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Transcripts: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Mike Pellegrino Conference Calls 10/1

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
October 1, 2019

Q: What goes into the decision near the end of the game to either pass or run with a lead? For example, late in the game on Sunday, Tom Brady attempted a pass on both second and third down. Is that a case of him seeing a situation where he can potentially end the game with a first down and trying to take advantage of it?

BB: Yeah, Mike [Petraglia], it's a really good question and it's something that we talk about each week relative to what we anticipate and what the matchups are. Sometimes how it's [inaudible] during the game can be a part of that too. Yeah, obviously, if you complete the pass it's the same as a run in terms of the clock, but trying to, as you said, get a first down to end the game versus taking time off the clock and giving them the ball back with maybe less of a chance to get a first down if you feel like that's what would happen on two or three running plays. Sometimes it's easier to throw on second down than it is on third down so you just have to take all of that into consideration. There's certainly a place for both strategies. Clearly if you're not going to get the first down you're better off running and keeping the clock running, but if you feel like you have a better chance to get the first down throwing the ball and the percentages are there then that's what we would do. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't and Buffalo's a good defensive team. They put a lot of pressure on you no matter what you decide to do. They ended up getting the ball back and we had to play defense.

Q: Are those discussions primarily that take place during the game as it's happening as opposed to before the game?

BB: Well, we always have a strategy for everything going into the game. We have an idea of what we want to do and the situation is never exact. If you take a minute or a minute and a half off the clock in Sunday's game, it's not the same situation or if you add another 30 seconds or if they have another timeout or, you know, whatever – there are a lot of variables in the game that can come up, so you have a general idea of what your strategy is in a couple of different situations and then sometimes it falls into that exact situation. Sometimes there's a little bit of variance and then there's always, as I said, kind of how the matchups declare by the time you get to that point in the game. All of those things are factors. Sometimes you stick with the original strategy, sometimes you modify it. But that's a great question. Those are the kinds of things that come up. You talk about them every week and then you see how they unfold. But that's a key part of the coaching strategy on a weekly basis.

Q: How reflective are the four interceptions that Devin McCourty has of the type of season he is having to this point in the season?

BB: I think Devin's done a great job for us, which he's done in the past and it hasn't necessarily correlated with the interception number. It's the same thing with guys rushing the passer and not having sacks or receivers getting open but not necessarily having the catches to go with it and so forth. Some of that is just statistics, but we really try to evaluate guys on a play-to-play basis and opportunities. Devin's done a good job for us, as always, in addition to all of the plays that we see or that he's in position to make or tackles and things like that, there's the communication aspect of making decisions for the entire defensive unit that are on the field that are critical that he also does a great job of that. I think it's a little too much to just put it all on stats. Look, interceptions are big plays and we love to see them and love to have them. There are other critical plays in the game too that don't show up on the stat sheet and we recognize those as well.

Q: What have you seen that's made J.C. Jackson so effective covering on deep passes?

BB: J.C.'s got a good skill set. He's got good coverage ability, he's quick, he's got pretty good length for a corner, runs well and he's got excellent ball skills and excellent hands. You saw the way he timed his jump and went up – I don't know how high he went up to get that ball – it had to be it looked like 11 or 12 feet in the air. That's a ball that some players just wouldn't have been able to get to it. Like I certainly wouldn't have been able to get to it. It's a combination of all of those things, but in the end guys that intercept passes have to have good ball skills, good judgment, good timing, good hands, good concentration and he certainly has those.

Q: How much can you material can you give Ben Watson from a film or game plan standpoint before he goes on his suspension so that when he returns he can be as up-to-speed as possible?

BB: Yeah, well, we couldn't have any contact with Ben from that whatever it was – that Sunday before the Pittsburgh game. Yeah, it is what it is. Fortunately, Ben has a lot of experience in our system and has been with us all through the spring and training camp, so hopefully he'll be able to recall what he did and the things that are new. Coach [Nick] Caley, Coach [Josh] McDaniels will spend extra time with him to go over those with him to come up to speed on those.

Q: Josh Gordon's catch rate is about 52% this year which is not far off from where he has been historically through his career. Is that a number a result of the way both you and the Browns have used him or is that a number that you would like to see come up a bit?

BB: Well, I think every coach and every player and every receiver and every quarterback would love to see the catch rate be 100%. That's our goal. But that's not really realistic in the National Football League, so it is what it is. Again, there's times where, again, we just have to evaluate each individual player. There's times where the quarterback's throwing the ball away or doesn't really have a chance to complete the pass but rather than take a sack, makes a good play to get rid of the ball and then that's an incompletion target to that player and so forth. Again, I think a lot of that, it is what it is. But when you look at plays individually you try to improve the individual player or the scheme of the play that falls under the coaching umbrella. Player execution and coaching design and adjustments and so forth, there are things that we can all do to improve our overall passing efficiency at the coaching level, at the throwing level and at the catching level, so we'll work to do that all the way across the board. Obviously, those passes are a function of the type of pass too, so plays that are further down the field, naturally, have a lower percentage of completion than the ones within a couple of yards of the line of scrimmage. There are a number of factors that are involved there. The bottom line is for all of us to do a better job going forward and improve.

Q: What makes Lawrence Guy so adept at being able to defeat double-team blocks? He seems to be great at that.

