PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: It's another big week for us in the division, so it's always tough with the Jets. We know that. First of all, just with Adam [Gase], I think he does a terrific job. Certainly, we've had a ton of problems playing against him in the past. He's a very good football coach. Does an excellent job with the team, certainly offensively, of creating problems for all defenses, especially ours. That'll be a big challenge for us, just handling the strategic aspect of the game, the matchups that he creates. Same thing on defense. Coach [Gregg] Williams does a great job. They're very aggressive on defense, they cause a lot of negative plays. They had the four turnovers against Buffalo. They do a good job of mixing it up and making the offense, I'd say, uncomfortable with dealing with the different schemes that they utilize. They keep it simple, but they're very aggressive and they create a lot of problems with a fairly – I wouldn't say it's a complex system, but it causes a lot of problems. It has a good amount of balance and complementary plays along with disguise, so it fits together well. It's obviously a problem to deal with, and Coach [Brant] Boyer on special teams, it's an excellent group there. They have a lot of team speed. Certainly, I'm sure – feel better about the kicking situation after last week, but that's always a dangerous part of playing against the Jets. All the way across the board, we've got a lot of work to do. I'd say mentally this is not the easiest game because of the amount of things that they do and how well they do them. So that'll be a challenge for us here, as well as just what normally comes with preparation for the game. It's a very physical team. [Le'Veon] Bell, [Jamison] Crowder are two big additions offensively. Bell's clearly one of the top backs in the league. Outstanding with the ball in his hands, great receiver, just a really hard matchup player and does an excellent job of breaking tackles. He's a hard guy to get on the ground, whether he spins, jumps over guys, makes them miss in the open field, puts his shoulder down and runs through them. And Crowder provides a lot of versatility for their offense without having to substitute, so they can use him in a lot of different ways in their jet motion packages, option routes, putting him in various positions that make it difficult for the defense to recognize and defend. Of course, you have [Robby] Anderson, who's one of the top deep threats in the league. The guy's got tremendous speed and deep field playmaking abilities. So they're able to really attack the defense at all three levels on a consistent basis. The defensive front is good. [Leonard] Williams, [Quinnen] Williams, [Jordan] Jenkins, [C.J.] Mosley – I mean they've got a lot of good players – [Jamal] Adams, and you just go right down the line. They have good players at every level of the defense. They're explosive, they're contact big-hitters, cause negative plays with their aggressiveness and contact plays. So ball security and making good decisions with the ball are going to be critical for us on Sunday.
*Q: What does Coach Dante Scarnecchia mean to this team, especially this year with the offensive line? *
BB: Yeah, Dante does an excellent job of developing younger players and getting older players and the playing group to play cohesively, and with good communication, and trust and accountability for each other. He's an excellent game-planning coach, and an excellent in-game coach in terms of making adjustments and recognizing what the problems are and fixing them. Very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach with him for, going all the way back to '96, for so many years.
Q: You always talk about Le'Veon Bell's patient running style, but how quick is his first step when he hits the hole?
BB: He's a very explosive player. Yeah, if it's there, he'll hit it. If not, he does an excellent job of setting the blockers up and making the defenders commit, and then finding space and going. You don't see him running into the back of his blockers and running into a pile and things like that. He makes guys commit, and then he finds space and is able to get to it. He's an excellent player.
Q: What kind of challenges do Gregg Williams' blitz packages present to your offense?
BB: Yeah, they do a good job. They run a pretty good amount of blitz-man and they add in quickly, so if the player blocks that the defender is covering, then he just adds in on the blitz. So four or five becomes six, six can become seven in a hurry. They also have an overload blitz package, which compliments their single blitzers. But again, single blitzers often ends up looking like more than one blitzer because they get there so quickly on the add-in. So they have a good complimentary package and it'll be very challenging to not only our pass-protection and run-blocking schemes to get a hat on a hat, but also for the receivers to get open quickly and to make adjustments based on the leverage that they play those coverages with.
