PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What does Jonathan Jones' skill set allow you guys to do when you opt to play him at safety occasionally and what do you see that makes him a good fit there sometimes?
BB: Jon's really worked hard since he's been with us. He started off primarily in a special teams role, and then that expanded to some situational things on defense to really our nickel corner to safety. He's just continued to expand his role for us defensively which has given us more flexibility and we've been able to find more opportunities to get him on the field. He's a smart kid, he works hard and has good instincts and has a good understanding of our defensive system, so it allows him to do a lot of different things for us.
Q: How do you feel the offensive line group has been handling all of the rotating bodies in and out of there throughout the preseason and into the early regular season?
BB: Well, I think they're trying to do the best they can. As you said, there's some moving parts there. Some of them anticipated or had a chance to plan for, some happened rather quickly and you have to react to those. But yeah, that group is a hardworking group. They've communicated well together and the guys with more experience helping some of the guys with less experience, but overall we've just tried to take it day-by-day and do the things that we can do. We can't do everything but we can do the things that we feel confident in, that we're able to practice and prepare for and hopefully we can do a good job of those as we're starting to expand overall with that group.
Q: How valuable is a guy like Joe Thuney in that sense given that he's able to play multiple spots?
BB: Yeah, very valuable. Somebody has to have versatility on that group. If you take seven linemen to the game, you can't have a backup for every position, so somebody has to move. Either one of your starters has to move or your two backups have to cover all five spots in some combination of that. We need somebody that can do that and Joe's our most versatile lineman on the team, so that is an important role for us to have in terms of maintaining our depth with the group.
Q: Is it invigorating as well as exhausting to have such a new group of positional coaches and how do you feel about the group so far and the work that has been done, because it seems to be pretty outstanding so far?
BB: Well, thanks Tom [Curran]. Yeah, we're just trying to prepare week-to-week and get ready to play the Jets in this case. We'll do what we think is best this week and try to put our players in a competitive position where they can have a fair chance against what the Jets are doing. I count on our players to be good football players, which they are and try to give them an opportunity to do that. Whatever that takes for us to do, then we want to try to do it, however that unfolds. It might be a little bit different from week to week, but ultimately that's what our goal is.
Q: Are you still learning about some of the newly elevated coaches as the season goes along and seeing who works well together and so on and so forth?
BB: Well, I think we're all learning every day. I am. I assume everybody else is, too. Just whether that's our specific job or how we interact with other people or another group or handle a situation that I'm not saying is like new-new, but it's maybe one that we haven't dealt with recently or with this particular group of people then there's always a little bit of a learning curve there too.
Q: How do you involve the scouting staff in coming in and helping you guys prepare when you're going to be facing a quarterback that you don't have much experience against such as Luke Falk with the Jets?
BB: So, Nora [Princiotti], this is a situation that comes up every week. We have to know all the players that are on our opponent's roster including really the practice squad players because we know that they could be moved up at the last moment like what happened in the Pittsburgh game and Miami last week with the offensive lineman for Miami and there was a linebacker in Pittsburgh, so those moves can happen on Saturday. We have to be ready and anticipate those ahead of time, so all of the players that are on the active roster we have to prepare for. Whoever the starters are at any position – quarterback or any other spot – it doesn't make any difference. We all know that in the National Football League that could change in one play. We have to know who the next player is going to be in the game at that spot at every position and that's what we prepare for. Ultimately, how the game unfolds or how our opponents play those players, I mean, if they substitute them however they want to substitute them or play them in whatever order or whatever rotation, that's all out of our control. We just have to be ready for everybody, so it's really the same process every week. Players that we know more about, we confirm that in the game's that are available to us. The player's maybe that we don't know as much about – could be an offensive lineman who's been inactive for a couple of weeks and then there's an injury and now he moves up to the active list, or they could move him up without an injury. Still, we have to prepare for all of those guys and then whoever we play against, we're not surprised by that player's skills and his style of play. It's really something that we go through every single week, all the way across the board. Of course, the hardest place to do that is in the kicking game because you're really dealing with 66 starters when you go through all of those teams, but it's still part of our preparation. It's really the same every week. And again, we know that whatever it is right now or would appear to be right now could easily change during the game starting with the first play if there was an injury or a decision by our opponents to go in a different direction is something that we can't control.
Q: When a player like Jonathan Jones begins to progressively take on a bigger defensive role, how do you balance the number of special teams snaps he can also maintain?
