PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Alright, we've had quite a bit of time here to work on the Texans and obviously right in the middle of our preparation week. So, we've got a couple big days coming up here. Impressive team, as they always are, very well-coached - Billy [O'Brien] and Romeo [Crennel], now Brad [Seely] down there in the kicking game. They have a lot of outstanding players in all three phases of the game, so they present a lot of problems from a personnel standpoint and present a lot of problems from a scheme standpoint. They're a well-balanced team. They're explosive in all three phases of the game. They've consistently been one of the top defenses in the league in every category pretty much when they're healthy. And offensively, when they had things rolling last year with [Deshaun] Watson averaging 40 points a game, we obviously saw the explosiveness in our game last year. So, we have a lot to get ready for. Opening Day is always a challenge because the amount, the volume of all three phases and all the situations and all the things that have come up between last year, this year and new personnel and so forth. The Texans have quite a few new players. Everybody has new players on their roster. They have quite a few - I bet a third of their team has been turned over. So, we've got a lot of new people there to prepare for, get ready for and some of their best and most important players look like they're ready to go. So, that's where we're at this week. Like I said, we still have quite a bit of work to do. We're well underway, so we'll work through it here this week and hopefully clean things up by the end of the week and be ready to go.
Q: The Texans have a couple new defenders that are new to their team in Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin. How difficult is it to forecast how they'll impact the defense?
BB: Yeah, look, those are all the Opening Day questions. I mean, we could go through 20 of those, and that's two of them, and you can just keep piling them on. So, we'll see. We'll see. They know. We don't know. I'm sure they're asking some of the same questions about players on our team, and that's Opening Day.
Q: Is six games of Deshaun Watson enough of a sample size to have a good grasp of what their offense will be? Or do you have to be ready for things you haven't seen before?
BB: Well, I mean, Bill's a very good offensive coach, so it wouldn't make any difference what we had. Billy's always going to create problems for the defense based on the scheme and utilization of personnel and attacking your weaknesses, whatever they are. So, there's always going to be an element of that. Again, we'll prepare for what we prepare for, and I'm sure we'll see things that we haven't prepared for, just like we always do and always happens on Opening Day. So, again, Opening Day is Opening Day.
Q: In Watson's last five starts, their offense scored touchdowns on 75 percent of their red zone trips. What factors make a quarterback like him so effective there?
BB: Yeah, well, they have a lot of great players. They run the ball well. They have a great receiver, they have a very athletic quarterback, they have several other receivers, running backs, tight ends - [Bruce] Ellington, [Will] Fuller, obviously those guys. I mean, you just go right down the line - [Ryan] Griffin, [Lamar] Miller, [Tyler] Ervin, [Alfred] Blue. So, they have a lot of guys that score or can potentially score. It's not all one guy, it's not all one receiver, it's not all one play. It's a lot of different things. You've got to stop the run, you've got to stop an athletic quarterback, got to stop good receivers, got to stop good tight ends. So, we'll have to deal with all of it.
Q: How unique is Watson's skillset?
BB: I mean, he's a very talented player.
Q: What are some of the keys to keeping him in the pocket and not letting him scramble?
BB: It's team defense. It's not one guy that can stop him. We're going to have to do a good job as a team. That's the way it always is when you play a good quarterback.
Q: Does it make it more interesting to go up against coaches whose schemes you know well, like O'Brien and Crennel?
BB: Yeah, I don't really see it that way at all. So, I'd say no.
Q: How significant is last year's game against Watson in your preparation?
BB: Yeah, I mean, we've seen it. Sure. We've seen all those games from last year.
Q: Did you see improvement from Geneo Grissom on the defensive side of the ball this offseason and summer?
BB: Yeah, I think Geneo's had a good spring, good summer. He had a little more opportunity to play. I mean, I think all our players improved.
Q: Were the defensive improvements he made key in helping him make the roster this year?
BB: He's been on the roster for four years. So, yeah, as players gain more experience, they do things better. That's always a good thing.
Q: Will you watch tape of mobile quarterbacks this week as you prepare for Watson?
BB: We'll just watch Houston. I mean, if Watson's not in there, we'll watch [Joe] Webb. I mean, it's not just one guy. They have other guys that can do it. So, you can watch two quarterbacks do it in their offense. That's probably as good of a look as you're going to get.
Q: Is the challenge to improve the team any greater at the beginning of the season when rosters around the league are changing a lot more than in the middle of the season?
