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Transcript: New England Patriots Conference Calls 10/9

Read transcripts from the New England Patriots conference calls from head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia which took place on Monday, October 9, 2017.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
October 9, 2017

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Q: How has Patrick Chung developed his skills over the years to allow himself to be able to play multiple positions in your defense?

BB: Yeah, Patrick has really good versatility. He does a lot for us defensively and in the kicking game. He has a lot or roles there, as well. Pat works hard. He's athletic. He tackles well, has good playing strength for his size, really does a good job at a lot of things. I would say the tackling is definitely a strength of his and has been through the years. He's a tough kid. He's there every week for you.

Q: What do you see from him from a leadership standpoint off of the field?

BB: Well, I think his experience is a big thing. As you referenced, he's been in a lot of big games. He's played against a lot of good players. He's met every challenge throughout the course of his career. He's played against all of the top tight ends and a lot of slot receivers and matched up against a lot of the guys that we've had here - Julian [Edelman], Wes [Welker], all of those guys. I think his confidence and his overall playing style, like you said, a real good leader by example. If guys do the things that he does then they're on the right track. 

Q: How much consideration did you put into practicing today versus deciding to make today a day off and resuming practice on Wednesday?

BB: Well, we take everything into consideration, so where we are as a staff, where the players are, the team we're playing, preparation and so forth. In the end, we just feel like the schedule that we'll be on this week is the best one for us.

Q: How would you assess the performance of the special teams units through the first five weeks of the season?

BB: I think we've been competitive. We need to be more consistent. There are things we can do better. We haven't had a lot of return opportunities - kickoff return opportunities - but I think there are some positive things there even though there's not enough yardage to show for it. We've got to do a better job. We've got to do a better job in both areas of the return game. We've had a little more on-paper production on punt returns but it's kind of the same thing. There's just things we need to do better. The same thing on kickoffs and punts; there's been some positives in our coverage. I don't think punt return has really been a big issue, but there are things we need to do better in terms of coverage and our specialists are good but, I mean, there's room for them to improve, too. We need to work on everything and that's what we'll do.

Q: What do you know about your team through the first five weeks and what do you want to see from them moving forward through October in terms of the characteristics that will define them?

BB: Well, I mean, we just need to work to get better in every area. I think individually we can all improve and each of the smaller units can improve, whether that's offensive line, receivers, running backs, linebackers, defensive line, whatever it is. Each of those units can improve and we can improve overall in the three - special teams, offense and defensive units. We'll try to focus our improvements in those areas. We'll look at each player individually. How can they improve? How can we improve the positional groups and how can we improve overall as units? Each week we'll make some adjustments and modifications, what we're doing, some by game plan, some as we feel like we have a better - more direction on what it is we're trying to get done, so it'll be a combination of all of those things.

Q: Do you feel that this team has a solid base to build from in order to achieve those things?

BB: Yeah, I think we can get better. Other teams will be improving, too, so we'll have to see if we can improve at a higher rate than our opponents. That's always the challenge.

Q: Trey Flowers has seen a high level of snaps through this part of the season. What are some of the challenges for a player of his size to remain on the field for those opportunities and what have you seen from him thus far on the defense?

BB: A big level of conditioning is good. Trey works hard. He's given us a lot of quality snaps. He has, as you said, been on the field quite a bit but, you know, he's earned that playing time. We'll see how it goes going forward. He's got good versatility for us. There's a number of different things that he can do well. He works very hard to perform well. He trains hard. Some of that is the function of other players on the team and their roles and, again, what defense we're in, the type of team we're playing against, how much nickel, how much base and so forth. We just have to see how all of that goes on a week-to-week basis. He's done a good job for us and I'm glad that we've had him out there.

Q: How far along has he come in terms of his ability to do other things than just rush the passer?

BB: Yeah, quite a bit. I don't think he was asked to do a lot of that at Arkansas, but we've asked him to do some of those things in terms of coverage and playing inside, playing in the three technique. He did  a little bit of that in college but not a lot, probably more since he's been here. He's done a good job of applying himself in those situations and being a good contributor for us there. 

Q: Would it be fair to say Nate Solder has been a little more inconsistent this year than we are used to seeing from him?

