PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Obviously, we're playing a really good team this week. This team has a lot of talent. They’re very well-coached. They're a tough, physical team. This will be a big challenge for us down there on the road. Offensively, it's a very explosive group. They've got them at every position – the receivers, tight end, all of the backs, the quarterback. All of those guys have made big plays for them and are very dangerous players if they get any space. [They have] a good offensive line, a big, physical group. Defensively, all of the numbers kind of speak for themselves. They pretty much led the league in every category last year. They're all back and they're all good and they have a lot of depth. They had another return for a touchdown last week against the Giants. It's a very disruptive group. We've got to do a good job of taking care of the ball and try to create some positive plays. They're strong in the kicking game, they cover well, they're well-coached. [Jaydon] Mickens does a good job in the return game. They're very aggressive there, too. This team is very good, very talented and I'm sure playing them at home in their home opener this week, there will be a lot of energy in the stadium. This will be a good test for us. We'll see where we're at.
Q: How much change have you seen from them since the end of the year last year?
BB: Yeah, well they've only played one game. There’s a couple of new receivers, a couple of new players on offense. Most of the defense is back. [D.J.] Hayden replaced [Aaron] Colvin. There's not a lot to see. It's only been five games and four of them were preseason.
Q: What did you see from Corey Coleman in his first couple years that made you want to add him to the roster yesterday?
BB: Yeah, we added three players to the roster. We had three roster spots so we filled all of them. We'll see how it goes with all three guys.
Q: Jalen Ramsey has been pretty outspoken about your team since last year's AFC Championship game. Do you have to talk to your team this week about not getting into a war of words with them?
BB: Yeah, Ben [Volin]. Well, look, we know when the game starts and we’ll be ready to go. I'm sure they will, too. That's when we'll see what happens. Right now we're focused on our preparation for the game. I have a lot of respect for Coach [Doug] Marrone and their coaching staff, their players, their team. Hopefully, we'll be ready to go.
Q: Do Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye stick on one side of the defense or do they move around in the secondary?
BB: Most of the time Ramsey follows the other team's No.1 receiver, but not always.
Q: Are they pretty straight forward in terms of what they do defensively? Is there much deception when it comes to that side of the ball?
BB: I mean, they do the things that they do. Like I said, they led the league in almost every category last year, so I would imagine they wouldn’t be looking to make a lot of dramatic changes. They keep you off balance. If they have a problem with something they have a way to fix it. They have a complement or an answer to it. They do enough to cause you a lot of problems and nobody’s really done much against them.
Q: What have you seen from Jalen Ramsey since he entered the NFL?
BB: Yeah, he's done a good job. He's on a good defense. They have a lot of good players and he's one of them. They've got a lot of them.
Q: How do you prepare for dealing with Calais Campbell coming off the edge?
BB: He's another good player on a good defense. They've got a lot of them. There’s six guys in the Pro Bowl on one side of the ball and a lot of the other guys are pretty good, too. When we get matched up against each player, we'll have our matchups and we'll see how it goes.
Q: What are some of the challenges of bringing in a guy to the system at this time of year versus someone who has been with you throughout the offseason?
BB: Yeah, well it's definitely a game of catch-up. When players come in at the beginning, they’re able to get a progression of installation and learn from the bottom up, build a foundation and work their way up. Now it's more of a game plan situation so we don't have all of our plays in for this game. We would never do that. But the ones that we're running this week, those are the ones we'll focus on and we'll try to catch up on as much as we can but we have to prioritize what's going in for this game, what we need for this game, so we'll start with that first. It's a little bit of a backwards way of doing it but it's the best way to prepare for a short window and try to catch up on all of the other things as much as we can – the terminology, all of the fundamental things, things that we're not going to be doing this week that are important, but we won't get to all of those this week but we'll try to catch up on those as soon as we can, but that's a challenge.
Q: Are guys allowed to have a little bit more of a learning curve in that regard?
BB: Yeah, well sure, it's a big curve. We wouldn’t expect them to be able to do what players that had been here for, let's call it six months going back to April. There's no way they're going to be able to catch up to that so we evaluate them off of what we give them. It’s not the first time this has ever happened, so we have an idea of what’s a reasonable expectation. Everybody learns differently. Everybody adjusts differently. Some players have been in similar systems. Some players have a lot more to adapt to, but we'll do the best we can to evaluate it and see how it goes.
Q: How difficult was the decision to release Riley McCarron after seeing him progressing through the offseason and training camp?
BB: Well, it's always hard to release a player. We had to do that the week before with 37 players in one form or another. Look, it's our job to put the most competitive team out on the field that we can. That's what we're going to try and do.
Q: Does their offense change much when Leonard Fournette is on the field as opposed to T.J. Yeldon?
BB: Or [Corey] Grant. They have a lot of good backs, so it doesn’t really matter who's out there. They've all been productive. I'd say they've all been productive against us. They're different. They're all good. We can’t control who's out there, but whichever one we have to defend, it'll be a challenge for us. We'll have to be aware of which one's out there. They have good depth at that position.
Q: What did Ja'Whaun Bentley show you in such a short amount of time that led you to trust him out there in so many snaps this past Sunday?
BB: He's done it every day. But that's what he’s done his whole career in football. It's not that big of a surprise to me.
Q: With all of the rotation in and out of the receiving room, what have you noticed from that group regarding how they've handled that sort of constant turnover as of late?
BB: I think everybody’s mainly just focused on what they have to do and trying to do the best job they can with it. That’s what they should be doing, so I think that's what they're doing.
Q: Have you noticed anything specifically from Chris Hogan or Phillip Dorsett who have been a steady presence in that room all this time?