Q: Do you see any differences in Bell since you last saw him in 2017?
BB: Yeah, he looks pretty good. He looks fresh. Yeah, looks good. Catches the ball well, is very good in the open field, he's a strong in-line runner.
*Q: Is C.J. Mosley doing anything different now that he's with the Jets, from what you saw against Buffalo? *
BB: Very instinctive player. He's around the ball a lot, 10 career interceptions, returns for touchdowns. He makes a lot of tackles, and he's just around the ball. So like the interception against Buffalo, the ball was bobbled and he picked it off. Same thing. He causes a lot of fumbles, he recovers a lot of fumbles, he's just kind of always there. Reads things very quickly, smart player, and he's a hard guy to get on misdirection and things like that, play action, he diagnoses those very quickly. So he's a good tackler, he runs well, has good range, has good playing strength. He's one of the best players in the league.
Q: We haven't seen him much in games, but what have you seen from Matt LaCosse on the practice field and meeting rooms?
BB: Matt's very attentive. Smart kid. Picks things up well, works really hard. He's just been limited here since the Detroit game, but he's tough. He's working through it, so hopefully he just keeps getting better day-to-day.
Q: As far as progress with his comfort level in the offense, what did you see last week?
BB: Yeah, I mean it's just been slow because he hasn't had the opportunities to be on the field as much as he would like or we would like, or in order to get that timing and those repetitions. But he takes advantage and does everything he can do in the meeting room and walkthroughs and film study, and the reps he has on the practice field, but still, we've got a long way to go. He really hasn't played a lot of football with his teammates, through no fault of his, it's just that's what it is. He just hasn't really played a lot of football this year.
Q: What's the approach when you're facing a team that is in an emergency quarterback situation like the Jets? Do you have to prepare for the team to run more in order to keep the ball out of the quarterback's hand as often as possible?
BB: Well, I think nobody knows the quarterback situation better than Coach Gase does. He feels like Falk has more experience in the system, which he does, than any other player that they have. He was with him last year, he went through all of the game plans, went through all of the adjustments, had a whole year of it in Miami. [Sam] Darnold didn't do that, [Trevor] Siemian didn't do that, so I think that Coach Gase has expressed the confidence that he has in his quarterback and I believe him. I don't think he would've brought him there and he would've put him in there if he didn't have that. I don't expect the offense to change.
Q: Do you see Caleb Benenoch being more of an interior player for you or playing on the outside of the line?
BB: We'll see. It's a good question. He's played both, so we'll see. I'm not sure.
Q: How have you seen Josh Gordon re-integrate himself to the team since his return and does it seem like a continuation from where he left off last season?
BB: Yeah, I don't know, where last year ended – you can't really re-start there. You have to start all over again. Josh has worked hard and he's made progress. I think he still has a long way to go. We have 14 regular season games left so we'll see how it goes.
Q: What have you seen from Jamal Adams that has made him such a dangerous player so early in this career?
BB: Yeah, he's very aggressive, a physical player, a contact player, very aggressive in the running game. He's fast, he's a tough player. He's around the ball a lot, too. Similar to Mosley, different position but he gets involved in a lot of plays, plays with great effort, hustles all the time, has a great motor.
Q: When you have four receivers and one running back on the field, how does that put stress on the opposing defense?
BB: Yeah, well it depends on how many defensive backs you have on the field. We were running into the same thing last week with [Kenyan] Drake, this week with [Le'Veon] Bell. It's the same thing. There's really five receivers out there when you have a back like Drake, Bell or [Ty] Montgomery for that matter, who played receiver earlier in his career at Green Bay. So, if you have four defensive backs, you're kind of a guy short. If you have five defensive backs, you can matchup to them but then you have no deep help in kind of blitz-zero coverage. If you have six defensive backs, you can kind of play whatever you want. Zone is zone, so if you want to play man-to-man, you've just got to decide how you want those matchups to go, how long you think you can hold up in them, or play zone and if you feel like you can't matchup then there's a zone option. There's some different options there. It's definitely a problem, it's definitely a problem. If you have five receivers on the field, you generally don't want to put six defensive backs out there until it's third down unless they're true receivers, like when Pittsburgh was using five true wideouts. [Ryan] Switzer kind of played a little bit of running back for them but it's not like having Le'Veon Bell back there, or Drake back there, or somebody like that, so it definitely puts pressure on the defense.