BB: Well, again, as I said before, I think that overall as a team there are things that we all need to do better; coaching, playing, adjustments and so forth. Sometimes we haven't just executed things the way that we want to do it. There have been a number of reasons for that. Again, all of us can improve and do better. That's what we're going to try and do.

Q: How much do you think the time missed in training camp has hurt Nate Solder this season?

BB: Well, of course, the reason why we have practice is so that players can improve. I think any player that practices has more of a chance to work on his fundamentals and improve them than a player that doesn't practice. But that being said, most players somewhere along the line miss some practice time or a game, so that's something that each individual player has to deal with from time to time. You want to have as many players out there as you can and have them improving individually and have them working with their teammates, but as we all know, that's hard to get 100 percent attendance on that. If it's not, then there's another person that steps in and does it, but ideally you want everybody out there, but there's not a team in the league that has that.

Q: Are you confident that he can reach the same level of play that he has been at before?

BB: Again, our team isn't centered around one position or one player. It never has been. I can't imagine it will be in the future, so it's a combination of all 11 guys working together offensively, 11 guys on defense, 11 guys in the kicking game. Ultimately, I think that, yeah, each of those units, that we can improve and we can play good, winning football with each unit, which we've done at times and then it hasn't been consistent enough in any area. As I said, every position can get better. Look, it's a team sport and all 11 players have to perform well for the unit to be successful and that's what we're all working towards, so that involves everybody.

Q: What are your thoughts on the AFC East through the first five weeks as the only division with all four teams having a record with a winning percentage of .500 or above?

BB: Yeah, I don't really know about all of the teams in our division. I've been focused on the teams that we've played and now, certainly, the Jets. So, I don't know if I'm really the expert to be talking about everybody else. I just, honestly, have been focused on the teams that we're playing and not so much on some of the other teams. But you've got to be impressed with what the Jets have done. They've had three weeks in a row that they've played well. They've done a good job offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. They've made some big plays in all three areas, don't turn the ball over, play good defense, play well on special teams. It's always tough with the Jets. It'll be tough this week. Again, I have a lot of respect for Coach [Todd] Bowles and the job that he does down there and the way that they've been playing.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
October 9, 2017

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Q: In what ways has Chris Hogan expanded his game this year? Do you feel he is more capable of doing certain things in this offense now than he was a year ago?

JM: Chris works really hard to try to make himself a better player and to help our offense any way that he can every single week, and he's done that since he got here. He definitely, I think, like most of our guys in their second year, they know more, they're capable of doing more and we ask a little bit more of them in some ways, shape or form. I think Chris was already on that program and he was already headed in that direction in the spring and in training camp. He's done a lot of different things for us. He's played different positions, he's been inside, he's been outside, we've utilized him a lot of times as a blocker. We've thrown to him down the field, short passes, third down, so he's really trying to expand what he knows and what he can do for us. We have a lot of trust and faith in him. He works extremely hard, is a great example for a lot of our younger guys, just in terms of how to prepare and how to work and look forward to try to build on that and continue to get better and continue to grow in his role in our offense.

Q: Would you say what he is required to do in the offense changed immediately when Julian Edelman went down?

JM: No, I mean, what we've always tried to do is what the guys - what fits them the best. We're never going to force somebody into a different role if that's not something that's really suited for what they do well. He was growing in his second year in a lot of different areas, but that had nothing to do with any injuries. That's just him as a player - more experience, understanding our offense and our system more, just the communication and relationship with the quarterback, the passing game - so he was expanding that regardless of injury or situation or circumstance. I think we're just continuing to try to build on that.

Q: To what degree was Rob Gronkowski's absence on Thursday night a surprise? How did you prepare the playbook to accommodate for his game status?

