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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 12/30

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media on Wednesday, December 30, 2020.

Q: Josh Uche described that he played basically one down at Michigan, but in this last game, we saw him on what seemed like more than one down. What have you learned about him over the course of this year in terms of how he might fit for you going forward?

BB: Yeah, [we] like Josh. I think he's done a lot of positive things for us in the kicking game and defensively has some versatility. We were kind of trying to figure that out early, what his best spot would be, and it took a little while for all that to materialize. He was inactive part of the year, but he's definitely going to help us. He's a good football player and we'll be able to define his role and his situation much better next year after a year of experience with him. So, I'm looking forward to that. He's definitely going to be an asset for us and if he continues to work and improve, he's got a good future.

Q: Earlier this season, Adam Gase talked about how he's enjoyed connecting with you the last couple years. What has that connection been like for you with Adam in recent years?

BB: Well, I have a lot of respect for Adam. I think he's a very good coach. He's always been tough to coach against. He's always made things difficult on our defense. It goes back to Josh [McDaniels] in Denver. So, known each other for a while through a mutual connection there. But, I think he's done an excellent job. I thought he did a good job with Miami and I think he's done a good job with the Jets. He's, as I said, a coach I have a lot of respect for and he gives us a lot of problems. He's a tough, tough coach to coach against, so that's really the way I feel about him.

Q: What have you seen from the Jets in the last couple of weeks? Obviously, they hadn't had a lot of success prior to these two weeks. What has changed with them in your view?

BB: Well, they played pretty competitively a good part of the year. So, I would say they've been –offensively, they've made a lot of progress in terms of consistency. They've shown, certainly, good flashes throughout the year in all areas of the game, and they certainly showed it against us down there throwing the ball. But, [Sam] Darnold's come in there the last couple weeks and has played pretty error-free. They have had a good, competitive running game and the receivers have been productive, starting with [Jamison] Crowder, of course, and [Braxton] Berrios has been productive for them. [Denzel] Mims and [Breshad] Perriman are explosive and have a lot of big-play ability. [Chris] Herndon has started to come on now. He's played all year, but he's come on in the passing game, as well, with some good production. [La'Mical] Perine missed about, I forget, four games or whatever it was with a high ankle, but he's back now. So, their skill players are pretty well-balanced. They're productive across the board. Darnold's back in the lineup. It looks like he's gained some confidence and their level of execution has improved. And then defensively, this is a pretty disruptive team, especially in the running game – at the top of the league in negative runs and they don't give up a lot of big plays. They're a good tackling team and they have good team speed, especially at the linebacker position. They pursue hard – their defensive ends or outside linebackers or inside linebackers. Even guys that get through the hole, it's usually a fairly short gain, and then they offset that with a lot of negative plays. They're a good kick blocking team, both field goals and punts. Berrios has had a solid year as a punt returner. They're a pretty solid coverage team, big-leg punter. They have improved all the way through the year in all three phases and played pretty consistently over the last month of the season. They could have easily beaten the Raiders and obviously beat a 9-4 Rams team and a 10-4 Browns team. They're gaining confidence and you can see that their improvement as a team is definitely trending in the right direction. I think that's a real credit to Coach Gase and his staff for the way that they've continued to help the team improve and to the players. They've played pretty good football here the last few weeks.

Q: Whether it's the COVID environment, whether it's on the field, the situation with James White, or some of the injuries you've had, how would you categorize the challenges of this season and the way this season has affected you personally?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. For me, it's pretty week-to-week. You deal with whatever the situation is that week and try to maximize it and be ready to go on Sunday or Monday, whenever the game is. That's what this week is and honestly that's pretty much what every week is. There's challenges every week, challenges every year, so we try to address those challenges, meet them and figure out what the best way to deal with them is.

Q: What are your impressions of Joejuan Williams this season and do you think he's a player that could play a bigger role for you guys moving forward?

BB: Well, look, Joejuan's role will be determined by Joejuan, just like it is with every player. But, I think he has a lot of things going for him and he's established a pretty solid role for us in the kicking game. Defensively, he's shown the ability to do some things both inside and outside. It's a position overall that we have pretty good depth in in terms of our safeties, corners and overall secondary. So, it's overall a very competitive group of players. But, he's certainly held his own in there and shown that he has a solid role for our team. Whether that role increases or decreases will really be determined by him and his performance, same as everybody else.

Q: Obviously, it's a unique situation to have three kickers on the team and two on the practice squad and we all know Roberto's history in the league. Just what did you see from Roberto Aguayo that made you want to bring him in the building?

BB: Well, he's a pretty impressive guy, so we wanted to work with him. So, we'll work with him here and see how it goes.

Q: Michael Onwenu has been pretty impressive this year at tackle, especially for someone who came into the league playing mainly guard. Do you think Mike's future is at tackle or will you look at him at guard in the offseason?

BB: Yeah, I think that's a great question, and that's something we'll take a long, hard look at this year. This year, putting him at tackle was kind of our way to try to get our best players on the field with Isaiah [Wynn] and so forth. Now, again, every situation is a little bit different, so what it will be next year, I don't know. I think there's always, anytime you get into that, you can say, 'OK, try get your best players on the field,' but sometimes that's playing somebody out of position, and is that the best way to go? So, I think he's shown, maybe a little bit surprisingly to us and him, his ability to play tackle. Again, as you mentioned, that's something he really hasn't done. So, that's a great credit to him and it certainly increases his value to our team and we'll have to take a look at what's best for him, what's best for the team. And honestly, the improvements he's made at tackle, there's probably a discussion as to how much difference is there between guard and tackle and his play and so forth. So, it's been an opportunity that I would say we didn't anticipate at the start of the year or even when we drafted him. We thought that he would be competing for the third guard position behind Joe [Thuney] and Shaq [Mason]. It's turned into something different than that. So, we'll see if we go back to the original plan or whether we don't. This is similar to when we drafted [Richard] Seymour. In the first year, he played nose and then he went back to defensive end. Then we drafted [Vince] Wilfork and the first year he played defensive end and then he went back to nose. And then we drafted [Nate] Solder and he played right tackle and he eventually moved back to left tackle where we drafted him, or where we thought we were drafting him for. So, sometimes that first year, first and second year, is maybe a little different than the original plan and sometimes maybe the original plan, you end up back there anyway, and sometimes you don't. So, we'll just have to take a look at that here at the end of the season and see where things are next year and have some kind of a plan. Maybe it's some kind of combination of both. I don't know, but he's opened a lot of doors and opportunities for himself and we'll see how that fits into our team concept.