BB: Yeah, it's always like that this time of year. So, yeah, that's one of the things that happens in late August and early September, mid- September, is those type of roster variations, movements, with all teams throughout the league. It's the time of year we're in. I'm sure that will be something that we'll continue to stay on top of. I mean, we always stay on top of it, there's just more of it now.
Q: After all these years in the league, do you still get excited for Week 1?
BB: Yeah, it's a big challenge. We'll see what happens on Sunday, but yeah, we're excited to get going.
Q: When it comes to defending DeAndre Hopkins, is it his body control that separates him from a lot of other receivers?
BB: Yeah, body control, hands. He makes some spectacular catches. He's kind of always open because if you just put the ball where he can get it, he can get it. And, no matter where the defender is, there's some spot away from the defender that if you put the ball there, he can come up with it. So, he's good at everything. He's very good at going up and getting the ball down the field, he's good on intermediate routes, good on catch-and-run plays. He's good in the red area, he's good on third down - I mean, the guy's one of the top receivers in the league. He gets the ball thrown to him a lot. He comes up with a lot of plays. Even when it looks like he's covered, he still comes up with the ball, draws a lot of interference penalties. So, I mean, he's a tough guy to stop.
Q: Yesterday Coach O'Brien talked about the importance of defending the middle of the field. How difficult does a player like Mathieu make it for offenses to use the middle of the field?
BB: Yeah, well, he's a good player. He's a very instinctive player. He's around the ball a lot. So, yeah, it's certainly somebody we're going to have to deal with.
Q: How much do you have to keep your eyes on Whitney Mercilus?
BB: Yeah, he's a very good player. He's a very explosive player. He plays for them in the kicking game. Defensively, like all their defensive linemen, he lines up in a lot of different spots - sometimes on the outside, sometimes he's on the inside. Wherever he is, he's a tough matchup. So, he's a good player, very good.
Q: What have you seen in terms of Sony Michel's progress?
BB: Yeah, he's working at it, getting better every day.
Q: Are there any specific ways where he seems to be getting better?
BB: Yeah, I mean, everything. He missed some time, so he's a little bit behind, but he's working hard to catch up, on and off the field, in all areas.
Q: Are there any similarities between Mathieu's style and Patrick Chung's?
BB: Yeah, there probably is. I don't know. I think there's a lot of differences; there's probably some similarities.
Q: Is versatility one of the strengths of Mathieu's game?
BB: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, he's played a lot of different spots in his career. We'll see how the Texans use him. I don't know. He might only do one thing for them, or he might do a lot of things for them. I don't know. Again, those are some of the things that won't come out until we get into the regular season - they start game planning and using personnel matchups more extensively than what we've seen in the preseason. I don't know.
Q: Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have similar size and length. Are there advantages to having similarly built players playing both corner positions?
BB: Yeah, there could be. Yeah. I mean, if players are somewhat interchangeable, then you don't necessarily have to have a certain matchup if you're trying to create a matchup. So, yeah, that's helpful or it could be helpful, depending on what you're trying to do and who you're doing it against. All players are different, but when there are certain similarities that, again, give you an interchangeability between two players, then that lessons the need to [have] one guy always doing one thing, another guy always doing another thing type of thing. So, it could be.
Q: Against a defense that moves its linemen around, is there any change in offensive line communication or how they line up? Is that an emphasis this week or is there any change there?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's a big mystery. It's just you're blocking different people. So some weeks, certain guys will block certain guys on 80, 90 percent of the plays. I don't think that's necessarily the case this week. I mean, they could be in four-man front but just have their players positioned differently. It's not like there's big change of assignments, but you're blocking a different person, so the way you block them and what their playing style is and so forth could change, especially when you're talking about some of the guys that are as elite as the Texans front is. So, we'll just have to identify who it is. You still - I mean, identifying them is probably the easy part. Blocking them is the hard part.
Q: How would you say the skillsets of Watt, Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney complement each other on that defensive line?
BB: Yeah, I mean, they're all good. [D.J.] Reader, [Christian] Covington - you can put them in all there. They're all good players. They're different, but they're all very good, hard to block, they're athletic. They play with very good technique, they're well-coached. Obviously Romeo does - a former defensive line coach. He's a great technique coach, very good fundamental coach - as good as any I've ever seen. So, that's the way they play, and yeah, they're all good.
Q: With Brian Schwenke back, what does he bring you? Were you uncomfortable going with seven offensive linemen on the active roster?
BB: You know, he's picked up things well. It looks like he has some position versatility, has some experience, feel like he's earned the spot. So, I mean, everybody that's here we feel like has earned it, so that's why they're here.
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