking game and others who have bigger roles that also have roles in the kicking game," Belichick began. "Generally speaking you don't want to give up a big play in the return game so it's a lot easier to put a couple of players out there to prevent that from happening rather than giving up 50 yards on a return and having them standing there beside you and watch it happen, if you think that will make a difference.
"Each game is different and each player and his role can vary from game to game. Some games could be tilted more toward a certain type of defense, dime, nickel, base … and offensively it could more 12, 21, 11 and that would affect a player's total role.
"If he's going to be out there every play in the offensive or defensive system, plus it's not just the plays it's the preparation and all the assignments and everything. Depending on how much you pile on there's a point where it can be diminishing returns."
Belichick was also asked about recognizing personnel from team to team and spent another several minutes dissecting the various elements of the kicking game. Not much in the way of the Bills, but interesting at times nonetheless.
Happy anniversary – Thursday marked the two-year anniversary of the trade that brought Kyle Van Noy to the Patriots from Detroit, and during that time the linebacker has filled a variety of roles for his new team. Belichick was asked how Van Noy's role has evolved over time.
"Kyle has turned out to be very versatile and very good at many things we've asked him to do, from the kicking game, to playing on the line of scrimmage, to playing off the line of scrimmage, to blitzing, to playing man coverage, zone coverage – so, multiple things," Belichick said. "So, we didn't know that. Some of it was kind of a step-by-step process.
"A couple times we were forced into a situation because he is big, he is athletic, he is smart, he does have good football instincts, so a lot of times he just does the right thing on something that maybe we haven't gone over or hasn't specifically been covered. He just does what he thinks is right in that situation, like [Patrick] Chung would do, like [Devin] McCourty would do. Like a lot of good football players, they just know what to do. And I would say he's one of those – Hightower, those guys – sometimes they get in a situation that we haven't really covered this, and they just do the right thing because they're just good, instinctive players. So, Kyle's shown to be all that, plus he's given us good depth in the kicking game.
"He's certainly been in a lot of roles for us, done them well and has given us great communication and leadership on and off the field."
Give him a hand – Stephon Gilmore has been the Patriots most consistent defender this season and lately his play has been on the rise. Belichick was asked about the cornerback and his development with this team over the past year-plus in New England.
"He was a good player in Buffalo, obviously, and has done a good job for us" Belichick said. "I think he's continued to improve for us as he's gotten more familiar with our scheme, and also I think we were able to utilize him in ways that are more advantageous to him. And so, again, part of the same thing we talked about with Kyle, the longer you're with a player, you understand things that he does well, that he's comfortable with, and maybe some things, situations that you'd rather leave him out of because there's a better way to do it – not that he can't do it, but just whatever the best way is.
"Ultimately, that's what you want to try to get to, as long as it fits in with everything else. So, I think as he and Pat, Devin, Jon [Jones], Duron [Harmon], those guys have played together more, there's just a comfort level in those type of adjustments. But, yeah, he gets his hands on a lot of balls in practice. So, he's playing with a lot of confidence, playing with good technique and just the second year has helped, like it usually does with most players."