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Transcripts: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and DeMarcus Covington Conference Calls 10/22

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
October 22, 2019       

Q: How did you balance defensive play calling between bluffing and bringing pressure at Sam Darnold last night?

BB: Yeah, well I thought the players really did a great job of that. They disguised the different looks we were in, and they controlled some of the things we did out there and made a lot of good decisions. That's a smart group of players that communicates well and can do things to take advantage of offensive formations and alignments and so forth, and they did an excellent job of that. So, yeah, it's really a credit to the cohesiveness, and communication and understanding of each individual play during the game of how to maximize our tools and things that we can do with certain calls. They did a great job of it, both on the rush, the coverage, the disguise. On multiple levels, the players were really outstanding.

Q: So there's a little bit of leeway there to read what they're seeing and make a decision?

BB: Yeah, well it depends on the call and it depends on the offensive formation – you know, how we want to handle it. So there are multiple variables in there, but rather than try to – look, we can't know exactly what they're going to be in. They just do too many different things. But, once we see how the formation is deployed and where certain players are located, and how close they are together and so forth and so on, there are a number of different things that we can do. Same thing with the pass rush. Depending on where certain players are located – where the tight end is, where the back is, where the quarterback is and so forth – there are options there, too. So, it would just depend on the individual call and what we see, but the most important thing is the players do a great job of communicating those adjustments, getting on the same page. We function well as an entire defensive unit, not just a bunch of guys doing their own thing – that they've done a good job of having everyone on the same communication, so we have good team execution. 

Q: Can you confirm the reports of a trade for Mohamed Sanu?

BB: Yeah, I wouldn't be able to confirm anything. When there is an official announcement to be made, if there is one to be made, we'll make it. But, I would just say in general, any time there is a transaction for a player, there are always a number of steps that have to be completed. So, at whatever point in time we have a transaction to announce, we'll announce it.

Q: How active are you in the trade market prior to the deadline?

BB: Well, that's really an impossible question to answer. Each year is different, each situation is different. Sometimes teams call us and they ask about if we would have an interest in a certain situation. Sometimes it's kind of a mutual conversation. Sometimes we might call a team and ask if they would want to talk about a particular situation. So, it really depends on how it goes, what the relationship is with the team. Sometimes there's previous conversations from training camp or in the offseason or at a different point in time that get followed up on by one side or the other. So, it's an exchange between two teams that are trying to improve and trying to find fair value for it, so it's not the easiest thing to do. It's not like going to the store and picking out an item and paying for it – that's not what a trade is. It represents something different than that. So, like I said, each situation, each transaction is different. 

Q: How do you value draft picks particularly in trades, and is that value ever changing in the league with the CBA?

BB: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. We certainly monitor it and we look at what we feel like similar exchanges are made for throughout the course of the year. There are picks-for-picks more around the draft time, they're sometimes player-for-player, and then there's sometimes picks-for-players and sometimes a combination of players and picks. So, we see multiple varieties of all those exchanges, I'd say this year, which we do every year, and so it really – again, they can all be different. You try to look at the overall value and get a sense of what that value is, but again, each trade and each exchange takes on its own dynamics based on the individual player and the circumstances of the teams and so forth. Do we monitor it? Sure. Is it relevant? Yeah, it's a guideline, but I don't think it's an absolute anything. There are a lot of people out there that want to evaluate those-type transactions, and again, we've seen a lot of them already this year, some for very high draft choices and a combination of players and so forth. But in the end, the decision, by both teams, is to do what's best for their team. And so that's ultimately what the decision comes down to, not how some third party wants to evaluate the exchange.

Q: From your perspective, how unique is Brandon Bolden's versatility on offense?

BB: Well, I think that's been one of Brandon's strengths throughout his career – his high performance level. He's a very intelligent player. Brandon is smart and he can handle a big load offensively and in the kicking game. He's not only a good special teams player, but he plays critical roles and decision-making roles in that phase of the game. And offensively, he's been involved in not just running plays, but I'd say some scheme-type running plays that are a little higher degree of difficulty, along with pass protection and route running, and again, some of the more sophisticated routes that are maybe a little more receiver-type routes than running back routes. It's not like he just goes and stands over the ball on all of his pass routes. He's able to line up in different spots, run different routes and bring that type of, not just versatility, but a high level of execution to it as well. So, he gives us tremendous value and he gives us great leadership off the field with his teammates, with younger players and veteran players as well. I mean, anybody can look at Brandon and be inspired and learn from him – coaches, players, all of us. He comes to work every day, he's ready to go, does his job, tries to get better, knows his role and is willing to do whatever the team asks him to do. You can't ask for any more than that, and he brings it every day.

