PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH McDANIELS
Q: Could you share your thoughts on what you kind of receiver you’re getting in Antonio Brown and how he might help your offense?
JM: Yeah, Antonio's been a productive player, obviously, his whole career. We've had to defend him numerous times in my time here in New England. [He is] just an overall solid player that has done a lot of good things in our league. I think for us, it's just how quickly we can get him acclimated to our process and our system and to things we do here and just build trust on the practice field, and then see how it goes and kind of let that determine how we build it from there.
Q: How much is Brian Flores' familiarity with your personnel a topic of discussion in your offensive meetings? Does it affect anything in terms of how you approach this week?
JM: There's obviously familiarity both ways, but I would that that probably is the case most of the time. I know he was here, so that may give him a little bit of insight about specific people and the way we do things and all those things. But, I think honestly, at this point in time, the best thing for us to do is really not concern ourselves with all of the things that they may know or could know or what type of advantage is gained in that regard and really to focus on the things we need to do to improve. The other night, we didn't run the ball as well as we needed to run the ball. We didn't play very well in the red zone. There's plenty of other things that we need to do and fix and get better at as we head into game No. 2 of the season. We haven't done very well down in Miami. That's well-documented. We're going down there, we're going to play in the heat against a team that's scheme has changed since the last time we played them. They've got a lot of players, or at least a decent chunk of players, that we've played against, and they've had some success against us in the times that we've played down there. And that's kind of where our focus is going to be at, rather than trying to chase ghosts in terms of what may or may not be an advantage based on the relationships we've had.
Q: As a play caller, is there any pressure to get someone like Antonio Brown involved and involved early, despite the fact that he hasn't been with you guys until the last couple days?
JM: No, the goal for us is always the same – have a really good week of preparation, try to make sure our guys know what our plan is and we've prepared them as best we can for the opponent, and then go out there and take care of the football and score as many points as we can playing complementary football. We have a lot of good football players on our team and a lot of guys that have roles that they can perform well. We've got to go out there and put our guys in good positions to be successful, hopefully, with a really good week of practice. We'll see how it goes as we go forward, but certainly we've always had the same concept in terms of our run game, pass game, our offense in general. We're going to try to throw it where we're supposed to throw it and we don't try to force the ball anywhere or to anybody because that's not necessarily the way we do it.
Q: Do you ever take into consideration that you could be throwing too much information at your players? How have you seen the players on offense be able to study up on the playbook and learn all these different personnel grouping and variations that you might use on a game day?
JM: Well, you're only as good as what the players can execute. Every week, we try to make smart decisions about what we want to have in, what we need to have in, and most importantly, what we can do well. So, as coaches, that's what your job is. We should always be mindful of making sure that our guys can execute what it is we ask them to and do it well and be aggressive. That's kind of the mindset we have. Whatever the groupings are, whatever the scheme is that we feel best about using based on our personnel, we'll always try to do what we think is going to give us an opportunity to be successful and play within the team concept and do the things that we need to do to help our team win on offense.
Q: What's made you more comfortable in the past few years to use Julian Edelman more as a passer in certain situations?
JM: Well, I think the first thing is trust. Whenever you're going to decide to have someone other than Tom [Brady] throw the ball, I think that's where you have to start, and you certainly have to feel comfortable with why you're doing something. We don't certainly go into each week with those types of things ready to go. It has to be a certain situation or a certain thing that makes you feel good about trying that. Otherwise, you don't ever really want to do that. But, Julian's demonstrated an ability to take care of the football and protect it when we ask him to try those things. And that's just as important as making it go by throwing a good pass and getting a productive play as what happens when the play isn't necessarily good and you have to trust the person that you handed the ball to or threw it to to make a good decision. Anytime we do that, no matter who it is, they have to do a good job of taking care of the football, and he's done a decent job of that.
Q: How did you feel the offensive lined performed, first in wake of David Andrews' loss, and later in the game when Marcus Cannon was injured? How do you feel going forward possibly without Marcus?
JM: Yeah, I think Pittsburgh had a really good front, and those guys battled and competed, generally played penalty free until the very end – which was disappointing at the end – but I'd say for the first 50 minutes of the game was a good thing. Certainly, I thought the pocket, for the most part, they did a good job of trying to protect Tom and give him an opportunity to step up and throw. We can always do better in a lot of areas of our offense after Week 1, and that's where our focus is going to be. But those guys, they hung in there, they battled, they prepared hard, they've got a great attitude and mindset. You know, Joe [Thuney] bumped over to right tackle when Marcus went down and [Jermaine] Eluemunor went in and played at left guard, and those guys are ready to do those things and it takes a lot of preparation and time and studying to be able to make those adjustments and do those types of things. They gave us an opportunity to move the ball and they did the job that we asked them to do as best they could to compete. I thought they were in good condition and they played hard for 60 minutes. Certainly, it's going to be a big challenge. Marcus is a good player, and we're going to need some guys to step up and play well. And I think that's going to be an important part of this week and our preparation going into Miami.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE LINE COACH BRET BIELEMA
Q: The defense did a really good job stopping and containing the Steelers rushing attack. From your perspective, how important was the defensive line in that?