BB: Yeah, Doug [Kyed], that's a good question. It's a great question and it's, again, answered on a week-to-week basis. We try to anticipate what the roles will be defensively and in the kicking game or offensively. It would depend on what the person's position is. We try to anticipate what those roles are and we know that during the game, as we just talked about in Nora's question, that things could change. That role could become bigger or potentially smaller depending on how the game unfolds, what personnel groups they're using and so forth. We try to balance those things out and it also depends to a degree on the depth that we have at the other positions that are involved so that maybe the primary offensive or defensive position the player plays and also the position that he would play in the kicking game, what's our potential depth there? So we know that that player could be involved in all of those but maybe not on every play. Maybe it's just not on all special teams, maybe it's just on certain punts, backed-up punts or plus-50 punts or whatever it is, or maybe one of the four core special teams units, not all four of them. It would just all depend on week-to-week, again, that player, what the roles are, what the depth is on offense or defense, what the depth is in the kicking game at that position and I would say how important we think that role is. For example, if we were expecting the opponent's kicker to be kicking touchbacks, maybe his role on the kickoff return team wouldn't be as important as a role in something else. Again, there are a lot of factors there to consider. Sorry to give a long answer here to a pretty short question, but those are all the things that we take into consideration and talk about, and of course if something happens during the game that would alter that, which sometimes it does, then you have to adjust on the fly and try to make those decisions, again, based on your special teams and offensive or defensive depth. That's a great question and it's one that we constantly have to analyze and think about, and again if things change quickly then that just makes it that much harder.
Q: Why did you go with Matthew Slater on offense during a few of the goal-line blocking situations and what made him the right man for the job?
BB: Well, Matt's done that before and, again, a similar answer to the last question we had, it just really depends on what we're trying to do and what the options are. We have a couple of receivers that are fairly new to the team in terms of being on the field like with Antonio [Brown] and Josh [Gordon]. We have other receivers like Gunner [Olszewski] and Phil [Dorsett II] that aren't the biggest guys, physically, in terms of putting them on the goal line or dealing with things like that. It's really a combination of what you're asking a player to do, what the options are. Again, in Matt's case, he's done it before in other years and in some cases when we haven't used him, he's been the backup like when we've had three tight ends or we use an offensive lineman as a tight end and using two tight ends. He was a backup in those situations so he has the most experience doing that.
Q: How much does the coaching staff have to take into account the different strengths of each offensive lineman when they're rotating around in terms of the play-calling? Just curious if that movement influences which plays you might call?
BB: Well, that's a great question, Mike [Petraglia], and it's very appropriate to this game but really every game. Plays might look good on X's and O's and on the film where you look at blocking angles and things like that, but then you actually look at who's blocking who and how difficult is that block and is that a block that we're confident we can execute or are there better options? Personnel definitely fits into it. We're not going to run a new offense just because we have a new player on the offensive line. I'm not saying that. But you definitely take into consideration the matchup of your blocker and the anticipated defender because you don't always know for sure where they're going to line up. They could stunt or they could line up in – every team usually has a couple of different fronts. Certainly with the Jets, they don't line up in the exact same spot every time so that's not 100-percent predictable but generally you know where they're going to be more often than not. So yes, you definitely have to take that into consideration and, again, it's not to the point where we would change an entire game plan. Some plays, if this player was in there, we might want to run that, but maybe he's not available this week so we'll go with something else and that frequently happens; no question about it. It's a consideration. Ultimately, it comes down to matchups and if you are concerned about a particular matchup then you've got to really decide how much you really want to run that play.
Q: In 20 years here in New England, you had never once traded with the Jets before last week. What were the dynamics that led to that conversation and did it even surprise you to be dealing with them given that long history?
BB: No, no, there was, I would say, a certain period of time when there's no way this transaction would've happened, but during other periods of time – yeah, again, we don't want to help the Jets, they don't want to help us. We're in the same division, so they're not the easiest trades to make but, you know, if the trade is good for both teams and ultimately what we're trying to do is improve our team. We have 14 other games to play besides the game against the Jets, so do we want to help them, do they want to help us? No and no, but in the end, if it helps us in the other 14 games and helps our team, then it's something that's worth considering. Yeah, look, we'll try to help our team in any way we can. Not saying that a trade within the division you don't have to analyze a little bit more closely, but we've done it before certainly with Miami and with a player like [Wes] Welker or with Buffalo with a player like [Drew] Bledsoe. Those weren't insignificant players at that time. In the end, I want to do what's best to help our football team and I don't want to help our opponent that much, but you have to give up something to get something and you have to look at your situation and try to do what's best for your team. But that's a great question. I'm sure that when you look at the beginning of each year, inter-division trading, it's probably not something that would think is going to be at the top of the list, but you know, we traded with Buffalo this year, too. So we made two division trades within a week. You never know.