JM: I don't know how close or not close - I mean, I'm really not involved in those conversations. I just, as we go through the week, as a coach, you're just aware of guys that maybe have some limitation relative to potential injury or something that's bothering them, and we deal with that every week. There's a lot of bumps and bruises in our league, and that's just the nature of this sport. If you are planning for a role for somebody in your game plan, whatever position that might be - tight end, receiver, running back, tackle, quarterback, guard, center, whatever - and there's a potential that the guy is dealing with an injury, you just have to know what your backup plan is. It doesn't mean that you'll always change everything in your game plan. You could just put the next guy in at the same position and keep everything the same if you thought that was what was best for the game or that was what was best for the team. In Rob's situation, there's some things that we ask Rob to do that maybe we wouldn't ask another tight end to do, and that's OK. So, if those are the situations you have, then you have to either be prepared to move on from those things and not do them, or if you want to keep the scheme in and you feel like doing it with a different player is the smart thing to do, then you try to do that, too. I just think we're so used to doing that week-in and week-out, maybe not for a specific skill player every single week, but there's a lot of challenges in terms of backing things up. Again, like I said after the game, Nick Caley, the tight ends coach, Chad [O'Shea], coaching the receivers, they really had to do a tremendous amount of preparation with their groups and really just making sure that the guys that were going to back us up in some of those situations were ready to go and play dual roles if they needed to. So, the players deserve the credit. Certainly, they're the ones that got ready on a short week and were ready to do that if that situation arose, and the coaches did a good job of preparing them for it. As soon as we get the information in pregame that that's what we're doing, then we just make the changes accordingly and then try to go ahead and do the best we can during the game.

Q: Tom Brady said earlier this year that his continuity in this system allows him to have the answers to the test. Do you feel like your continuity with Bill Belichick, Brady and this offense allows you to have the answers to the test in a way you didn't before?

JM: I think continuity is great, and understanding what your role is and what's expected of you - that's a good thing for any employee. I would say that I feel like I know what my job is or my role is. I think all of our coaches and players understand that because the communication is clear and we understand what we need to do to help the team win on a week-to-week basis. That's really the most important thing to me. I would say each test each week is different, and it takes a tremendous amount of time and preparation from our staff and from our players to prepare hard each week to get ready, just to go in there and play the game and compete against the best players and the best coaches in our league. Those are difficult challenges. I don't take anything for granted. I don't have any answers prior to preparing and trying to do the best we can with the time that we have each week. So, it's a long process. It's a process that we believe in here that we go through to try to put ourselves in position to be competitive and to play complementary football and try to do whatever's asked of us on Sunday or Monday or Thursday night, whatever it might be, to help our team win. So, I hope that answers the question.

Q: How much do you think Nate Solder's performance this season relates to missing a portion of training camp?

JM: Well, that's one man's opinion. I think there's a lot of things that happen during the course of a game that could try to pin on one player, but there's 11 guys out there on offense and there's a lot of things that go into each play. Not every play is the same protection. Not every play is the same timing. Not every play is the same run scheme. There's a lot of things that go into good plays, and there's a lot of things that go into plays that don't work the way that we would like them to. I think Nate battles a lot of the best players in the league over there at left tackle. He's done it for a long time. Just like every player, there's going to be some plays that could you improve on them? Sure, but there's a lot of good plays, too. It's a team thing. All our guys, all our coaches, our players, we're all trying to improve and get better. This season is a long season. It's a process for us to try to play our best, coach our best, and that's what we're working hard to do. We all understand that the best results that we can get are going to be when 11 guys on every play are working as closely together on the same page as they possibly can through great preparation and understanding of our fundamentals and techniques. Nate does a great job of working at that every single week.

Q: Are you saying that Nate is playing better than it appears?

JM: I don't really stop to analyze one thing or another. We're analyzing every player on every play that we go through and trying to make everybody better. But, like I said, there's a lot of things that aren't as good as we'd like them to be right now, whether they come across as good or not. I mean, we have a lot of things we need to do better, starting with penalties and negative plays and ball security and short yardage and red zone. You know, there's a lot of things where we have a lot of room for improvement. We're critical of everything that we can be critical of because this is the time of the year where you need to start improving and you need to make progress. That's what all our guys are working towards.

Q: Is Dwayne Allen's lack of receptions this season a reflection of his struggle to adjust to the offense, or is that something else more circumstantial?