Q: How different are the two dynamics of playing in the kicking game and playing in the offense?

BB: Yeah, that's really a good point, Mike [Petraglia]. You know, special teams is really all about, mostly all about full-speed and explosiveness, especially in the coverage game. The return game is maybe a little more about position and leverage and making sure that you're able to keep guys away from the runner. But coverage, you've got to close space and gather and tackle a very good and elusive player with the ball in space. You're right. The skills, the tempo, the leverage and the very fast decision-making that's involved in the kicking game – which is always very underrated, in my opinion – is how fast those guys are running, how quickly they have to make decisions, blocking, or covering, or running for that matter. There are guidelines, and there are things you coach and fundamentals that you teach, but having coached those guys for a number of years during the course of my career, they have just a split-second to make a critical decision on what to do in a spatial situation. That takes great judgment and discipline and understanding of a lot of factors, and those factors change in a couple tenths of a second based on new position of the ball, new leverage, and the building up or maintaining of speed by the players involved. He does a very good job of it, again, in multiple roles.

Q: Jakobi Meyers has been very productive over the past couple games. Is this just a case of him taking advantage of an opportunity, or are we seeing him mature and gain trust from the offense?

BB: Yeah, well I think it's a little bit of both. You know, Jakobi's been productive for us all year. He was productive in the preseason, as you saw, and he's been productive at times offensively, situationally. I mean, look, when he's on the field, I don't think he's the player that other teams are saying, “We've got to double-cover this guy.” So, some of the matchups are competitive matchups that he's done a good job with. As he has more production, then those matchups may change a little bit. But, he's done a good job of taking advantage of his opportunities. He's caught the ball well, he's shown quickness to separate and get open. I mean, he's still got a long way to go and a lot to learn and a lot of things that he can improve on. But, he's come through for us in situations for really eleven weeks now, going back to preseason games, as well as training camp and the OTA's in the spring, where he performed well and was able to earn more opportunities, and as he's gotten those opportunities, he's continued to be productive with them. But, again, he still has a lot of things to work on, a lot of things he can improve in and we'll see where all that goes, but it's certainly encouraging to see the consistent progress that he's made over the course of these weeks.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH McDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
October 22, 2019

Q: There’s a report that the Patriots have acquired Mohamed Sanu. What would a player like that bring to your offense?

JM: Well, Mike [Petraglia], I’m aware of the report, but honestly, we haven’t had a meeting or anything like that. I’ve been in a room since 4:30 this morning talking about the Browns, and I really haven’t had any other conversations about that. So, I’m not going to, myself, speculate on that until I’m told and it’s confirmed by Coach [Bill Belichick].

Q: Brandon Bolden is a player that has seemingly become more and more versatile in the offensive attack. How valuable has he been in the overall scheme of the offense?

JM: That’s a great question. Brandon’s role on the team – I would think everybody would say that he’s just invaluable because this is a guy who’s mature, he’s dedicated, he’s a great teammate. He’s ready to play any role that we ask of him, really at any time. He learns all the spots in our offense each week and he can play the sub-back role if we needed him to on third down. He plays some on early downs as a runner. He’s in the game with two backs in the game at the same time. Last night, he was in the game in some passing situations. He’s a good blitz pickup back. Obviously, he’s shown the ability to catch the football out of the backfield, to extend out of the formation and do some things and be productive, and last night he made some really good plays for us that were critical and important in some scoring drives. So, Brandon’s a great, great teammate. He’s one of the great unselfish players we have here, and we’ve had a lot of them. But, this guy plays in all of the phases of the kicking game. He’s ready to go. If I told Brandon he was going to play 70 snaps on offense, he wouldn’t flinch or blink. If I told Brandon he was going to play five snaps on offense, he wouldn’t flinch or blink. So, he’s got a great attitude and a great approach. He’s got a really wonderful skillset to be able to do a lot of different things and we’re really glad we have him.

Q: Did you see this kind of receiving ability from him in his first stint with the team, or is this something he’s developed now that he’s back?

