PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: How special is Trey Flowers with his hand technique?
BB: He does a real good job with his hands; always has. We saw that at Arkansas. Coach [Bret] Bielema did a great job there with defeating blockers and using his hands in pass rush and tackling and batting down balls, things like that. He's got good hands, quick hands. He does a good job.
Q: Does that remind you of anyone or is it unique to Trey?
BB: Trey's got a little bit of a different style, but it's very effective. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and different makeup, but he knows what he can do and he does it pretty effectively and can matchup against most guys and find some way to handle them or be competitive with them.
Q: Only about half of the teams in the league carry a fullback on the roster. What does carrying a fullback on your roster provide your team?
BB: Well, I mean, I think it's just a fundamental, schematic thing. If you want that aspect of it, of putting a guy really that can go either way in a formation then that's good. If you don't then that's fine, too. There's other ways to do it. It creates different blocking angles. It creates a different balance in your offense. There's a lot of other ways to do it, too. It's hard to have everything.
Q: When did the fullback position start to shift more from being a ball-carrier or pass-catching option into a blocking option?
BB: I'd say in the 70's with college football really, I-formation. [John] McKay and people like that and then certainly by the 80's you had one runner, so the one-back teams with Coach [Joe] Gibbs and [Don] Coryell and people like that, Mike Martz and so forth. Those guys all went to one-runner and the blocker was the blocker, so that became instead of the fullback, sometimes the tight end. It was really in the 60's with the Jim Browns and Jim Taylor and really all of them. [Rocky] Bleier and [Franco] Harris were probably the last kind of - actually Harris carried the ball more than probably Bleier did and they weren't really an I-formation team. I'd say it kind of transitioned from there, and then when guys like [O.J.] Simpson and guys like that came into the league, the guys they put in front of them - with Simpson they put two guards in front of him. [Paul] Seymour was the tight end, [Jim] Braxton was the fullback and they were both offensive lineman, basically, and so you knew who was getting the ball rather than having another ball-carrier back there. They just had another, I would say, basically, an offensive lineman. But whether he carries the ball or doesn't carry the ball, the blocking angles from the backfield are different than they are from the line of scrimmage, and the ability to build a four-man surface or a three-man surface after the snap is different than being in a four-man surface and then trying to get to a three-man surface or being in a three-man surface and trying to get to a four-man surface by running the guy all the way across the ball. There's different blocking angles. It's just a fundamental difference.
Q: What have you seen from the Titans defense that has made them so effective in the red zone?
BB: Well, they're good everywhere. They're good in the red area, they're good on third down, they don't give up big plays, they don't give up points. They're very good fundamentally, as Mike [Vrabel] was as a player and Dean [Pees] I know is a strong fundamental coach. Mike's a strong fundamental coach, so they have good run force, they have good tackling. Their corners tackle well. Malcolm [Butler], Logan [Ryan], [Adoree'] Jackson - those guys all tackle as good if not better than most corners in the league as a group. They limit the yards after catch. They're just sound and disciplined and consistent. They mix it up. They don't have a crazy spin-the-wheel defense but they do enough things to keep you off-balance between single-high safety, split safeties, man, zone, pressure. You've just got to string good plays together consistently, block the front, which is a problem, and it's hard to do it over any kind of extended period of time and it's hard to get them for big plays where you only have to do it once because there's not many of those. That's why they don't give up many points. But yeah, they're good in the run area. It's hard to run the ball in when they mix their coverages down there. Again, they make you earn every yard. They don't get many penalties so you don't get a lot of second chances on cheap 5-yard illegal contact penalties and stuff like that to give you cheap first downs. You've got to go out there and earn it against them. They're pretty stingy.
Q: What kind of a mobile quarterback is Marcus Mariota? Does he compare to anyone else you've faced this year?
BB: He's fast. He's fast. He outruns a lot of people. He's quick, he's athletic. He's fast and athletic. [Mitchell] Trubisky's a big, strong kid. [Deshaun] Watson, [Blake] Bortles - Mariota's, I would say, faster and more athletic than they are.
Q: How much contact did you have Rashaan Evans during the pre-draft process and what have you seen from him this year?
BB: Yeah, we saw him. We saw him at Alabama. He visited here. Yeah, a good player. Played outside, played inside. Obviously., he's playing inside for Tennessee but he has a lot of experience in doing both, so playing outside linebacker, pass rushing, good blitzer, moved inside his last year in '17, good range, good tackler, tough kid.
Q: I asked Mike Vrabel if he had any plans to be able to stop the production of James White on Sunday and he conceded how difficult that is. I know you don't have to, but do you see the difficulty at all in having to game plan for a guy like James?
BB: Well, I'm sure Mike will have a good plan for defending us, period. I'm sure he feels like he has to defend a lot of players. Certainly James is one of them. We'll see what Mike comes up with on that. We've got our own problems with [Derrick] Henry and Dion [Lewis] and that group. Again, a lot of it comes down to good fundamentals, good tackling, good leverage. You can't keep a back from getting the ball. When they hand him the ball, he has it. It's different than completing a pass to a receiver, so when they hand him the ball you have to be able to have leverage on the play and you have to be able to tackle him. In the end, it's going to come down to that like it does with just about every back.
Q: James is averaging about 9-yards per reception, which would be less than a receiver. Is covering him a matter of distributing your assets properly even though one guy might be less of a threat to break a big play?
BB: Yeah, right. You've got 11, they've got 11 and you figure it out. If you put two guys on one then you've got nine against 10. Yeah, you just have to figure out what you have and what you're trying to stop. You usually have two or three options. Maybe you have all or maybe you pick out the best one to go with that. I don't know. Again, that's a question for Mike. I couldn't really answer that.