JM: I think, in many ways, that's just how the game has gone, how the game plan has meshed with something that the defense may have done. Dwayne's learning and adapting to our system and what we do each week. He's only played five games in our offense and continuing to work hard to try to get better. I would say he's not the only one that's in that situation. There's a lot of guys that I would say you'd put in that same group, and they're still learning and processing how we do things and what we do. Again, there's a lot of circumstances and variables in each game, in each play that determine where the ball will go or won't go. I would say that's more of a function of what the defense chooses to do against our scheme. Hopefully, we're trying to do the best thing with the ball each play. But, no, I wouldn't say that's the case. We're working hard and he's working hard and we're trying to get better.

Q: Have you watched James White take his game to the next level this year, where he can almost fill in at wide receiver if you needed him to do so? Also, what stands out to you about what the Jets are doing well on the defensive side of the ball?

JM: Yeah, James works at all aspects of his game very hard. The part of his game that gets the least amount of attention is all the things that he does in terms of blitz pickup and handling all the exotic different looks that defenses give us these days. He's in there on all those snaps and has a tremendous amount of responsibility that we all trust him to take on and do right. He comes through. He's very dependable in that role. But, he's worked on his ability as a runner. He's worked on his ability as a pass receiver, route runner, pass catcher, blitz pickup - a lot of different things. We ask him to chip and do types of things on the edge, sometimes to take some edge off the rush. I mean, he's a very unselfish guy. I don't know that we would ever put him out there and play him as a receiver as a receiver. When he's out there, he's doing things that we would ask our running backs to do. But, he's expanded his role each year that he's been here and he's expanded what he can do and what he does well for our offense. I think that James, each week in the game plan, he tries to evolve in what we're doing with him and do it the best that he can. He's an experienced player now. He's got a lot more snaps now than he did a few years ago, and he understands how he gets played a little differently from week to week, but the big thing with him is he learns his role, he's unselfish, he's dependable to do it right and he's come through under some big pressure. There's a lot of good things that he does for our offense. And the Jets - look, I'd say I'd start with the fact that the last four times we've been there, the game has either went to overtime or come down to the last possession. It's a tough place to play. They're a tough, really hard-nosed, tough, physical team. They know us very well. We know them. They've got a physical front. They've got a very talented front. They've got speed at linebacker. They've got length on the edge. They've got some really, really talented inside players with [Leonard] Williams, [Muhammad] Wilkerson, [Steve] McLendon. Those guys are tough to block and do a really good job for them inside. And then they've got some new guys in the secondary that this will be our first opportunity to play against them and get to know them this week with [Marcus] Maye and [Jamal] Adams. [Morris] Claiborne we've played against before but not as a Jet. So, it's a new group, a physical bunch. They create some situations that you've got to deal with relative to their scheme on all three downs. They're a team that's been opportunistic in terms of taking the ball away when they've had some chances to do so, and they've been stingy in the passing game. There's a lot of things we've got to get ready for, a lot of challenges here. They're good on third down - it's another area that we're going to have to do a good job of really trying to make sure we have a good plan and have a good week of preparation for that, too. First game in the division, excited to have the opportunity to do that and get started against a team that we know, but there's a lot of guys on this defense that we might not have played against before. Coach [Todd] Bowles and that staff does a great job. Looking forward to getting started with our week here.

Q: Both Adams and Maye have played a lot for rookies. What do you see that makes them so good and gives the Jets that kind of confidence in them?

JM: Yeah, they're very talented players. Adams, certainly, he's been a guy that's down near the line - they'll both be down near the line of scrimmage at different times in the game - Adams more than May. Adams has been a good tackler, he's blitzed, he's been a cover guy on tight ends, been extended from the formation in that role. Maye - back in the deep part of the field a little bit more than that, but opportunistic guy. He made some plays on the ball already. You get familiar with these guys in a hurry here because they've played so many snaps and we've been able to see them over the first quarter of the season here, but you can obviously tell that they're talented. They're not out of position. The communication has been good, which is always something you look for in younger players - see if the defense is lined up properly, if they're out of position, if there's some miscommunications and all that - but that's not been the case with them. They've been on the same page, good disguise - I mean, there's a lot of good things to like about these two young players. So, we're going to spend time to get familiar with them, what they've done, what they do in their scheme. Again, that will be a big part of the challenge on Sunday.