Q: Do you feel like you're seeing more of that?
BB: We see it every day in practice, so we see James White and Rex Burkhead out there, it's the same thing. You have five receivers out there. Those are hard matchups for players who aren't good, experienced coverage players playing at all of the positions because those guys could line up anywhere. It's the same thing with Bell, again, or Drake, or Montgomery – other guys like that. They could be outside in a corner-type alignment or they could be somewhere inside in more of a linebacker or safety-type of coverage area, traditionally. It's definitely a problem. But again, we've seen that every day in practice so that's one of the good things about our offense, is we've been able to – no backs are any more of a problem than these two guys are for us to cover. We've seen plenty of it. It still is a problem but it's not like we don't see it every day in practice.
Q: What improvements have you seen from Rex Burkhead heading into this season and through the first two weeks of the season?
BB: Rex has been a good player for us. Everybody improves and can work on little things every year, but I'd say overall he's been a pretty solid player for us. He plays on all four downs. He can run the ball, he can handle all of our regular down plays, he's a good third down back. James White's a great third down back and Rex can play in all the big four in the kicking game – kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. He's one of the most versatile players on our team. I'd probably put him in that category with [Patrick] Chung that can just do stuff on every down. Devin [McCourty] would probably go in that category, too. Maybe Kyle [Van Noy]. But, you know, there's a handful of guys like that that can just play on every down but those guys are rare, and then to play at a high level like Kyle, Devin, Pat, Rex do, as a coach, that's a tremendous luxury to have on your team, to have players that are that versatile in terms of the variety of things they can do, and then that versatile in terms of being able to do it at a high level in all of those situations. You're lucky to have one of those guys on your team, maybe two of those guys on your team. We have more than that so that's something that's really a great help as a coach in terms of game planning and also managing the entire roster because they just give you so much depth. Even if we never use it, it's still great because you know that, "OK, well that position is secure." It might not come up, but even if it doesn't come up, you don't have to waste a lot of time trying to get somebody else ready because you know that you have somebody that you can put in there that can handle that.
Q: When evaluating your running game, how much weight do you put on the success or failure of the situational runs like goal-line situations and third-and-short versus the overall picture?
BB: Yeah, well, the situational plays, as you've identified, are very different from the other ones so really being able to get a yard or two when it's third or fourth-and-1 is more important than being able to get five yards on first down. Although, five yards on first down is a good thing, too. Don't get me wrong. But it's all important. Again, we look at the overall production of our team in every area – offense, defense, special teams, run game, pass game and the things that we're doing well, we want to continue to do those well. The things that we're not doing well, we need to do them better or either change them or do what we're doing better or throw them out and find something else. That's an ongoing process from early in training camp, but it really starts more at this time of year when teams are playing you the way they want to play you. They're not just out there running plays like they are in preseason games. They're not matching up – now they're matching up, now you're seeing they're trying to attack your weaknesses, you're trying to rely on your strengths. Are your strengths your strengths? How weak are your weaknesses? How strong are their strengths? That's something that we've got to constantly evaluate. Look, sometimes you run into a team that's very good at something and so you're not going to have as much production in that area, or they stop one thing but you find production somewhere else. That's part of it, too. We just try to take all of those things into consideration and do the best we can. It's a great question and I would say the answer is not always straightforward. That's what we get paid for, is to find the right answer so we'll just keep working on it.
