PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
August 13, 2021
BB: Well as I said last night, it's good to get out on the field. Good to get going. It's good to play. A lot of guys got a pretty good amount of playing time, and it's something we can definitely build from. We'll learn a lot from the film and carry that into next week here. The practice against Philly and the game, so it was a good evaluation night. Hopefully we can build on that and improve going forward. There's some good situations that came up in the game that we can benefit from. We'll do more of that, obviously, as we go forward here in the next couple weeks. We haven't spent an inordinate amount of time on situations at this point. Really it's more fundamentals and that's what we saw last night. So, we'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other here, take it day by day and try to keep stringing good days together.
Q: What are your main takeaways of Mac Jones' performance from last night?
BB: I think really, it's pretty much the same for everybody. Some good things. Some things we need to just in general, we need to play faster and react faster. That's every position across the board. Practice is practice, but things happen at game speed and that's something that I would say everyone needs to improve on. Certainly, at the quarterback position, but every other position too. It's just we haven't had the live game exposure until last night, and so that's a good opportunity for us to recognize how fast things are going to happen and have to match that speed. So, I think the speed of the game for all of the rookie players was a little bit different, certainly than anything we've been able to practice.
Q: And then with Cam [Newton], you always talk about players in the second year jump? This is now his second year with the team. He's had a couple of weeks in camp. He had the game last night. What are you seeing with Cam Newton's progress this training camp?
BB: Well, definitely way ahead of where we were at this time last year, but again, as I said, it's I think the same for everybody. Just practice and fundamentals and then taking that to the execution that we need to have at game speed. Again, for all of us players, coaches, everybody. Last night was the first step, but we have a long way to go, and we all need to improve in those areas.
Q: I'm imagining that going into last night in your own mind you had some things that you wanted to say. So, after you viewed the films on this, do you now have a baseline in which to move forward? Whatever those things might be to the next step, which would be the workout against Philadelphia and then going forward from there?
BB: Yeah. I think that's fair. Again, what we wanted to see was to see the players play. See them play in live competition and evaluate how they did and how it's going. I'm sure we'll see some guys make a big jump from this week to next week. I'm sure we'll probably see some guys kind of level off, and it won't be that big of a jump. We'll just have to see how all that goes, but again, you can't evaluate a baseline or build from a baseline until you have one. We have one, so that's a good thing for us. It was a good experience to not just have the game speed of an actual play when the ball snapped, but just the overall game speed of situations changing on every play and going from offense to special teams, defense to special teams, to offense and so forth. Making adjustments on the sideline. Making some changes. Those are things that really don't happen in practice because they just don't come up like they do in a game. All those were good. Halftime, pregame warmup, just the whole process of getting ready to play and then come back out and to play in the second half. Those are all the things we wanted to see, we wanted to experience. Try to smooth out our operation, which that needs a little ironing out too, but I think the big thing is just to try to build from here.
Q: For the last 17 years now the team has had a streak of at least one rookie undrafted free agent on the opening night roster. Is there a moment over the last 17 years that stands out to you, whether during training camp or preseason as a time where you knew a rookie UDFA was going to be special in the league?
BB: That's a good question. It's a good observation. We try to maintain an open mind towards everybody every year. We all have to re-establish ourselves or establish ourselves and our level of performance for that individual year. We've had a number of players, Brandon Bolden, Jon Jones, guys who would go near the top of the list that came in and not in one day or one practice, but over the course of training camp established a level of performance and consistency and trust that we believed in, and Jakobi [Meyers] and J.J. [Taylor] more recently. So again, we try to keep an open mind towards everybody, and every player that's here is here for a reason, is here because we think that they can be competitive. As you said, there's usually been a player that has, Gunner [Olszewski], guys like that that just earned their way on the roster. So again, those are kind of things that just really evolve. They don't, I would say most of those players, it wasn't like they showed up the first day and it looked like we should have drafted him in the first round. That's usually not the case. I would say it's more of a build up over time and a significant level of improvement over a relatively short period of time that takes place with those guys.
Q: It seemed like Matt Judon was able to make a pretty significant impact in his brief playing time last night, and when we were talking to Tashawn Bower after the game, he was also speaking about how much it's helped to have another veteran like Judon in that room. What have you seen so far from Judon both last night and going back over the last couple months?