Q: How have the Jets been using Kony Ealy and how has he looked in their system thus far?

JM: Yeah, Kony's basically played end, defensive end in their system. He's certainly been a productive guy for them. He's got his hands on some balls at the line of scrimmage. I know he had the one opportunistic interception. He's created some pressure on the quarterback. He's one of a lot of guys that they've got that can do that. So, he'll be in there if he's healthy enough to play in there, along with the guys that are on the defensive line and then those two outside linebackers that end up putting their hands on the ground. They've got a lot of length and they can be disruptive off the edge, also. They've got a deep group. Kony's a part of it now, and we certainly are familiar with some of the things with him from being in camp with him, and [he will] be a big part of the challenge that we've got to deal with on Sunday afternoon.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA

CONFERENCE CALL
October 9, 2017

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Q: The team hadn't turned the ball over as an offense very much prior to this past game. What were your thoughts on how the defense responded in those situations against Tampa Bay?

MP: You know, defensively for us it doesn't really matter how the other team gets the ball. We've just got to go out there and defend the field and do our job. So I certainly think from the standpoint of sudden changes since we're on the sideline quick and we've got to go back out there and make adjustments, whatever the situation is that makes that happen, certainly you want to go back in there with that same focus. Sometimes when you get off the field and then you're trying to get to the sideline and get things corrected you've got to flip that switch and get back out there and be able to execute at a high level. It's good to have those situations come up and for us to be able to handle them. We've got to make sure we continue to do that if and when they do come up and just really - again for us it's more or less just trying to get out there and do our job whenever the offense for other team has the ball.

Q: What is standing out to you with Jets Offensive Coordinator John Morton and what they're doing to be successful?

MP: Yeah, we're into the Jets. It's Jets week and we've got to get on top of this and get going. I think this team is doing a really good job right now of playing good team football. All sides of the ball [are] playing complimentary. I think the offense, Coach [John] Morton coming from his background with the Saints where he's pretty familiar with us too, it'll be a big challenge for us from that standpoint. I think he's doing a great job of really using his weapons that he has. The quarterback, [Josh] McCown, is doing a good job of dispersing the ball. He has some good weapons in the skill positions. They do a good job of mixing formations with some shifts and motions. Obviously the run game really steadies the entire offense, allows them to use that and then push the ball down the field. But they also do a great job with the controlled passing game, kind of the short passing game that spreads you out horizontally also. I think [Bilal] Powell obviously is running extremely well. [Elijah] McGuire, you see him in there too. He does a good job of really - those guys just continually running the ball and the guys up front block very well. The tight ends are a big part of the offense right now so you're going to see them in different roles and like I said, between [Jeremy] Kerley and [Jermaine] Kearse and [Robby] Anderson, [ArDarius] Stewart will be in there will his speed [and] his versatility and really can come at you from a bunch of different directions. They're going to mix personnel. They'll go from big people to smaller groupings and try to attack you in different ways. He's doing a good job of just keeping them very balanced. This is a very balanced offense run-pass wise. They're very balanced throughout the course of the game and I think when they find something that they can attack you with week in week out, they will game plan different looks and different plays that when they can get after you with that standpoint in a game, then they're just going to keep coming with it. Definitely I would say this is a big challenge for us from that standpoint. I think, again, the quarterback, the way he's able to disperse the ball and get it out to the skill players with a combination with their running game, that's really kind of the biggest challenge for us.

Q: Referring to the back-to-back roughing the passer penalties against Tampa Bay, how do you strike a balance between aggression and discipline? Is that something that comes with experience?

MP: I think just from the game the other night, obviously penalties are something that are not acceptable. We're just trying to make sure we coach it the right way and educate those guys on what is allowed and what is not allowed and trying to play within the confines of the game. Certainly something like that that comes up is a huge teaching moment for us where we can go back and show them on film and really explain to them what is acceptable, what is a penalty and what is not and certainly we're always trying to play within the rules. I think as a player you understand like where I can be aggressive and where I can't and what are the situations that allow me to put myself in where I can be in that position to follow through on a play and when I can't. You know, it's part of the process of us trying to get better, obviously, and have a long way to go from that standpoint to improve. It's certainly something that we've got to take a look at and then show the players and make sure that doesn't happen again. 

