Labor Day weekend is, somewhat appropriately, maybe the busiest time of the year for an NFL head coach.
Over the course of a few days, teams have to cut down to the 53-man roster, peruse the waiver wire, consider trade options, create a practice squad and, then, hit the road running on preparations for the regular season opener.
That's exactly the situation Bill Belichick and his staff have been in the last few days.
Labor Day morning, during a conference call with the local media, Belichick talked about some of the flurry of activity for his football team that included cutting a handful of players that ended up joining other teams almost immediately.
"It was a competitive team. We had a competitive camp," Belichick said. "I'm not surprised that we have players that are on other rosters. We weren't able to give them the opportunity. I'm glad that they were able to get it somewhere else."
Beyond his general thoughts on the cuts and competitive camp, here are three takeaways from Belichick's morning conference call.
Patriots will "take a look" at two new receivers: While New England was cutting/losing players on waivers, the team was also awarded a couple wide receivers via waiver claims. The Patriots added former Seahawks 2017 third-round pick Amara Darboh (6-2, 215) as well as former 2017 Jets fourth-round selection Chad Hansen (6-2, 220).
Belichick was asked what influenced him to target the new pass catchers, adding to a depth chart that had just three receivers at the initial cuts to 53.
"We looked at both players last year as part of the draft process," Belichick said. "Also saw them, well Hansen in preseason this year. And they're available so we'll take a look at them and see how it goes."
The two young players will have to play catch up to the rest of the offense in terms of learning the playbook and getting up to speed in New England.
"We have a little bit of extra time this week, not a whole lot," Belichick said. "So we'll just see how quickly that can or can't happen. I'm not really sure. We don't have any background with these players other than from college, which we're a long way away from that. So we'll just take it day by day, go through the process and see how it comes along. Again, our expectations are, again, short term. Not trying to plan out anything other than where we are today, where we are tomorrow and see where we are the next day. See how all that comes together."
Expecting J.J. Watt's best: Houston has had to play a lot of football without three-time defensive player of the year Watt over the last couple seasons. Watt also saw limited action this summer as he returns from a broken leg, though the Texans have been pretty open about their belief that their defensive leader is back to his elite level of play. And that's exactly what Belichick is expecting as he and his team prepare for Sunday's opener.
"We expect every player that we play against to be at their best. We always expect their best performance and we usually get that. So, that's we'll expect from J.J.," Belichick said. "J.J.'s a great player. He's very talented. He's got a great motor and is very instinctive. He's very smart player as well as one that has outstanding physical skill. We always expect their best and prepare for it."
"Outstanding" Romeo Crennel leads impressive Texans front 7: Watt is far from the only dangerous member of the Texans defense, a challenge that includes dealing with assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Belichick has a long history with Crennel working on his staff, as well as battling scheme with him on an opposing sideline.
Belichick is well aware of what Crennel brings to the field this coming Sunday both in terms of personnel and game plan.
"They have a group of outstanding players, that are amongst the very best in the league. Very challenging," Belichick said. "And they have good depth. So they rotate some players through there that are maybe not quite as good as some of the others but they are still really good players. This is a very talented team in all three phases of the game. The front four or front seven, however you want to look at it because some of those players are a little bit interchangeable, are very good. One of the things that the Texans do a good job of is they don't always line up in the same place. So sometimes finding them or identifying where they are is a little bit of a problem.
"Romeo is an outstanding coach. I mean one of the top coaches in the game, has been for a long time. Nobody is better than Romeo in running a defense and creating problems for the offense and utilizing his personnel. So it's just a very challenging situation for us … to be able to not only handle the players where they traditionally line up but when creates schemes that moves them or puts them in places to attack our offense that makes it even a little bit more challenging."