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Transcript: Bill Belichick Conference Call 12/3

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick spoke with the media during his conference call on December 3, 2018.

Q: J.C. Jackson had a couple of big plays in the end zone in the second half, one on Adam Thielen and the other on Aldrick Robinson. What have you seen from Jackson in terms of his ability to put himself in position versus using his hands too much in coverage?

BB: Well, J.C.'s worked really hard and made a lot of improvement this year, going all the way back to the spring, and coming in as an undrafted player just has really worked his way all the way up to earning a spot on the roster and then earning play time. So, he's just been very dependable and gotten better every day. It's not always perfect, but he learns from his mistakes and corrects things. So, it's taken a little time for him to gain some experience, but he's doing a good job with it and has good ball skills. He has the ability to get his hands on the ball and judge the ball and make good plays on the ball, like he did on I think it was the third down play where he kind of went up over Robinson's back to get his hands on the ball and bat it away. So, we've seen him do that a lot. He's got a good knack for timing and getting his hand on the ball. 

Q: How unusual is it for a rookie to be on an island there? Obviously, he has to gain the trust of his teammates in the secondary to be able to kind of hang man-to-man there. Is that something that's fairly significant that you see in him?

BB: Sure. Well, I mean, look, it's hard for any player to gain that trust. As a new player, as a rookie, whatever your opportunities are, you have to come in and earn that and prove it to your teammates and the team and the coaching staff and everybody else. I mean, Jon Jones did that, Logan Ryan did it, Malcolm [Butler] did it. We've had a lot of guys come in and do it at that position over the course of time and other positions, as well, so it's just really up to each individual guy.

Q: What kind of progress has Elandon Roberts made from a mental standpoint in terms of diagnosing plays in coverage and maybe improving in that way? He told me that he feels like he's made the biggest stride in that area this year in terms of his play in coverage.

BB: Yeah, I would agree with that. You know, Elandon's a very aggressive run player and tackler. As he's gained experience, he's been able to, I'd say, process plays just a split-second quicker and recognize the differences between runs and play-actions and then having awareness of where the receivers are generally trying to get to on certain play-actions - like how the offense is trying to get the defense to react in a certain way so they can get receivers into a voided area - and he understands that. Once he recognizes that it's play-action, he is working to that area where he needs to be and he's seeing things quickly and had a couple real good plays on that. He and [Dont'a] Hightower both had a couple real good plays on that in the game yesterday. It doesn't show up in the stat sheet, doesn't look like much, but when they do that, it probably saves you 20 yards, or it could be more, but let's call it 20 yards or so on defense. So, those are really big plays for your defensive unit to be able to eliminate if a linebacker can make that play. So, that's an important play for us.

Q: What was the thought process for you on each of your challenges? What did you see as you watched them over on the review?

BB: I'd say it's pretty straight-forward, Mike [Reiss]. I challenged them because I thought we should challenge them, and they're both pretty close plays. 

Q: The first one was far away from you, so were you relying on help there or was that one obvious?

BB: Yeah, well, of course. We have people, members of our staff that look at those things. Sometimes they see them, sometimes they don't. Sometimes the plays are replayed, sometimes they're not. But, the ball was obviously out. So, yeah, I mean, I thought it was a play worth challenging.

Q: One of the notable transitions this season personnel-wise was at left tackle with Trent Brown taking over. How would you characterize how Trent has filled in that role most recently held by Nate Solder?

BB: Yeah, Trent's done a good job for us. He learned a new offense, has played left tackle before but has played right tackle more recently, so the footwork obviously is the opposite, at least initially. But, he's done a good job and certainly is a big, powerful player that can do a lot of things that can help us at that position.

Q: Yesterday, when asked about the different looks the defense presented, you noted that the safeties and linebackers did a good job of organizing and communicating. With Dont'a Hightower, specifically, he went from playing 59 percent of the snaps last week to 97 percent of the snaps last night. How instrumental was he last night in executing that game plan and making some plays to be disruptive?

BB: High always does a good job. He's a very, very smart player. He's a very instinctive player. He has good anticipation, good awareness, he knows what the strength and weaknesses of each defensive call is and then he can pretty quickly assess that based on the offensive formation, personnel and what happens after the ball is snapped. So, he and Kyle [Van Noy] do a great job of that independently, sometimes together, but even without any help from anybody, they're very good at that. Anytime High is on the field, our communication, certainly at his position and with the people that he works with, is always good, whether that's in pass rush or pass coverage or formation adjustments and checks and so forth. It doesn't matter if he's on the end of the line or off the line or up in the line in pass rush situations, but his communication and experience and overall instinctiveness as a football player and in our system is extremely valuable.

Q: Understanding things change week-to-week as a game-plan defense, do you feel like your defense has found its identity at this point in the season?

BB: Yeah, you just answered it. It's a week-to-week challenge in the season. And so this week, it's Miami. We haven't established anything against Miami, so we'll have to go down and do that on Sunday and we'll see what happens. Certainly, they'll be a big challenge for us. They did a great job last year of making adjustments from the first game to the second game. We had a hard time staying with them down there last year. So, yeah, I don't think really what happened yesterday or what happened in the first Miami game - really, I don't think any of that's really very important. It will all be how it all manifests itself this week, and this game will be different from those other ones. So, we'll be starting all over again. We already have. We already started to start all over again. So, hopefully we can create a good identity on Sunday in Miami. That's our goal. 

Q: Your comments about Hightower made me think about Alabama. Did you get a chance to watch the SEC Championship on Saturday? It strikes me how Nick Saban's teams mirror yours in terms of mental toughness. I was curious to get your thoughts if you saw the game at all.

BB: Right, so we were in here during that game preparing for the Minnesota game. I got to see a little bit of the end of it - didn't see the whole game. I mean, we have a lot of relationships with people at both schools. Certainly, I've got a ton of respect for Kirby [Smart] and his staff at Georgia and Nick and his staff at Alabama and many other college programs in the league. But, yeah, look, of course it's flattering to be compared with Nick and the great success that he's had there and the way his team's performed. I don't think anybody has done it better than he has, so I think probably every coach in football is trying to do it as well as he does it and has done it. But, they do a tremendous job there. Nick's a tremendous coach. I've certainly learned a lot from him during the time we were together and he's been a great friend and a coach that I have tremendous respect and admiration for. Whenever we get a chance to visit, it's really a great opportunity to me to learn from somebody that I respect so much and know how much knowledge and I would say just knowledge and application, real football application, he has - what you can do, what you can't do and what looks good on the board and what actually looks good on the field. So, a tremendous win just like they had last year in the National Championship game, but they win almost every game they play anyways. So, it's really incredible what he's done there, the program that he's built, how consistent he is and the way he does it with a lot of class and great discipline, great execution and passion. Yeah, there's nobody I have more respect for in football than Nick Saban, period.

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