Q: As a coordinator how do you go about improving on third down, red zone and goal-to-go efficiencies?

MP: I mean those are critical parts of the game. I think you've got to focus on those each week and try to get better at them which is what we're definitely trying to do. Each of those aspects are critical parts of the game where we're trying to execute at the highest level. So we'll go back in each week and make sure that we take a look at what we did the week before and how we need to improve it or changes that we need to make to put ourselves in a better situation there and put the players in a better situation where they can execute at a higher level. So [it's] certainly an area that we're trying to get better at. 

Q: Is that about personnel, execution or a combination? What is the key to improving that along the course of the season?

MP: Yeah, I think through the course of the season you're going to evaluate all of it. You're going to try to - fundamentals will certainly be the top of the list for us. That's where we always start. We make sure we have good fundamentals in all three of those areas, number one, and make sure that we improve on those each week. Then after that it's obviously just going to be trying to defend what our opponents do from that standpoint and then execute that at a high level.

Q: Is increased tight end usage the most significant change for this Jets offense?

MP: The general question that you asked I would say the Jets have always, we've played them for a number of years, they've had a lot of good tight ends there too. I think I would just say this year, like you mentioned, [Austin] Seferian-Jenkins is obviously a big player for them right now. [He] does a great job of really using his body control to get open. So there's a lot of plays you're going to see he's heavily covered and the quarterback has a high trust in the fact that he can feature him and get him the ball and he's going to come down with it. So he's got a big catch radius which helps him there and does a good job of just getting open. They do some things formationally where they put him in situations where the quarterback can identify the defense and the coverage and really understand when he has the one-on-one situation and then try to feed him the ball from that standpoint too. I think they're definitely trying to utilize those guys. It helps them attack the inside part of the defense with the tight ends. Same with the backs. Both those guys, [Bilal] Powell is very good out of the backfield. Those guys can attack the inside part because you have to put a big emphasis on the wide receivers. They have good skill players. Once that happens and then you tie in the tight ends and the backs into what they do, I think [it's] definitely a philosophy of Coach [John] Morton that he's carried through with the Saints, that it really puts more stress on the defense.  

Q: Over the past few weeks there has been a mantra of simplifying the defense to improve communication issues. When do you make it more complicated again? Do you want the players to show consistent improvement before you give them more to chew on?

MP: Well I think every week, like we talk about, it's going to be different. We're going to have to do what we have to do to defend that team we're playing. Certainly it will start from the standpoint of teaching. I think it's got to start with me and I've got to teach and coach better week in week out. I've got to try to make sure that it's in a 2format where they can understand it, they can digest it, they can process it and they can make sure that they can execute it at a high level. All of that is going to start with me. It's going to start with making sure that the week, from that standpoint, is laid out the right way and we can play fast on Sunday. I think for us, again, it's going to be different each week. We're certainly going to do what we have to do to stop the opponent. We can't really sacrifice anything for that. 

Q: It appears that Devin McCourty has played closer to the line of scrimmage this year more than in the past. What has allowed him to be successful in that area?

MP: I think you did mention it, Devin [McCourty] does play - he plays all over for us. So you're talking about a player that is extremely smart, has a high skill set, very tough, very disciplined, fundamentally is very sound in both the run and the pass game. When you have a combination of a guy like that and you can utilize him in a number of different spots, you're just very fortunate. Devin has done a great job for us on and off the field, in meetings, his preparation, his willingness to just do whatever it takes for us to succeed that week. He's really been great. Like I said, he does have just a strong skill set in all of the areas that we ask him to compete in. It's one of the things that helps us the most. 

Q: On one play during the Tampa Bay game, Devin McCourty caught DeSean Jackson from behind on a long gain. Is that a play that you might use as a teaching point to show a good hustle play?

MP: I would say it's exactly what you just said. It's an extremely outstanding hustle play for Devin McCourty and that's what he does. Devin runs all over the field. He plays extremely hard the entire game. It's certainly something that as a teammate and as a coach you're looking at and you really appreciate and you really try to strive to play that same style. 

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