Q: What have you seen from J.J. Taylor this year, a guy that came into camp at a position that was pretty deep but was still able to carve out a role for himself?

BB: Yeah, J.J. earned a spot on the roster through his play in practice. Again, no preseason games this year, so it's a little hard to evaluate and that's a tough position for a running back, when you don't see him get contact or get tackled. You see the run skills, but you don't see the rest of the play very often until you get into the game situation, and that's really the defining part of the job. So, again, he's done a good job of coming in, earning a spot, earning some playing time, earning some opportunities. He's also worked some as a kick returner. We worked him back there a little bit earlier in the year. So, he's a guy that's got a future if he can continue to improve and do things in some of the areas that maybe he hasn't been asked to do as much in – things like pass protection, route running and so forth. This is different, but in some ways similar to last year where Damien [Harris] was inactive for most of the year, didn't get a lot of opportunity and then this year when those opportunities came – A, he was a better player, he was further along, and B, he was productive with those opportunities. Again, a lot of question marks about the depth we had at running back and why do you need another one and all that. I'm glad we have Damien Harris and I'm glad we have J.J. Taylor. So, we'll see how that progresses going forward. But, I mean, the two guys really that stood out in camp and made an impact from where they were at the start of camp to where they were at the start of the season were Myles [Bryant] and J.J. They both contributed for us during the year and we'll see how it goes going forward.

Q: You've often talked about the jump for players from their first to second years. With rookies like Myles Bryant, J.J. Taylor, Mike Onwenu and Josh Uche, how important is year one to year two from an evaluation standpoint for you and your coaching staff to have a better feel for them?

BB: Yeah, well I mean, anytime you have more information, I think it's an advantage in the decision-making process. We know a lot more now and in some respects, a player's development can be influenced by his starting point – so, where you put the player to start with – and that may be based on need, it may be based on the skills that you think he has but maybe you haven't seen all the skills yet, and then as that evolves, then maybe that affects or changes your decision or what his role is on the team. So, it certainly helps as coaches to have more information and it helps to be able to see those players in game situations, not just in practice but also in game situations, to again have a better idea of how comfortable they are in those roles and how it will all play out. I'd say sometimes with the complexity of what we do, when multiple positions are involved, sometimes that could slow a younger player down a little bit trying to understand everything. But, then usually at some point when it all falls into place, then it's okay and everybody's pretty comfortable with it. But, sometimes it can be initially a little bit of a hurdle to get through. You can put [Kyle] Dugger in that category, too. He's played in the deep part of the field, he's played in kind of traditional safety roles and he's also played in some linebacker-type roles and positions. Similar to Uche, some different responsibilities for a younger player, a younger player without a lot of experience, even at a division one school there in Dugger's case. So, those things are all things that we've learned, and going forward, I think we'll be able to do a better job of identifying and teaching them how they'll be able to help us the most. In some cases, we probably over-taught them or expanded their role to maybe a place where either it turned out we didn't really need it, or it just added to the volume of things they needed to get and we can trim that back a little bit and be more efficient with it.

Q: You mentioned that lately Sam Darnold has been playing basically error-free. It seemed as though the league thought pretty highly of his ability level a few years ago coming out of the draft when he went No. 3 overall. In your opinion, has he shown the ability level that the league seemed to think that he had when he was taken that high a couple years ago?

BB: I think he's got the ability to make all the throws. He can throw a ball down the field and intermediate throws. There are plenty of examples of him going through a read progression, a 1-2-3 type of progression, high to low, outside to inside, man to zone, from one side of the field to the other based on what the coverages is, blitzes, so forth. So, I think he's shown the ability to do everything. The consistency has looked better in recent weeks. Yeah, I don't think there's any shortage of talent there or play-making ability. We saw him run for a 50-yard touchdown or whatever it was against the Broncos. So, he's an athletic guy that has great size, big arm, is hard to tackle in the pocket. He was a good prospect and he's been well-coached. I mean, I know he's getting good coaching and has a good system that works through the quarterback. Adam's always had an offensive system that really gave the quarterbacks all the opportunities to have tools that they need to be successful. So, I don't think you could have anybody better coaching him then where he's at. So, he's progressing as you would expect he would.

Q: He was really young when he came into the league and I think he's still 23 years old. Do you feel like that has to factor into the timeline developmentally? Does a young player at that spot just need a little bit more time to get to where he needs to be?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. Without working directly with players, those are hard questions to answer. Each player learns at different rates. They learn sometimes with different teaching tools. I think until you actually work closely with any individual, you don't really know the answer to those questions until you've been through enough situations – meetings, practices, walkthroughs, corrections in games where things happen quickly and sideline adjustments and audibles. I mean, there's a thousand things. So, you really need to develop that relationship with the individual player and especially at that position. I'd say all the guys I've ever coached there from Cleveland to here, regardless of whatever position they were on the depth chart, I'd say it's a little bit different for all of them. Not in a bad way, it's just we're all different.

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