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Transcript: Bill Belichick Conference Call 9/23

Q: What have you seen from Ryan Izzo in terms of progression and fighting through adversity to give you quality snaps yesterday?

BB: Yeah, that was very important with, you know, James [Develin] was inactive, [Matt] LaCosse was inactive. So it was certainly good to have Ryan out there. He's shown good toughness playing through being a little bit banged up, but he's been out there and I thought he certainly gave us some important plays yesterday. A young player, a lot of things he needs to continue to work on, but he works hard, he's out there trying to do all he can every day to get better. And so, he's making progress.

Q: What are the details that go into selling the play-action pass that Ryan Izzo converted on early in the game?

BB: Yeah, Mike [Petraglia], I think it's really pretty much the way you described it. It's play-action and it's hard run-action, and then it becomes a pass after that. So just the element of being aggressive and selling the run, and then the timing of releasing and being able to get into the open space before the guys that are playing the run can get to the quarterback. It was a very well-executed play and it was well-designed by Josh [McDaniels].

Q: Guys have come in here at varying levels – ascending, descending, steady. Where does Phillip Dorsett fit into that?

BB: Phil's done a great job for us. He's been versatile and very dependable. His role's changed many times. He's played inside, he's played outside, he's played on early downs, he's played on third down and two-minute, he's been kind of a motion player or a perimeter player. So Phil's really got a good skillset. He's very smart, very dependable and he's just come through for us week after week, year after year at many critical junctures in games and in seasons. And sometimes his role's changed during the game, or certainly from game-to-game, but we can even be in a game like yesterday and when Julian [Edelman] went out, Phil's role changed a little bit on certain plays. But he's very well prepared and has great position versatility and a mental flexibility to handle a lot of different roles and assignments, so he's a very, very valuable player for us. 

Q: He came in with the reputation of being a speed receiver, how have you seen him develop his route-running and hands?

BB: Yeah. Again, Phil works very hard on whatever you ask him to do. So whatever the role is or the route or the assignment, he works very hard to understand what you want and take extra time to refine his skills and practice it to get it better. I have a ton of respect for Phil and his approach to the game. I think everybody else around here does, too, all of the players and staff members. He's so professional the way he goes about things and always wants to try to do what's best for the team, and we see that every day on the practice field and around the building. So, in a lot of different areas, but whatever you need him for and then whatever he's asked to do on Sunday, he's always well-prepared and gives you his best, and that's all you can ask for.

Q: What are some of the toughest challenges for a rookie wide receiver, and how do you think Jakobi Meyers is going about learning?

BB: Well, Tom [Keegan], the transition from college to the NFL at that position is a big one. A lot more coverages, a lot tighter coverage, a lot more route adjustments because of the variety of coverages and techniques, and leverage and so forth that the defenders will play. Like yesterday, the Jets played a lot of cover two, but they had two or three different ways of the way they played it and it kind of looks the same, but it's not the same, and it really can affect the receivers rules and his adjustments because it just, it looks differently. So, you know, experience and understanding concepts and understanding route concepts and route coverages, that's a big area of growth for the passing game in general. Whether it's receivers, tight ends, backs in the passing game, quarterbacks, and all the guys that defend it on the other side of the ball. But Jakobi works hard, and he's another guy that's done everything we've asked him to do. He's taken a lot of snaps, he's out there every day. He's a tough kid and he just keeps working hard, and you know, he gets better. He's improved quite a bit. Still got a long way to go and a lot of football in front of him, but he's made good, steady progress and if he continues to go about things with the same kind of work ethic and positive attitude and thirst for knowledge, then he'll continue to get better.

Q: Was Jakob Johnson on your radar before you were assigned him from the International Pathways Program, or was his promotion a reflection of the program giving a player that wouldn't have been on your radar a chance to earn that promotion?

BB: Yeah, 100-percent Mike [Reiss]. It's a great question, and I want to try to answer it the right way. First of all, no, he was not on our radar. I don't think we would have ever signed him. And when the players were kind of listed, there were a group of players that fell into this category, and we looked at that group. It was kind of like, "Is there anybody here you want?" And so, based on some research and follow-up at Tennessee, really Butch [Jones] recommended him to me and we didn't really know much about the other guys. I can't say that we were excited to have him, but based on what Butch said, you know, felt like he was a good player to work with, would work hard, would really try to get better, was a good teammate and all of those things that he had showed at Tennessee. And I would say he definitely started out as the 91st person on the roster and had a long, long, long way to go. Back in the spring, I don't think anybody ever envisioned him being on the roster at that point, or even being on the practice squad, to tell you the truth. But he continued to get better, and certainly his physicality and his toughness showed up in the preseason games and in the preseason practices against Detroit and Tennessee. And so he steadily worked his way into, call it a back-up fullback role and was activated for the game yesterday. So he's, I wouldn't say it was quite a Steve Neal rise, but somewhere in that neighborhood. What he's done has been remarkable. And in a relatively short period of time, but he works extremely hard. He's one of the first players here every morning, he studies his note cards. You see him sitting in the dining room just studying note cards, just going over his plays. He puts literally every ounce of energy he has into this job and our team, and he's totally earned everybody's respect. And for that, you know, he's a young player, he's got a long way to go, there's a lot of room for improvement, but he works very hard at it.