Q: You mentioned versatile players like Chung, Burkhead, Devin McCourty. Are you able to identify guys that have that positional versatility coming out of college or is that something that develops once they're in the league?
BB: Potentially. Yeah, potentially. And look, I'm not saying we're right on everybody. Sometimes you look at guys and you think, "Yeah, this guy can do these things." Maybe he's done them in college, maybe he hasn't. It's a lot easier if you've seen him do those, although that's not a lock that it's going to happen at this level, but at least you've seen him do that so that's good. Some guys you maybe haven't seen him do it and then you don't find out until later, like [Julian] Edelman, that he can return punts, he can cover kicks, he can even play receiver. We didn't know any of that about him. Sometimes you think, "Well, maybe," but that's why he wasn't drafted in the second round. I mean, there were a lot of questions about him coming out. He's answered them all, but there was a process for that to occur. Devin, Chung, Kyle – those guys were highly regarded coming out of college that had good careers and they've done a lot of things, really, from the time they came into their career, whether it was like Devin returning kickoffs and playing coverage. He could play on everything but it's hard for us to play your starting safety on every play, but he's had to do it at times and he's done that. The same thing with Chung, Kyle, Rex could play every play but right now we have good depth at that position, we're able to utilize multiple players. As I said, when you're coaching special teams and you've got 66 players that have to be backed up by another 66 players and you only have 43 on the roster, 45 on the roster, 46 on the roster, but you really don't have that because you have your specialists, you have some offensive linemen, the quarterback. When you get rid of those guys, you get your roster down to about 30 in a hurry, so now you're trying to back up 66 players with another 66 players. Forget about offense and defense – that's a whole other conversation. I mean, if you have a guy like Burkhead, "OK, he can play these three spots on the kickoff team. Chung, McCourty – they can play these two spots, OK." You can back up the whole kickoff team with two or three guys, that's a good thing. You might not have to use them but, again, you don't have to get 10 other guys ready for all of that when you can do it with two or three guys, or the same thing on punt return, punt team, things like that. There's a hidden effect there and, yeah, nobody knows, nobody even cares until you get an injury and you get a punt blocked, then it's a world crisis. It can go in a hurry, but those kind of players give you tremendous value, versatility, guys like [Dont'a] Hightower and [Jamie] Collins – look at the end of the year, they might not have a lot of plays on special teams, but to have them and know that they're ready to go if we need them and they don't need to take half the reps in practice to be ready to go gives you tremendous value as a team and allows you to use the players who are going to play to give them more reps and go through more things with them and help prepare them without having to spend time with those backups, so I would just say until you've been through that, which as a special teams coach I went through that for many years, I don't know if you really appreciate how valuable those guys are. I certainly do.
Q: Now that you've had a week to see Antonio Brown in your offense, can you start coming up with plays and designing elements of your offense that can utilize him as a specific matchup?
BB: Yeah, sure. There's things we can utilize him for, or Josh [Gordon], or anybody else. It's just a question of volume and, again, time and reps. You can't put in 20 new plays when you have, call it, 90 plays in practice over the course of a week. You can't put in 20 plays and expect to be able to rep those and get them right and then do all of the other things you have to do. You have to be selective. If you want to put in something new then how much time can you allocate to it, how much are you going to use it, how effective is it going to be? Do you really want to put in a play that's going to gain five yards and waste 10-percent of your practice reps during the week on that? I don't know. I'd rather work on a play that's going to gain 50 yards. You just have to decide how you want to do it, so can you expand it? Sure, it's not infinite. We're not in training camp. We've got to get ready for a game, so there are other considerations with other parts of the team and other players on the team that you just have to try and balance all of that out. I'm sure each week we can add a little more with new players whether it be [Marshall] Newhouse, or Korey [Cunningham], or Antonio, or Josh, or Matt LaCosse – there's another guy that hasn't played very much football. Those guys, as they get more back into, in this case, offensive flow then, yeah. It's not limitless. We just don't have that many opportunities.