BB: I think they're trying to do the best they can, just like everybody else is. Yeah, absolutely. They work hard. They’re both good players. They’re smart people. They can play multiple positons. We've asked them to do a number of things. They've tried hard to do them. I mean, that’s what everybody’s trying to do.
Q: Is Blake Bortles' mobility an underrated aspect of his game?
BB: He's good, yeah. He runs well. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s hard to bring down. He can extend plays, so just similar to the quarterback's we've seen, really, the past three weeks, not counting the Giants game, but we've seen this three weeks in a row with players that have that type of skill and, yeah, he's definitely in that category.
Q: How does Jacksonville's offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, utilize the mobility of Blake Bortles with his play-calling on offense?
BB: Well, I mean there's occasionally plays that, I would say, are designed for the quarterback but not many. A lot of his plays are either on some type of option decision based on what the defense does, or there are times where he'll just pull the ball down on a pass if the quarterbacks not properly contained and he has an opportunity to run and gain easy yardage for a first down, or a touchdown, or scramble situation. He'll do that. I mean, any quarterback will do that. But he can do a lot of damage there. The play he ran against the Giants looked like a read-option and he kept it when the end closed and there was nobody there and he ran for 41 yards. If they had that covered he would’ve handed the ball off. There’s some plays like that. Like I said, I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of designed plays for him but I’m sure they have a couple in their offense. I would. He's certainly capable of it.
Q: How unique is the speed and athleticism they have at linebacker?
BB: Yeah, it's pretty special. Those two guys are really fast. [Myles] Jack is a strong player. [Telvin] Smith Sr. is fast. He covers a lot of ground, obviously, and very athletic. Yeah, that’s as much speed at linebacker probably as most any team in the league.
Q: How much can that affect the short passing game?
BB: If they cover it, it'll affect it. If they don't, then it won't.
Q: How difficult of a player to prepare for is Yannick Ngakoue?
BB: He's a really good speed rusher that has more than speed, but he wins with speed and he makes you defend the speed and then he sets up other things off of that. That’s definitely his go-to move, is his get-off and his edge rush and his speed. But when you overplay that, he’s quick enough to come underneath. He can turn speed into power and he can counter, so he's certainly got enough to be a problem in a lot of ways. His speed is hard to stop and his get-off, especially at home with the crowd noise, silent count and all that. He's good everywhere. I mean, we had trouble with him here in training camp and at home, but it's harder on a silent count and so forth. He does a good job there and he's, again, complemented by some good inside pressure, guys like [Calais] Campbell that can move the inside part of the pocket and not allow the quarterback to step up away from the edge rush that he and [Dante] Fowler a lot of times have. [Malik] Jackson, and Campbell and guys like that that are up the middle of the pocket keep the quarterback from stepping up. Fowler and Ngakoue are on the edge and keep the quarterback from standing back, so there's not a lot of space in there. They've got a very balanced pass rush. It's not one guy. It's not one thing, and then they run games with it and occasionally they blitz the linebackers, too. They do a good job. It's a lot of hard guys to block.
Q: Did you guys take a look at him when he was in the draft a few years ago?
BB: Yeah, sure.
Q: Mark Bavaro referred to Rob Gronkowski as an 'old school tight end in the modern game.' As someone with as much experience in the game as you, is that a fair characterization?
BB: Yeah, sure. There's no better authority on that subject than Mark Bavaro, so I’ll go with Mark. But yeah.
Q: What would stand out to you about Rob that puts him in that category?
BB: All of the things that Mark talked about.
Q: How much can you learn from the AFC Championship game last year and the joint practices you conducted with Jacksonville in 2017?
BB: Training camp was a long time ago. A lot of people that were in that camp aren't going to be on the field. A lot of them are, but a lot of them aren’t. The last time we played them, again, it was only a couple of games ago, not counting the preseason games, so it's a pretty recent game. I think there's some relevance. The teams are at two different points at that point though. The teams had had a long time together and played a lot of games and were at a certain level of execution that I’d say at this point of the season nobody is at that point of execution that you're at in the middle of January. We'll see how it goes.
Q: When it comes to incorporating new players, how do you weigh what perhaps a player can do physically versus perhaps lack of understanding of your system and the adaptation that will be needed there?
BB: Yeah, you just have to make that judgement. That’s what it is. Obviously, nobody’s going to be able to come in here in a couple of days and be able to know what somebody who’s been here for months, or in some cases, years, has done. But I’d say, that being said, we've had a number of players that have come in here and contributed to our team significantly in their first year over a period of time. Again, we'll take each individual case as it comes and see what it brings.
Q: You rotated a lot of players through the front seven this past Sunday. Is that a matter of trying to figure out what you have or were you just trying to avoid fatigue among that group?
BB: Well, it’s always a case for trying to do what we think is best to give the team the best chance to win. That’s what it always is. Whatever it is, that's the reason for it, which there could be a combination of things that would factor into that. In the end, we're going to try to put the most competitive team out there that we can, whatever that is. That’s rotation of players, multiple players, the same players and so forth. We’ll just do what we think is best.
Q: How rare is it to find a defensive lineman like Trey Flowers that can be stout against the run but also generate pressure on the quarterback?
BB: Trey's a good football player. He's done a lot of different things for us and he's a well-rounded player. He can play on all three downs. He's played outside, played inside. He's able to play heavy on a blocker. He's able to play on the edge of a blocker. He makes plays on the backside. He makes plays at the point of attack. He's got a good skill set. He plays hard. He's a smart player. He's instinctive. He's productive. I'm glad we have him.
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