JM: Yeah, Brandon made plays for us for sure when he was here the first time. He’s only been away for a year, so it kind of all runs together for me. But, he’s just been a productive player. Like I said, he’s been ready to go in a lot of different roles. I can remember the long touchdown in Denver in the snow and a deep touchdown against Washington, I think back in 2015, in the passing game. He’s had games where he’s rushed for over a hundred yards. And, he’s a pro. He’s continued to work at his craft, tried to improve in each area that we ask him to play and contribute in and he does it and he does a great job of it. And, he takes great care of his body; he practices hard every day. Like I said, he’s a great teammate, he’s ready to go, he’s smart, he’s dependable and we really trust the guy out there on the field, and you can see why.

Q: You mentioned that you were working on the Browns early this morning. Is that because it’s a short week or is that customary for you guys when you’re turning the page?

JM: Yeah, when you come back from a Monday nighter on the road, it’s already Tuesday, obviously. So, you’re kind of a day behind – not that we haven’t worked ahead on Cleveland, which we have, but you’ve got to come in on Tuesday like it’s a Tuesday morning and be ready to go. So, our staff, they always do a great job of being prepared and ready for a short week. They did it a couple weeks ago with the Giants game, and now this one’s a different style of week because there’s a few more extra days, but the same thing. You don’t get a whole lot of sleep after a Monday night game, and you come in and you get right to work on the next opponent and try to get moving forward with them and be as prepared as you would normally be on a normal Wednesday if you had two days to prepare and get ready for your players to come in and learn about the new team. So, this is a team that we obviously don’t know very well. They’re talented, they’re physical, they’re disruptive. I think they’re one of the league leaders in tackles for loss and they get after the quarterback, they challenge you with some scheme things. Like I said, we’ve coached against Coach [Steve] Wilks before, so we’re a little bit familiar with the system, but we’re really getting familiar with the players and the way they’re used in their system. Again, you just cram in as much as you can quickly and making sure we’re ready to go for tomorrow, because like I said, it’s a quick turnaround after a Monday night road game. 

Q: How do you study last night’s game to make sure you correct the mistakes while also cramming for Cleveland?

JM: We all pretty much grade the film on the plane. We now have the access to the video. Our video department does a great job of getting that all taken care of for us so we have it there and grade the film and make the corrections, note the corrections. And then when we have the players in tomorrow, we’ll try to hit two birds with one stone, if you will – you know, get ready for Cleveland and try to address some of the things that we feel like we need to fix from the game, which again game film is always a great teacher in terms of what we can do better. We’ve already gone over the game and now we’ll be ready to go when the players come in tomorrow in terms of correcting some things we need to correct and then move on quickly to Cleveland.

Q: Jakobi Meyers has been pretty productive the last two weeks. Is that strictly him getting more opportunity, or is this a sign of his continued growth and building that relationship of trust with you and Tom Brady?

JM: Look, he’s earned opportunities, and when he’s had the opportunity to make some plays, he’s produced. So, Jakobi deserves the credit for that. He continues to work hard in practice, continues to rep. He learns through doing things right, and then if we make mistakes, we try to correct those and learn from those, as well, whether that be in practice or the games. But, every player that works hard to earn opportunities. Really what it comes down to is when you get your chances, that you’ve got to come through and do your job as well as you can do it and hopefully be productive. So, Jakobi’s been able to do that. Like you said, he’s a young player that just tries to work hard and improve each week, [we] like his attitude and he’s been productive for us the last few weeks. Hopefully, we can continue to grow.

Q: While understanding he’s a young player and has a long way to go, does he sort of have an innate feel for the game or a good football IQ?

JM: Yeah, and really, Jakobi plays more inside the formation for us, or at least he has so far. Not that he hasn’t played outside – he caught a big ball last night outside. But he plays a little bit more inside the formation, and usually when you play in there, there’s a few more multiples that you’ve got to deal with and there’s different coverage aspects, there might be linebackers on you covering you, there might be different types of zone coverages that you need to be aware of. And so there’s an inherent instinctiveness that you need to have and make yourself available to the quarterback and not run through windows in zone and understand the difference between man and zone. And, he’s learning. He does do a good job of that. He has played in there before. He played in there a lot in college. The other thing you have to have to play in there is you have to have courage because again, when you catch the ball in there, you’re not going to be too far away from one or two other bodies. He made a tough catch on third down in there last night, converted a couple big ones for us. He does – he works the middle of the field pretty well. Like I said, he’s done well with his opportunities. 

Q: We saw Elandon Roberts take a few snaps at fullback last night. What makes him the right man for the job there? In general, when you have a defensive player take on an offensive role, how does that happen in terms of coaching?

