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Transcript: New England Patriots Conference Calls 9/19

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 Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
September 19, 2017

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Q: Would you categorize Eric Rowe as a player who is ascending, descending or generally at about the same level on a consistent basis?

BB: Well, you know, Eric was in a tough situation last year. He came in during the season, didn't have the benefit of training camp, the foundation of the systems, a lot of catching up on the way, which I thought he did a real good job of and he helped us a lot. But this year it's been much better for him to be able to be here from the beginning with a year of experience behind him. [He has a] much better understanding of what he's doing, what our opponents are doing. Some of the techniques and so forth that we use are a little different than what they had in Philadelphia. He's definitely gaining with the experience that he's received and earned.

Q: On that same note, where would Malcolm Butler fall on the scale of rising or descending players?

BB: Well, Malcolm has more experience. He's played more, so it's really totally different, a totally different situation. 

Q: Has Malcolm Butler performed as consistently this season as he has shown you in the past?

BB: Well, look, we're into a new season, so I don't think anybody's performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be. We all need to do a better job – players, coaches – all of us across the board. Hopefully, we'll all continue to get better during the course of the year. That's why we practice, and meet, and come in here and work hard, so hopefully we'll all be able to improve.

Q: What are some of your initial thoughts on what you've seen from Deshaun Watson?

BB: [He's an] athletic player, good poise, has a good arm. I think he can make all of the throws he needs to make. Obviously, can throw on the run, a really athletic guy.

Q: How nice was it to be able to meet up with Steve Gleason, with whom you've shared a close bond, following the game down in New Orleans this past Sunday?

BB: Good. Yeah, good. Yeah, Steve and I have a mutual friend. He let me know that Steve was going to be at the game. I have a ton of respect for him, and the difficult situation that he's in and his family, but he's a tremendous person and has a great will. I know he's an inspiration to all of us.

Q: How did you think Elandon Roberts performed this past Sunday and how much has he progressed since his rookie season?

BB: Well, Elandon always plays well, always perform hard, is a productive player for us. He gives us a very consistent effort and level of performance in the roles that he's asked to perform. I thought he did again in New Orleans.

Q: What have you learned about Lawrence Guy that you didn't know before and how would you assess his performance and adaptation to your program and techniques?

BB: Yeah, Lawrence works hard. [He's] very willing to do everything that we ask him to do, really tries to get things right and very professional. He's really a pleasure to coach and, like I said, a guy who really wants to do everything that he can to help the team, whether it's the same or different from the way he's done it in the past. He's very willing to try to do whatever he can possibly do to do whatever the team needs.

Q: Why has David Harris not seen much playing time and what kind of role do you see for him going forward?

BB: Well, we'll see how it goes going forward. Each game is different. Each game has different matchups and different requirements in the game. David's a very experienced player. I think he brings a lot of positives to our team. We'll see when those opportunities come, but I'm sure that they'll be there.

Q: How much of these games early in the season are a chance to see what players and schemes will be effective for you going forward in the season?

BB: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Is Alan Branch still trying to get his conditioning up to par after missing some time earlier in the preseason?

BB: Well, we've only had two regular season games. I don't think any of the players are where they are going to be from that standpoint. We all have work to do there. I wouldn't say that anybody's there. Maybe our specialists, I don't know. But we all have a lot of work to do in terms of our techniques, our conditioning, our awareness, our reactions and so forth. There's a lot of work for all of us to do there.

Q: What did you see from Jonathan Jones on the two pass breakups he had last Sunday versus the Saints?

BB: I thought on both of those plays the technique that he used to finish the play, the final reception point, was excellent, perfect. It was textbook technique, what we teach all of our players to do, but it's a great illustration of Jonathan doing it and having two big plays, two very productive plays. Those are good examples for us to show, not only him, but all of the other players in terms of playing those types of passes and finishing in the situation that he was in. Defensive backs only get, usually, not very many opportunities to play balls like that in practice or in the games. It doesn't come up a lot of times in the game. For Jonathan it came up twice in that game, which is, I'd say, is a little bit unusual, that the frequency would be that. But when it does come up it's such an important play that we've got to play it properly. It's so critical to play it properly because of the importance of the play. Again, he did a great job on that and those will be great teaching tapes for him, both him and our other players, that when they're in that position, to see how he did it properly and how successful that was.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
September 19, 2017

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Q: What do you and Tom Brady talk about after a situation like the interception that was called back when the Saints had 12 men on the field?

JM: Well, after each series, we come over and review quickly what happened on each play – what we did, what our assignment was, what the defensive look was. And, if there's anything that we needed to adjust or if there's something we could have done differently or we will do differently moving forward, then we would talk about those things and then be ready to go and start moving our focus towards the next series of things we want to do. So, that would have been, obviously, no different in that series or that situation. I think we ended up punting on that series after a few first downs, but same process as always. We'd come over and discuss those types of things and get ready for the next series of downs. 