Q: What similarities do you see between the Titans and your team?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. I'm really just focused on what they do. Trying to stop them, trying to move the ball against them, trying to compete against them in the kicking game. I don't know.
Q: Could it be the attention to fundamentals that you mentioned earlier?
BB: They're very good at it, yeah. They're a very good fundamental team. They play with good techniques. Again, they don't have many bad plays. It's hard to move the ball on them. They're sound. They don't give up big plays. They don't have penalties. You've got to block them, you've got to get open, you've got to protect the passer. There are not a lot of freebies out there. You've got to work hard for what you get against their defense.
Q: On the outside runs for Cordarrelle Patterson, do you see any similarity in maybe the blocking he would get on those tosses with what he sees in the kick return game?
BB: Yeah. I mean, it's a little bit different. Running the ball is still running the ball. You try to set your blocks up so that the defenders - you help your blockers by placing the defenders by the angle that you carry the ball in and try to get into space. Kickoff coverage - they're all coming down basically at the same time. Defensively, it's not exactly the way it's set up. It's a little bit different. It depends on the play, it depends on the blocking pattern, it depends on what happens after the snap, where guys go. Separately from that, you have the ball, you're reading blockers in front of you and trying to place defenders so that the blockers can block them and run to the space that either the blockers create or that you create based on the way you run the ball. Yeah, that's the same.
Q: Is Obi Melifonwu a player who could have some versatility for you or is he someone you see mostly as a safety?
BB: Yeah, we'll see. That's a good question. We'll see. We've really only had him for a couple of days so we'll see how it goes. He has good size. He's smart. He learns quickly. He's athletic. We'll see what he can do. I don't know; possibly.
Q: When a player comes in who is projected to contribute in primarily a special teams role, are they easier to assimilate within a week or two upon arriving as opposed to someone who specifically plays offense or defense?
BB: It would probably depend on what their role is on offense or defense. But the kicking game is pretty involved. If it's a placekicker or a snapper that's one thing, but if you're talking about kick coverage or punt protection or punt and kick returns, I'd say there's a little more to it than that. Again, it would depend on a player's role and his experience and how familiar what he's done in the past is with what you're doing now. So that's part of the process that we have to go through when we bring a player on to the team, try to see what things are similar to what he's done, how well he does them, what things are new, how to teach him those things, how much of it is on the field, how much of it is off the field. Obviously, working with other people. It's not just a single person matchup out there. There are a lot of single matchups but those matchups are affected by what other people do or how the coverage unfolds or how the rush unfolds on punt protection, things like that. So it's working with your teammates and making sure that the communication, the calls and also the fundamentals and techniques are consistent with the guys that you're working with so that you can handle the multiples that we have to handle. I mean, a team like last week - Green Bay - that had probably seven or eight different punt formations just going into the game and then there was a new one in the game. I mean, you don't just go out there and start playing on the punt return. There's a lot of things that you have to cover as a team schematically to be sound or you're not going to have a good play. I'd say most of the players on our team, with very few exceptions, all have roles in the kicking game regardless of what their role is offensively or defensively. So I know nobody really cares about those roles, especially as backup players in the kicking game, but as a coach, and especially as a special teams coach, somebody has to back up the 66 spots that you have on special teams. Somebody has to back them up. You just can't go into a game and not have people behind the guys that are playing, so if you lose a guy who is on every special team then you've lost, let's call it at least four starters, if not more. So then you need four somebodies, maybe one person, which is unlikely that he would be able to back up all four spots, or four somebodies to back up those four spots on the various big four units. And then that's when the wheel starts spinning pretty fast, so you have 46 active players, you've got three specialists, you've got a couple of quarterbacks, you've got seven lineman, you've got, let's call it six or seven defensive linemen, so now you're getting down. You don't have very many players left and you're already talking about a lot of those players being out there anyway. When you start talking about starting players as a backup role in the kicking game, those are important roles and are important players for us. Again, not that anybody really cares until something happens and the player has to go out there, but as a coach that's something that you have to prepare and plan for. It's, again, pretty unusual for any of our players to not have a role in the kicking game. Then when you get into other things like the hands team, which is another thing nobody cares about until it comes up, then when it comes up it's the most important play in the game. That's another thing that you better be able to do right or it's going to cost you a game. Again, a lot of times those roles do fall to starting players on that particular team. I would just say that the overall crossover and complement of offensive or defensive players and their role in the kicking game is pretty substantial for the 46 players that are at the game because there's a lot of roles that have to be filled and then there's a lot that all have to be backed up and unfortunately we just don't know when that insurance - when you're going to need it so you have to have it at every spot. If you don't have it then that's where you end up having punts blocked and kicks returned for touchdowns and mishandled balls and so forth.
Q: How many deep are you at most special teams positions on the depth chart?
BB: Well, I would say generally two and, obviously, some people back up more than one spot, so one guy might have a couple of spots on one side of the line, one guy might have the tackle spots, left or right tackle. Look, it depends on who the players are and what you have to work with and what they're comfortable doing or what their experience level is, so in some cases you have a backup for a backup. In some cases one guy has to back up two, or one guy's got to back up three, or these three got to back up these four on the front line. Maybe these three have got to back up these eight on the front line. These two have to back up these three in the deep part on kickoff return. It depends on what we're talking about here and what the position is and who the players are that are involved, but that's what it comes down to. You just don't have enough guys to have one for everybody. We don't have that at a lot of positons on offense or defense. Then, obviously, you have to have a backup kicker, you have to have a backup punter, you have to have a backup snapper, you have to have a backup everything - backup holder, so that if something were to happen to those players you've still got to finish the game.
Transcripts are provided by the Patriots media relations department as a courtesy to the media and are edited for readability. All press conferences are posted and archived in their entirety at patriots.com.