BB: The thing that was exciting to watch on Sunday, and then obviously when we critiqued it Monday, was the guys overall in general up front played to the plan. I thought they executed what we worked on during the course of the week, and then obviously the results spoke for themselves. A pretty good example of what we do during the course of the week – the way we prepare hopefully carries into the game, and they adjusted that during the game, as well, because the game evolved as we were able to move through it. The guys handled it all very, very well.
Q: How versatile a group is that defensive line, and how comfortable are you in moving them all into different positions along the defensive front?
BB: It's been a fun group to work with. You know, they really do buy into the philosophy that they just come into work every day, do what they're supposed to do. You've got a guy in Michael Bennett who's been in the league for a long time, to a newcomer that came to our team and has bought into it, so he's a veteran but he's also new to the New England system. And he's alongside Lawrence Guy for most of the game. Him and LG were paired out there together on early downs and then a little bit into third down, as well, at the end of the game. So, I thought it brought a lot of versatility to our group. Then you had Adam Butler in there, as well. Danny Shelton came in and did some really good things. It's a group that even though they play specific roles, they're able to do different things within different groupings and hopefully continue to do good things overall.
Q: Even though Byron Cowart was inactive Sunday, what are your impressions on him?
BB: I think it's been fun to see the growth of Byron from the first day we brought him here. During the evaluation process and getting to draft day, you never know what you can completely expect to see how it kind of plays out, and then to get who we would look for and to bring him into the program. I thought during the spring, he really bought into listening to the older players, trying to understand how we do things here in New England. I think, as the spring unfolded, you really saw him come to life, especially the way he's able to translate his strengths. The strength he has as a player, he's got good feet, he's got good intelligence. Then this fall he made another big jump, especially preseason games two and three were good for him. Just the way the season unfolds each week, we'll kind of determine who's active and who's inactive, but I think Byron has really shown that he's able to understand what we're asking him to do. He really does take every day as a new day and gets better every day overall. Hopefully, as he begins to see the results of the guys on the field, he's able to understand the more versatility he has. The ability to play within certain personnel groupings will give him better opportunities for us in general.
Q: Bill [Belichick] has said that he didn't get to see Byron have the opportunity to rush the passer much in college. How have you seen that skill develop from him here since you got him?
BB: It's something that's really grown daily with him. It's such a unique system here – the way that we play games and what we ask guys to do, the way we rush the passer – and he's learned it first-hand. I think he even probably saw himself as more of a run defender, but he's definitely got skills and traits that would make you believe he can be an effective pass rusher. That's probably the area of the game that he's focused the most on during fall camp here, so I think it’s something you'll continue to see grow. I know every day we work on it. I know he puts a huge emphasis on it in the classroom, as well. It's an area that I think he's excited to watch it grow, and when you get a player that's excited about something, then you'll see usually good results as the time wears on.
Q: How much has Brian Flores' familiarity with the defenders on the roster been discussed in team meetings, and does that familiarity affect how you approach this week?
BB: Well first, everybody has a lot of respect for Flo and what he was able to do during his time here. I have great respect for who he was when he was here, and obviously wish him the best of luck as he moves forward. You're always going to have – I think in this league it's probably been the most eye-opening going into my second year – you always have players, you always have coaches, you have a lot of cross over week-to-week of guys that used to be together. I know it's a lot to write about, but I think it's probably something that the outside world looks at a lot more than we do. I think it's a great motivator for guys individually to be able to grow from where we were at on Sunday when we left the field against Pittsburgh to get ready for Miami, and know that the things that they were able to do well on Sunday that we have to be ready for on Sunday, and then the unknowns. Being that this is only regular season Week 2, you just don't have a lot of film out there and the way that game unfolded. To see exactly what's happening in our game, it's going to be a lot of “get to the game, see what it is and be able to react to it.”
Q: How have you seen Danny Shelton grow from last year to this year? He made a big third down stop in the second quarter.
BB: I thought Sunday's game in general was just a nutshell of what we've seen in Danny overall. Danny obviously has a lot of abilities. The things he does well, I think he's aware of them, and we've got to use them specifically in the defensive line room to help us as a defense in general to help this team. But you're exactly right, that play was a great recognition, it was great use of his techniques, and then he was able to finish the play with not only just shedding the blocker, but also making the play on the running back. I think it is a good confidence builder for Danny. I know he didn't get a lot of plays on Sunday, just the way the game unfolded, but he has shown us that since he came back to us last spring, to being with us this fall, that he's definitely somebody that we can lean on and continue to get good results. I will tell you this, he's worked very hard to get where he is, and hopefully the good things will continue to come to him.