Q: The last time you played the Texans, they moved their edge rushers inside a good bit. How have you seen this trend evolve across the league, and what do you coach to combat that?

JM: Well, I think the last few years, people have really expanded what they do relative to the fronts and where they put their personnel on defense. I think across the league, who started it and how it began exactly, I'm never quite sure. I don't necessarily track that exactly, but it's definitely a fad right now and people are using different alignments and different spacing on their defensive fronts to try to create some type of disruption for the offense, whether that be blitz pickup, matchups that they feel are in their advantage or try to attack the protection system if they feel like they know what that is. So, it's all predicated on trying to create either confusion or pressure, and if they can do both, then that's kind of exactly what they're looking for. Some teams have had more success than others across the league. It's certainly something that you have to be ready for and you have to practice and prepare hard for each week – the different volumes of fronts, looks, blitzes, alignments, personnel groupings that the other team may put out there on the field and show you. It definitely is a situation where you've got to be ready to block a lot of different people anymore in our game. It's not just, 'I have to block this guy the whole game and that's the only person I'm going to block.' All of our offensive linemen understand – our tight ends, same thing – that there may be a lot of different faces across from them at different points in the game and getting familiar with those people, getting familiar with the things that they do from those alignments is really something that's important each week as we prepare for the next opponent. So, this week will be a big challenge. They've got a great front. They've got a great defense – well-coached, very fundamentally sound, they can create a lot of matchup situations that they try to take advantage of and try to create some confusion with what they do defensively. They've got really good rushers, they blitz well, they've got good cover players, they make things hard on you and they don't give up big plays. So, that's the hallmark of a great defense, and that's what we have in front of us this week. It will be a big challenge for us.

Q: The Texans have three talented pass rushers in Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt. As an offense, do you have to pick and choose which of those guys you're going to double-team and which you will leave in one-on-one scenarios?

JM: Yeah, I mean, look. You have to put your game plan together and do what you feel is best and in the best interest of whatever it is you're trying to accomplish on that play. I mean, [Benardrick] McKinney's an edge player. He's a problem. Mercilus, Clowney, Watt – their defensive line is strong and physical. Their whole front is really, really dynamic in terms of the way they play and what they can do to disrupt the offense. So, look, we only have so many blockers and they have just as many rushers. At some point, every football game becomes about what you can do and your individual one-on-one matchup, and there's no guarantee that you can double-team this guy or that guy. That's virtually impossible to determine before the ball's snapped, before they align on defense. They don't line up in the same spots every play. So, you've got to be smart and try to do what you can to move the football – run, pass, first down, second down, third down, whatever it might be – against a group like this that's dynamic at a lot of spots. We're working hard right now to put together what we want to do, and our guys are going to have a great week of preparation and try to play the game the right way.

Q: After Chris Hogan's touchdown, Brady was on the sideline with Phillip Dorsett and clearly pleased with his performance. Dorsett was lined up right and the play went left. Can you give some insight about what Dorsett did well on the play?

JM: I mean, there's a little confusion here. Phillip was on the left on Chris' touchdown. But nonetheless, I didn't see the exchange you're talking about, so I'm not really sure that I can comment specifically on exactly what Tom was excited about in that situation. I mean, I'm sure we were excited because we scored, so I'm happy that those guys were sharing positive energy. That's what we want our guys to do. It's hard to make good plays in this league, so when you make a good play, it's great to be excited with your teammates and celebrate together. So, I'm happy to hear that they did that. But, look, I think some guys are fairly new to our group and that might have been about a play that happened earlier in the drive where I think Phillip made a catch to help us get it down there and all the rest of it. So, just sharing enthusiasm and really trying to build on good team energy and trying to go down there and play a difficult team on the road, I think that was our message during the course of the week to really try to hunker down and do your job and be ready and be prepared when you get your opportunities. I'm sure they were excited for one another that we drove the ball down there and had some success on that particular possession. 

Q: What are your impressions of Zach Cunningham and how has he fit into the Texans defense?

JM: Yeah, I mean, he's a guy that has great movement ability, good cover speed, he closes well, he's a disruptive guy when they play zone coverage, can read the quarterback's eyes. He's a guy that's hard to get away from because his athletic ability, obviously, at that position makes him a difficult matchup at times. So, he's been playing a little bit more in their base stuff with [Brian] Cushing out. I'm sure his role has expanded as the year goes on like most rookies do, but this guy's an athletic guy that can be disruptive as a blitzer or cover guy, fits into what they do well. He's got a lot of good players around him, so that's always a big help.

Q: What are your impressions of Andre Hal?