Q: What are the key elements needed to have a successful run defense and what have you seen from your group that has made it successful so far?

BB: Well, again, run defense is team defense, so you need everybody doing their job against a good back, especially against a guy like [Le'Veon] Bell or [Kenyan] Drake last week or guys like that. They only need one hole to get through – they don't need three or four so everybody's got to do a good job. It starts with all offensive coordinators – Adam [Gase] and Chad [O'Shea] and Randy [Fitchner] from the Pittsburgh game and Coach [Brian] Daboll this week at Buffalo – they all have good schemes and everybody's going to be blocked. It's not like there's going to be any free players there, so it really comes down to defeating blockers and then doing a good job of tackling. All of the different schemes and everything that you can draw up – they're all relevant, but in the end, you've got to defeat blocks and be able to defend space and tackle the guy with the ball. We have a lot of good players. The reason that anything we do is good is because we have good players and they play well and they execute the defense on the field. That's really what defensive football is about. It's about teamwork and total team execution and good players, so we're fortunate we have good players and they've played well.

Q: Rex Burkhead mentioned he could maybe be a little more decisive as far as attacking when he's running the ball. With James Develin out yesterday, how does not having a fullback impact the running game and do you view running back decisiveness overall as something that has limited the production in the running game so far?

BB: Right, well, I think the running game offensively mirrors the run defense that we just talked about. Again, it comes down to team execution and that includes everybody. It includes the point-of-attack blockers, the backside blockers, all of the perimeter players, tight ends, receivers and possibly a lead back or not a lead back. Sometimes we have those players on our running plays and sometimes we don't, so it's not like every run comes with a fullback, but some do and some don't, or a lead back – it doesn't have to be a fullback but some type of lead back player. Each play is its own entity. The blocking and the reading of the blocks and all that, even though you run the same play over and over again, and that's why some coaches, and rightfully so, just believe in repetition, repetition, repetition. Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler and guys like that – run the same play over and over and over again for year after year but each play is a little bit different. The recognition and the timing between the blockers and the runner and the defense and the leverage they have and the space that's created is different on every play. It's the same – there's a general framework, but it's different on every play. We just have to do a better job of executing our running game and just trying to get a little more production out of it, but in the end if we can throw the ball and move the ball and score points, that's fine too if that's what's available. At some point, we're going to need to improve our running game and so we'll keep working on it.

Q: What is the balance early in a game between switching up the run game if it's not being productive versus remaining committed to the repetition and trusting that things will open up if you keep to the script and continue to work through things on the ground?

BB: Yeah, well, there's always discussion in a game plan for complementary plays, so runs and play-actions and passes and draws and screens and things like that clearly complement each other. I think anytime you're doing a good amount of one, you want to make sure you have a complementary play to go with it or more than one play to go with it. Yeah, that's definitely part of it. In the end, whatever play you call, it has to have a design that allows it to be competitive against the defense or the offense, whichever way it's going, and then it has to be executed well. Look, there are some plays that just have no chance. If you're in a bad coverage against a certain pattern, if you're in a bad running play against a certain defense – I don't care – it's just not going to go well. That's something that we have to try to, as a coaching staff, prevent at all costs where we just don't have a chance on the play. And then there are maybe occasionally on some plays where you have an advantage and hopefully you can exploit that, but the majority of the plays really come down to it's a pretty even fight and it comes down to execution and team execution. Not always one-on-one execution, especially not in the running game, but it just comes down to team execution and so we're going to continue to work hard to improve that execution all the way across the board. As far as the play-calling goes, yeah, there's always an element of balance in there. If something's going well, you don't want to just give up on it if it's going well, but on the other hand there's a point where you want to have a complementary play or plays to that so the defense can't just zero in on one thing. That's what good play-callers like Josh [McDaniels] do, is they're able to find that right balance between when to stay with something that's working and when to go to something else because the defense is starting to anticipate or overplay something you've had success with.

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