PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: This is another big week for us, a good opportunity here to work on some things, obviously, that we need to work on from the third preseason game into the fourth preseason game. We still have a lot of evaluations that we're trying to work through and start to look towards the start of the season, some roster cuts, breakdown and the opportunity for players in the last preseason game here against the Giants. A combination of all of those things and just trying to finish off with a good, productive week and then get ready for the opener.
Q: Your father coached at the Naval Academy and John McCain attended the Naval Academy. Did you have any reaction to the passing of McCain this weekend?
BB: Yeah, of course that was sad news, but I didn't know Senator McCain personally.
Q: What was the reasoning for allowing Alex Guerrero back on the team plane for travel?
BB: I'm not going to get into all of the responsibilities of all of the people in our organization. We'd be here for a month going through all of that.
Q: What was the conversation like with Eric Decker when he informed you of his decision to retire?
BB: Yeah, we talked to Eric. Eric felt like - and I don't want to speak for Eric - I think he certainly can handle that for himself. But he's had a great career. I have a lot of respect for Eric going all the way back to when we talked to him coming out of Minnesota, and when Josh [McDaniels] drafted him, and to Tennessee, and the Jets and so forth. I enjoyed working with him. Again, I really have a lot of respect for him, what he did. I think he's decided to retire from football so we wish him well and appreciate what he did.
Q: There was a report that you guys are signing Shaq Mason to a contract extension. What has he meant to the offensive line over the past couple of seasons and how have you seen him grow in that time?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I don't have any comment on the first thing. We'll see how that goes. But Shaq's done a good job for us from the time he got here. He came from an offense that was quite different from ours and he adapted quickly and did a real good job of learning new techniques. He's an athletic player that has good strength, good balance, an excellent run blocker, can pull, run and hit. He's gotten better each year and he's done a good job for us. He and Joe [Thuney] and David [Andrews] - those three guys have played a lot of football together and they're young. Hopefully they can continue to play a lot for us in there.
Q: How far has he come in terms of just pass protection since his arrival here?
BB: Well, I think he covered a lot of it in the first training camp, the first two months of the season, somewhere in there. It's certainly improved like it would for any player over a period of time, but he got it pretty quickly, adjusted quickly. Again, he's got good power. He's quick. He runs well. He has the qualities to be able to do that. It was just refining the techniques a little bit and he did that relatively quickly and played a lot of football for us as a rookie.
Q: Were you disappointed that things didn't work out better with Kenny Britt?
BB: Yeah, I mean, that's unfortunately professional football. A lot of people are competing for not as many spots as there are players. We have to make decisions. Sometimes players make decisions, but somewhere along the line we have to make the majority of those decisions and do what we feel is best for the football team based on what the players have earned, what they've done this year. It's the hard part of the job. Yeah, one of the hard parts.
Q: Are you comfortable with the depth at the wide receiver position?
BB: Look, our entire team, we all have a lot of work to do. We all have a lot to prove at every position. None of us have done anything this year in the 2018 season. I think we're all in the same boat on that one - coaches, players, whatever position you want to look at. We all have a long way to go and we'll see where we get to.
Q: What kind of progress have you seen from guys like Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister in their second year in the system?
BB: Well, Dwayne has a lot of experience in the league. He's in a lot different situation than Jacob. Jacob didn't play very much for us last year. He was on the roster, played some in the kicking game, got some snaps on offense. He's gained quite a bit in Year Two, like most players do from their rookie year to the second year. Jacob's done a good job of that. Dwayne's had a good camp, too. He had a good spring, but he's obviously a much more experienced player.
Q: What would you say the advantages of running option routes for your receivers are? How hard is that concept for receivers to pick up?
BB: I don't know. There are a lot of pass concepts; that's one. There are a lot of other ones. There are advantages and disadvantages to, really, all of the concepts. That's why people use them. There's some advantages to doing that. Some players do it well. Other players don't do it as well. There are a lot of other concepts that are important in the passing game. Some players do those well and some don't. Again, we could have a long discussion about those types of routes.
Q: When defending a two-running back or two-tight end set, can it be difficult to decide whether to use a nickel or a more traditional defense?