JM: Yeah, he's a smart player, very active, as you saw in our preseason game – he got his hands on a ball or two there – disruptive guy, physical, not afraid to put his nose down in there in the running game, can cover and disrupt you as a pass receiver. He's a good player and certainly he knows their scheme very well, does a good job of communicating in the back end. They very rarely make any mistakes. They're well-coached, extremely well-coached, and that shows up in their communication. They don't make mistakes, don't give up easy plays, don't give up easy yards and, ultimately, that's the responsibility of a safety is to not give up big plays. They're the last line of defense. So, they do a pretty good job of that, and Hal, obviously, is kind of the guy that they look to back there to get them straightened out.

Q:  How have Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead progressed in the passing game?

JM: Yeah, I think each guy has come in here and worked hard to try to learn our system and understand exactly how we do things here and getting better each week putting a lot of time and effort into it. [They] work hard at practice to try to really understand the nuances of their position and what we try to do with our backs and the assignments we give our backs in the passing game, not only in route running and catching the ball, but also in protection. They play a significant role in that, as well. Mike had a couple good chips the other day in the game in New Orleans. Rex caught a couple balls. They're working, just like the rest of our backs are, to try to get prepared and each week understand what their role is – run or pass, blitz pick up, whatever we may ask them to do – and they both factor into the kicking game, too. You know, competitive group, competitive guys. They've added to it working hard to try to get better each week like the rest of us are.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA

CONFERENCE CALL
September 19, 2017

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Q: What has stood out to you when you watch Deshaun Watson?

MP: Yeah, I mean obviously I think we've got a guy that we got to see a little bit in preseason who is a very dangerous quarterback. I think he's a guy who gives them a different approach to the offense. He's very calm. He's a real smooth guy. This guy is an experienced guy from the standpoint of he has played in some big games before. He can make throws downfield. He's got a strong arm [and can] make all the throws there. I would say his ability to run the ball, his ability to escape pressure brings just a whole other level of a dynamic to their offense. I think he does a great job of handling the volume that they give him week in week out. Bill [O'Brien] does a great job with the offense and the game plan format where they'll change and attack a defense a certain way one week and then change it up the next week. So he's obviously shown the ability to handle that from the standpoint of the understanding of the offense and the opponent's defense. I think it's a guy that the team really rallies behind. I think that they know that with him he can make some big plays when they don't have a lot of options and they really have a lot of confidence in him to be able to do that.  

Q: What has gone into the decision to play a lot of zone coverage early in the season? Is it more challenging for the players from a communication aspect?

MP: I mean I think week in week in our coverages, our fronts, our calls, our different looks that we go in, it all changes. So I can't really sit here and say that it's really one particular thing, it's probably pretty balanced overall if you take a look at it. I think that we try to do a good job of changing it up and mixing it depending on what we have to defend. The situation has a lot to dictate with that, the team we're playing, the field position. It has to do with the game itself. I can't really say that there's anything – it's just one thing. That's not really kind of what we do. I'd say in general for us the communication as a defense as a whole is something that we're working on. It's obviously something we had to improve after Week 1. I think hopefully we've taken some steps in the right direction with that but we certainly need to keep improving that and move that forward. It's got to be something that we can build on each week to get better at and it certainly becomes more challenging every week as the season goes. Offenses advance the things that they're doing. We're trying to make sure that we keep up with that in response. Our communication is a big part of it.

Q: Malcolm Butler was moved to the third cornerback spot last week. How would you describe his performance and level of consistency this year?

MP: Look, I think all of our guys – I think maybe the way that question was worded is not actually the way that I would put it. I think all of our guys are ready to go when they have a role in the game and they play and they try to play at the level we ask them to play at. So certainly we have different packages that we put out there and guys play in different positions depending on what group is out there. I might never know what the first call of the game is going to be. It might be a personnel group that isn't listed on the flip card and that doesn't mean that someone is a certain position or not, it just means that that's what we're putting out there to start the game based on what we're getting from an offensive perspective. I think everybody for us has to get ready. I think with Malcolm [Butler], he's kind of in a boat with everybody else. We're trying to get better. We're trying to improve. We're trying to put guys out there depending on the situation that we have to be in, can play the defense that we're asking them to play on that down. That would true for everybody across the board – the front, the linebackers. It's Week 2 right now. We're trying to, in that particular game, just get better than what we did in Week 1. We'll be doing the same thing here moving into Week 3.

Q: Have the Texans been able to add any new elements to their offense following the addition of Deshaun Watson at quarterback?