JM: Yeah, and actually, James Ferentz played a little bit in there too at fullback. I think he was in there on one of the touchdown runs with Sony, too, down there at the goal line. But, look, we’ve practiced against Elandon for a number of years. James Develin and he have had some legendary battles in nine-on-seven in training camp and those kind of things. He’s obviously one of the toughest guys we’ve got. He’s kind of built low to the ground. He’s kind of got that natural leverage that you need, either as a guy that takes on blocks or a guy that makes blocks. We’ve obviously done this before. We’ve had some experience with defensive players playing somewhat of a role on offense, whether it be tight end, fullback, etc., going back to [Mike] Vrabel and [Richard] Seymour and [Junior] Seau and Dan Klecko and guys like that. So, we just worked him in there in some of those roles. Multiple guys are ready to go in some of those things. In terms of coaching those kind of players, you’ve just got to find a few minutes here and there, a few windows during the course of the week, in the day, to share a guy here or there if they need him on the opposite side of the ball. You’ve obviously seen us play with Troy Brown on defense or Julian [Edelman] at nickelback. Those kind of things have happened in the past, too. So, there’s a sharing that goes on during the course of the meetings and then practice and just trying to do the things you need to do to make sure that the player is prepared to do the role that you’re asking him to do on game day. I thought he went in there and did a decent job. It’s always exciting to have one of those guys go in our huddle and operate and fit in well. Elandon’s a great teammate, very unselfish. That’s why he’s a captain and plays his role to the best of his ability every week. It was good to have him in there.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH DEMARCUS COVINGTON

CONFERENCE CALL
October 22, 2019

Q: I wanted to ask you about the meshing between the front seven and the secondary. Why, from your coaching perspective, do you think it’s been so good and so diverse in the first seven games?

DC: Yeah, we have a good veteran group that is led by some good leaders – Devin McCourty, [Dont’a] Hightower, Jamie Collins. Those guys are able to lead our defense. With those guys preparing so well throughout the week, they put a lot of effort in studying their opponents, practicing hard throughout the week and then it all carries out. We always talk about, ‘Practice execution equals game reality’. Those guys going out there executing in practice and being [inaudible] during the game allows our guys to play at a high level.

Q: How much overlap is there in the meeting rooms? Do the linebackers sometimes talk with the safeties and corners when you are going into a game-planning type of situation?

DC: Yeah, well with defense in general, the number one thing is communication. Communication starts with being able to relay information to one another effectively, especially in pressure moments and heated moments during the game. So, that’s what we always preach. The first thing is having good, effective communication. Whether that’s the linebacker communicating to a defensive lineman or a defensive lineman communicating to a linebacker or a linebacker communicating to a safety or vice versa. So yes, it takes good time throughout the week to get on the same page, communicate effectively so you can go out there in the game and be on the same page.

Q: We heard on the television broadcast last night that Sam Darnold said something to the effect that he was seeing ghosts. As a defensive coach, how does it feel to have your unit draw that kind of comment from an opposing quarterback?

DC: First of all, I want to give the players credit for their preparation throughout the week. Those guys are doing a good job of preparing well, studying their opponents, knowing their offense. I give those guys credit for doing that and then going out there in the game and executing. That’s what I think, it starts with that. And obviously the guys at a high level, communicating effectively and just playing fast, physical and playing together.

Q: I wanted to ask you about John Simon. How do you think he’s been playing in his role as an under-the-radar linebacker?

DC: I would say one guy that defines tough, smart, dependable, is John Simon. He’s a guy where, you wish you had more guys like him because he’s so freaking smart, so tough, dependable. You hear other guys’ names throughout the week. You always hear Jamie or Hightower or [Kyle] Van Noy, but John Simon – he’s a guy who might not get the recognition, but in this building, he’s definitely one of our guys we lean on each week. He came up last night with a big play for us. Each week there is something he does for us whether it’s setting the edge, doing that job in the run game, coming up with a big strip-sack last night for us. All those things he does for our team are the definition of a player we want. We want smart, tough, dependable players.

Q: What kind of a relationship do you have to have with Jerod Mayo given that interchangeability of the linebackers you guys are both working with?

DC: I think us as a staff, we have a great relationship. Especially Jerod and I, we work well together. So, we’re two guys who can get on the same page and one thing we have in common, we want to win, we want our guys to be successful, we want our guys to be prepared. So, when we all have the same goals and we all look at the same thing, it’s easy to be on the same page. That’s how we look at it each week. We both want to win. We both want our guys to be successful. We want our defense to be successful. So for us, being on the same page and having the guys play well, is what we all want. So, it’s easy to have a great relationship that way.

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