BB: Matthew played a handful snaps last night. He's got a pretty good number of reps here in training camp, but I'm glad we have him. He's got a lot of skill in the running game, in the passing game. He's a very instinctive player. He seems to figure things out pretty quickly and has fit in well with the group. He has a great work ethic. Shows up to work every day. Competes hard. I think that's a good thing for all of us to build off of and try to emulate the attitude and the toughness and the effort that he comes in with on a consistent basis, whether it be game day like we saw last night, meetings, practices, walkthroughs, whatever it is. He's been a good addition, and glad we have him on the team.
Q: I have a question about another newcomer in Jonnu [Smith]. I know you've spoken highly of his ability after the catch in the past. I know it was just one play last night, but is that one where you kind of see what he can do after the catch and what few tight ends can do?
BB: We've seen Jonnu for four years, and he does a lot of things well. He blocks well. He runs well. He's fast. Catches the ball well. Can run with it after the catch. He's got a good set of skills and can help us on all downs, and I'm glad we have him on the team. I think he's a good player, and I look forward to working with him. It's been great to work with. He's got a good attitude. He works hard. He's tough. Competes every day. Just keep trying to find ways to help all of our skill players be productive, and he's got a good variety of skills that we can work with.
Q: Knowing that the end result doesn't ultimately matter in your season. How do you view success differently in the preseason? And was there an area maybe of the team last night that stood out to you after looking at the film?
BB: In the preseason there's a lot of things to look at. You certainly want to look at the individuals and how they performed. Also the match ups, who they were up against, and that there's quite a bit of variability there, probably as much in that game last night in the first preseason game as there would be in any game. The number of players that both teams played and so forth. Then watching the units play together, whether it be a special teams unit or offensive line or the defensive line or the quarterback and the skill players and the passing game or the linebackers in the secondary, the defensive passing game. Then you look at the whole team and substitutions and the overall operation and things like that. So it's really a pretty broad stroke there that we've done for the first time and in real life situation, and all those things are good experiences. Good things to learn from. Some of them we did pretty well. Some of them I know we need to iron out and smooth out and maybe clean up the communication or the operation a little bit, whether it be on the coaching end or the playing end or maybe both. So that's kind of the first preseason game. There's really a lot that this game encompasses, and it's good to get it under our belt. I hope we'll be able to do things better next week in all areas, but at least we've done them, and in some cases we can look at them and say, 'Okay, this is how we want to do it', there'll be other things that we'll say, 'This is sort of the idea, but we need to do it a lot better, and here's how we will'.
Q: I'm just curious what characteristics would be in your mind for a well-executed deep ball, deep pass attempt?
BB: I feel like that's the kind of thing that we'd probably spend an hour on in a quarterback-receiver meeting in training camp. Again, so much depends on the play itself, the coverage, the match up and what happens after the ball snaps and then obviously the long pass is a play that takes the longest in football, and so there's a lot of things that can go right, and there's a lot of things that can go wrong, but in the end, when the ball finally arrives at the reception area, then there's a whole other level of execution that's involved regardless of what's happened on the previous call, I don't know, three seconds, three and a half seconds, that's already taken place on the play, and so the finish of that play there's a lot at stake on both sides. We're talking about one defensive back, one receiver, who are the receivers, can be a tight end or a back or a safety or whoever it is, linebacker. There's a lot at stake on the result of that play and the result of the finish of the play. There are a lot of things that can happen between when the ball snapped and when the ball finally arrives, let's call it 40 yards down field. So it's a very in-depth question. What leads to success and failure. There's more to that play in terms of timing and time then really there is in any other play. Things happen quicker on shorter passes and running plays and guys are lined up within a few inches of each other on the line of scrimmage and at the get-go, the post, the deep scene. Again, all the things. The different types of deep passes based on whether it's a play action, whether it's just a straight, clear out route or a go route that the quarterback really intends to throw versus a clear out kind of pattern that has something going on underneath, and I mean we could go on and on here, but it's really pretty specific. In the end, it comes down most of the time to the finish the play, assuming that the ball is catchable. That's why the technique and the finish and the skill of the players involved is important to the outcome. Sorry I can't give you more specific. We could be here for a couple hours talking about all that because there's so many things that can happen during that time. The position of the players is, even at the beginning of the play, can be quite different as well. So honestly, it's a pretty deep question.
Q: And that was kind of a broad one on my end. So I appreciate it, Bill. Thank you.
BB: Yeah, no problem. That is what it is. There's a lot to it on all three players involved; the guy throwing the ball, the guy catching the ball and the guy defending the play. So for each player, there's a pretty long, in depth conversation. It's just on one specific thing, and then when you start putting it all together, it rolls into a lot of coaching points. A lot of technique. A lot of details.