BB: Well, look, it's hard to defend any offense in this league. Every team has good players. Every team has schemes that complement the players they put on the field, whatever the combination of players is and you have to decide, based on what you have, how you want to defend it, how you want to match up against it personnel-wise and what you want to call when you're in those personnel groups. You might have one personnel group with one set of calls, a different personnel group with a different set of calls. That might change from week to week against the same personnel group because their players are different than the players you played the week before. Really, it comes down to a lot of, I'd say, individual or maybe weekly matchups and decisions, again, based on who you have on the field against who they have on the field, how you want to be configured and if you change your personnel from one group to another, as you suggested, you might also end up changing the structure of your calls. Yeah, those are options. You can put whoever you want out there. You just have to decide how you want to handle it.
Q: Do you still enjoy the challenge on a weekly basis of coming up with a game plan that is specific to each new opponent?
BB: Each week is different in the National Football League, so that definitely is challenging. I enjoy all of the aspects of the game – developing players, building the team, game planning, so forth. I enjoy all of it. They're all different. They're all challenging. They're all important. I just try to do the best job I can in each one of those.
Q: In your offense, do you ever view pass-catching running backs as interchangeable with receivers?
BB: Well, it depends. There could be some carryover. First of all, the biggest thing is pass protection. If you put a back in a situation where he didn't have to worry about pass protection, which is what most receivers are, then that's one thing. Once you get into pass protection, you're talking about a horse of a different color now. That's a whole different situation. If you eliminated that, then could the back do some of the things that a receiver does without pass protection involvement? Possibly. Again, it just depends on how good the player is at doing it and how many reps he can get doing it because it takes quite a bit of time for a back to be efficient in his run reads, and carrying the ball, and pass protection, and his backfield routes and so forth. Theoretically, you could split him out and have him do some of the things that a receiver does. It would be hard to get to a full route tree, but you could maybe pick out a couple of things and do those. Yeah.
Q: Are the matchups that a running back would create on the other side of the ball different than those of a receiver, and would those impact how you use those players?
BB: They could. Again, one of the things in doing something like that – look – it's a good concept. Whenever you do something that's fairly outside of the norm, one of the problems with that is you don't know what you're going to get. So you can put a back out there and say, "Well, OK, who's on him?" Is it a linebacker that's on him? Do you want to run a certain route? What if they put a safety on him? Is that route still what you want to do? What if they put a corner on him? Then what do you have, or do you go somewhere else? Maybe you don't go somewhere else. Maybe they have four corners on the field and the other guys have corners on them too and so forth. If you have man routes and they play zone coverage or they play some kind of combination coverage, like quarter coverage, or something like that, then you don't really have a matchup. Now you're talking about a zone or a zone-match concept that's a little bit different. Sometimes it's good to know exactly what you have and deal with that. Sometimes you can create mismatches by changing things, but you don't always necessarily know exactly what you're creating, and then to do something that's different and then you need four or five options to make it work. So, if this happens we do this, if that happens we do that. Well now you've got five plays instead of one and you just run out of time. That's the battle. If you're doing it with the same guy all of the time, that's fine too. Now you have all of those options but you're only doing it with one guy. They know who it is, you know who it is. You lose some of the deception or the surprise factor of it because they know what it is and they've decided how they want to deal with it. It's all good. It's just a question of how much you can manage and how far you want to take it or don't want to take it.
Q: You mentioned you're not going to comment on Alex Guerrero. Is that a rule you've implemented for your players as well?
BB: Yeah, look, we're not going to get into our staff responsibilities and all of that. I mean, we'd be here for a week talking about that, so we're not getting into that.
Q: What have you seen from Cyrus Jones thus far in the preseason and throughout training camp?
BB: Yeah, it was good to see him on the field against Carolina. He's been out there in practice but it's good to see him in game action. I thought he handled the ball well in the return game, kickoffs. He didn't have a great chance on the punt, but I thought he made a good play with what he had. There wasn't much there. He made a couple of guys miss on the kickoff return, handled the ball well, showed some run skills, played a little bit on defense. Hopefully we'll get more of that this week. He's certainly making improvements on his way back and we'll see where he gets to. It was good to see him out there.
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