MP: Yeah. I mean he obviously gives a whole other layer of things that they can do. But I will say this, through the years with Billy O [Bill O'Brien] and even going back a couple years when we played them, they will always have something that involves the quarterback. Whether or not you think it's a traditional quarterback that say runs the read option or can run wildcat or whatever the case may be, they do a great job of game planning and putting in different personnel groups so that you have to prepare to defend those things when they do come up. I would say there's a lot of the same that they've done in the past. I think it's just easier to point to it and say 'well you know they're going to be able to run the read option offense, or this offense or that offense' but I think it has really always been in the packages that they have. They just try to ,again, week in week out, run whatever they think is going to be the best against you. I would certainly say from the standpoint of extending plays just with Deshaun Watson, his ability to move and his speed and obviously his skill set to make tacklers miss and get out into open space is definitely at a very high level that we've got to prepare for. 

Q: Over the last two years Malcolm Butler has played on 97-98 percent of total snaps. Was his reduced playing time in Week 2 based on Eric Rowe's assentation or inconsistency from Malcolm so far this season?

MP: I think Coach [Bill] Belichick obviously answered a lot of those questions too. In terms of asking me as far as for us defensively, you know it's all about this year. I think what things have gone down in the past doesn't really matter to us. We're trying to get better for this year and the guys that are out there and positions or where we think they need to be right now currently and to help us win that particular week. Certainly with Eric Rowe involved coming in and having a full offseason, OTAs, training camp and doing a good job for us from that standpoint, I think all those guys that go out there and play have earned some time on the field and whatever that is depending on how the game is going kind of just plays itself out when we're in the particular situation we're in as far as the game is concerned.

Q: Regarding the touchdown run that Deshaun Watson had against the Bengals defense this past Thursday: what kind of teaching principles does that provide you in terms of his ability in open space?

MP: Yeah. You're exactly right. It's a great opportunity for us to look at him in a situation where it's obviously a critical situation in the game from a clock standpoint, from an operation standpoint, trying to get into a position where they can score points. It highlights his ability to make plays when things break down. I think from the standpoint of his athletic ability in open space, we certainly unfortunately saw his athletic ability in the preseason game also down there [with] his ability to make guys miss. He just has really good body control. Like I said, he's a smooth athlete so you may think that you're in a good alignment or you may think that you have a good tackle lined up or you may have good leverage and he just has a good ability to ruin that leverage on you pretty quick which was evident again the other day. I think the bug thing there is making sure that we all understand that once this guy does turn into a full-blown runner and he's declared as a runner at that point, that we have to make sure that we do a really good job of hustling and getting everybody to the ball to try to put ourselves in a good position to tackle him because he is difficult to tackle. I'd say again, just in general with their offense I want to make sure this doesn't go unnoticed, but obviously they have one of the best wide receivers in the league with [DeAndre] Hopkins. There's a certain element there from a coverage standpoint you have to respect that and make sure you handle those different things that they do from their personnel standpoint, which gives the quarterback an opportunity to get some space and to extend some plays and take off if he has to.

Q: What have you seen from Adam Butler through this summer and early into the season?

MP: Adam is a young guy who came into our program and really has tried to learn as much as he can. He has done a good job of trying to understand our techniques and the way that we like to play in both the run and the passing game. He works extremely hard. He's got a good skill set. He's athletic for a big guy and he does a good job of running and hustling and getting to the ball. [He's] still got a lot to learn though. We're putting him in some different situations and positions and asking him to do some different things. But the guy just works hard [and] really is trying to learn the whole game. I think one of the things that helps a guy like that is he so far has demonstrated the ability to understand different positions which makes him flexible which makes him be able to go out there and line up in different spots, which from a standpoint for us allows us to take a look at him in different positions and give him an opportunity to be on the field in different alignments. So that's another good thing for us.

Q: Following the game against New Orleans, Devin McCourty agreed that the team tackled better and that teams across the league tend to struggle with that in Week 1. Do you concur with that and is that something that you expect will get better as the season goes on?

MP: I mean we're constantly trying to improve tackling. It's a huge point of emphasis for us in practice. Obviously as a defensive player your number one job is to tackle the guy with the ball. So I think it's something from the standpoint of through training camp, through preseason, you [only] have so many shots at it from a live standpoint and everyone at full speed for 60 minutes. I think when you get into that Week 1 you're really hoping it's at a particular level and then you might find out that it's not quite where it needs to be and you've got to make sure that you can get it to where you expect it to be and get it there quickly. We've got to maintain it and improve it. It's one thing during the course of the year I think that is critically important for us is to be a good tackling team and to make sure that we keep the point of emphasis on tackling [so that] Week 12 is the same as we had Week 2. I think it's something that, again, you go through the season, you get into full speed games here [for] 60 minutes and you find out 'well we're not as good as we thought we were' or 'hey we're in a good spot' or what. You try to evaluate it or improve it or try to take a look at different things that maybe aren't as good as you want them to be.  

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