PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
January 3, 2024
BB: Rolling on to the Jets here. It's been a while since we've seen them. They look pretty good. Starts with the pass rush, they have a really good defensive line – a lot of tackles for loss, a lot of pressure on the quarterback and had a lot of impressive defensive stats in games. Offensively, [Breece] Hall and [Garrett] Wilson really have been targeted a lot, handled the ball a lot, both really, really good players. They've got a lot of other skilled players too – tight ends, [Allen] Lazard, Izzy [Israel Abanikanda]. So, good football team, played really well against Washington. Obviously, some early in the year, but most recently against Washington. It was pretty impressive. [Greg] Zuerlein's having a good year, made 25 in a row or something like that, minus the one that was blocked. [Xavier] Gipson, explosive returner. Well-balanced team got a lot of good things going on.
Q: Is today a shorter practice than maybe a normal Wednesday?
BB: Kind of like last Wednesday. We've got a few guys banged up here.
Q: Would you ever manage a game in such a way where those guys that are banged up are – you're almost thinking about the offseason and next year for those guys and giving them less on their plate?
BB: I don't think I really understand the question. See where the guys are going into the game and based off where they are in that game, talk to them, talk to the medical people. That's kind of what it is.
Q: Given the season, there's no playoffs ahead, would you ever think about sitting a guy down even if he's active and available and clear, technically?
BB: Players want to play – practiced, worked all year to play. If they can play, I wouldn't not play them. I think that's fair to the player. I don't know, maybe you see it differently.
Q: Having Bill O'Brien back this season, what has he brought to the offense?
BB: Bill's an experienced coach in our system, in football. He's got a good background in a lot of different areas, can help with, really, all positions offensively, as well as putting things together from a big picture standpoint.
Q: Have you seen with his help, have you seen a growth in [Bailey] Zappe? I feel like as he's been the starter, we've seen him kind of evolve and get better. Do you give that in part to Bill O'Brien?
BB: Yeah, sure. Bill does a good job with the quarterbacks. I think he prepares them well.
Q: Just following up on Bill O'Brien for a moment. Yesterday, he talked about the inconsistency of the offense, shouldered some of the blame for that. I'm wondering from your perspective for the team this year and the performance in general, is that more on the coaches? Is it on the players, a bit of both?
BB: Yeah, right now we're just really looking to put our best game out there against the Jets. Look back at this season after this season.
Q: Have you had any conversation with Robert Kraft this week about your future with the team?
BB: Yeah, I'm looking forward to working, getting ready for the Jets here.
Q: Your team got eliminated from the playoffs, but they have played well since, particularly on defense. Are you particularly proud in how they've responded and how they've followed your leadership the second half of the season here?
BB: These guys are coming in to work pretty hard every week.
Q: I think Tyrone Wheatley Jr.'s window is up today. Do you plan on activating him to the active roster?
BB: No, I don't think so.
Q: Now that Zappe's gotten a few starts, have you seen him grow more comfortable into the role? What have you seen in him now that he's had a few opportunities?
BB: Yeah, sure, definitely. Experience is always good for a young player. But, each week's different. What the Jets do and how we play the Jets is different than last week, or the week before that, or the week before that. There's some carryovers, some layering, but there's also new things each week now.
Q: Do you start thinking at all about whether he could be your guy next year? When do you start evaluating who might be your quarterback beyond just week 18?
BB: Right now, we're getting ready for the Jets.
Q: Do you expect Trent Brown to practice today?
BB: Yeah, I don't think he's on the injury report.
Q: Coach, I know you're not big into individual stats, but DeMario Douglas has the most catches and receiving yards for a rookie wideout in your tenure. Can you speak to his growth throughout the season and what you've seen from him?
BB: Yeah, Pop's [DeMario Douglas] done a good job of serving different roles offensively, different positions, different roles, different type plays, and also some in the return game. He's a smart kid, works hard, pretty instinctive player. So we've been able to do some things with him, a variety of things with him.
Q: Have you seen teams try to defend him differently over the last month or so now that he's maybe a little more established?
BB: Yeah, you'd have to talk to those teams about how they game-planned it or didn't game-plan it. I wouldn't say I've seen anything that specifically targets him, but maybe within a call they do, I don't know. You'd have to ask them.
Q: Bill, you talked about the Jets defensive front. You've got a lot of young lineman who've had played a lot of snaps, [Atonio] Mafi, [Vedarian] Lowe, who you acquired right before the start of the season, even Jake Andrews. Collectively, individually, how has that group of players progressed?
BB: Baptism under fire. There'll be more this week. These guys are really good. They play a lot of different spots, so they're not always matched up against the same guy. You've got to block different players. They're good, they rush the good passer as well as any team we've played. With multiple guys, you've got a lot of guys to stop. those guys learn every week. They're young players who get experience, teach some things, and hopefully it will pay off in the long run.
Q: Bill, Juju Smith-Schuster went on the IR last week. Obviously, I don't think his production has been what anyone would expect or thought it would be. What do you think happened with him this season? How would you describe his season?
BB: He won't play in this game, so I'm just worried about this game.
Q: You've had three players start every game, David [Andrews], Kyle [Dugger], and [Davon] Godchaux. What are your thoughts on Godchaux and what he's meant to the defense, especially stopping the run?
BB: DG's [Davon Godchaux] had a good year. Really a professional player. Prepares well every week. Does a real good job understanding blocking schemes, who he's playing against, how different teams want to run the ball, even though it might be sort of the same block. There's sometimes different subtleties in that. Who the backs are, how they'd like to run. He's really good with the other guys that he plays with in terms of helping them understand how the runs are going to get fit and so forth. He's done a good job. Had a good year.
Q: What have you seen from Mike [Onwenu] this season in terms of progression? He has expressed that he'd like to come back, have you any talks on that front?
BB: Yeah. I'm not going to get into any contract discussions.
Q: What have you seen from him this season in terms of his growth?
BB: He started the year at guard. We talked after the Las Vegas game and started playing at tackle. He's really embraced that. I think he's had a pretty good year out there. It's not totally new for him. He's been out there before. He's seen a lot of good players and has done a pretty solid job. He'll see more this week. Multiple guys out there that he'll face that are all good. [John] Franklin-Myers, [Will] McDonald, [Jermaine] Johnson, [Bryce] Huff. So, yeah, they've got a lot of good rushers.
Q: How trying has this been with offensive tackle, four guys on the injured reserve and moving pieces all over the place there?
BB: Yeah, that's not the way we thought it would happen when we acquired some of the guys at the beginning of the year. But it is what it is.
Q: The fact that this is the final week of the season, what's your message been to the team just to keep them locked in with no playoff implications going into this week?
BB: Same as it is every week. This week's about the Jets. Last week was about Buffalo. Week before that was about Denver.
Q: After all these years, any love lost for the Jets?
BB: I have a lot of respect for what Coach [Robert] Saleh has done. Put together a pretty good team down there.
Q: I'm curious, last game of the season calendar is going to flip to the team building period at some point. Would you consider using the last game of the season as almost an information gathering opportunity for some younger guys who haven't played a lot? A bunch of guys, Marco Wilson, who you just acquired, or Jake Andrews. Would you play those guys more than you otherwise might?
BB: We're going to get ready to play the guys that deserve to play against the Jets. I think they all want to play.