BB: He does. Lawrence is very good at the running game, very good at No. 1 – recognizing blocks and then defeating them. Recognition is a big part of it, to be able to react quickly and to put your body into good position so that you can play with pad level, play with leverage, use your technique and the hands that are important to his position to do what you said – defeat blocks and get off them and separate and make tackles. But it starts with good conditioning, good playing strength, good pad level and leverage and being disciplined. Really, it comes down to discipline and being in the area that you're supposed to be in, playing the block properly. When you do that, then eventually the ball is going to come to you. If the run force turns the ball back inside, it's going to come back to you and then you're able to separate off the block and get in on the play. He's been very consistent. Lawrence has been a good player for us since he got here, both on and off the field. He gives us great leadership, toughness, effort, preparation. He's played end, he's played tackle, he's played on the nose, he's lined up in different gaps and had different responsibilities. He's a very versatile player that can play a number of different spots and I think that he's worked very hard on his pass rush and that's certainly improved in the time that he's been here. He's a hardworking guy that continues to work on his craft and, not only get better, but give our players good leadership.

Q: We've heard Josh McDaniels say the team wants to embrace what it does well and not get caught up in what it isn't doing well. I'm just curious now if after four weeks you feel you have enough of a sample size to be able to say which things you do well and want to stick with and which things should be thrown out?

BB: Phil [Perry], I think that's an excellent point, and that really is – I wouldn't say today's a magic day on that – but that's part of the process that we go through on a weekly basis. Like any Tuesday, I'm sure that'll come up today and there will be some action taken on certain things. Tomorrow could be a conversation on third down, the next day on the red area, goal line. Tomorrow could be on kickoff and kickoff return and so forth. It's an ongoing process. The whole game plan kind of gets, I would say on a big picture, addressed today but on a smaller scale, the different situations as we go through the week and so things could be affected there too. So yeah, we'll continue to monitor that. What are the things that we do well? How do they matchup against our opponents? What are the things that we're not doing well? Do we want to invest more time in those and with the expectation that they're going to be better, or is it time to invest our time in something else that's either do more of what we're doing or come up with a different scheme or a different ID and try to work on that? Those are coaching decisions that are really critical decisions every week for us. We only have so many plays in practice, we only have so much meeting time and so much walkthrough. We can't put in 100 plays every week. We have to be selective in the ones that we install, practice and prepare for the game, so we don't want to waste time with stuff that doesn't fit that criteria. Which ones do we stick with, which ones do we move on from, which ones do we modify, yeah, that's a weekly question all the way across the board in all three phases of the game that we constantly have to discuss and make decisions on. It's a critical part of coaching. There's only so much time. You can't do it all.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
October 1, 2019

Q: Josh Gordon's catch rate is down to 52 percent from 59 percent last season. How do you feel Josh Gordon has been performing?

JM: I tend not to focus on those types of statistics because there's so many things that go into those numbers. You know, Josh is doing well. He's ready to go, he practices well, he practices hard, he really studies the game plan. He's moved into multiple positions this year, whereas last year he was more in one spot most of the time. Honestly, I need to do a better job of finding ways to get him the ball throughout the course of the game in whatever role or position that we're asking him to play. So, I'm very happy with what he's doing, and we're going to continue to work with him and all our skill guys, hopefully as we go through the season, to improve and reach our best performances. Whatever the peak is for us this year, we're certainly not there yet and we have a lot of work, a lot of practice to put in to reach that. But I'm very happy with what Josh is doing.

Q: What might Benjamin Watson bring to the offense, and what might Washington's defense do to challenge you?

JM: Well, Ben's a versatile guy, he's a smart guy. He's certainly made a lot of plays in his career. Just gives an element of speed and experience at the tight end position. He's been a productive guy, made plays under pressure. So, Ben's coming back here; it was great to have him back this offseason into training camp, and hopefully we'll be able to move forward with him in a role that suits his skillset and our team. Washington, first of all, is a team that we don't know very well. We haven't played them a whole lot. We played them in the preseason last year and worked with them years ago in training camp and all that, but a lot of young players. They've got some experienced guys at all three levels, but a lot of youth on the team; a lot of players that we're not necessarily familiar with. They're an aggressive team. They blitz quite a bit, try to apply pressure on the quarterback. They've got a good front: [Jonathan] Allen, [Daron] Payne, [Matt] Ioannidis, [Tim] Settle playing there, too. Stout guys, difficult to move, really good power rushers, play hard. [Ryan] Kerrigan, [Montez] Sweat on the edge. They do a lot of – they come forward more than they back up in their base defense. They do a lot of blitzing off the edge. So, we're going to deal with those guys the entire game because they've got two really good playmakers on the edge who can create disruptive plays. And their secondary is aggressive and opportunistic. Last year they were in the top 10 in creating turnovers, and I think they were 6-2 when they won the turnover margin. And again, here they are this year, same thing. I think they're right around the top 10, tenth or eleventh here, in takeaways again. So, we've got to do a good job of handling the front. We've got to study these guys and really get to know who they are and the strengths of their players because, like I said, they're really unfamiliar to us as a group, and we're going to have to handle their aggressive style that coach [Greg] Manusky calls the game with. And we've got to do a good job of taking care of the football because it's very clear that when they play aggressive and they can create turnovers and disruptive plays, they can really create problems for you, and we're going to have to do a good job of avoiding those situations on Sunday.

Q: When you have a guy like Ben, who you know is going to be away from the team for four weeks, what things can you give him to do so he can limit the re-acclimation process and have him be as close to ready to help you right away as you can?

JM: Training camp is a foundational time for all of our players. So, we try to get all of that stuff in in training camp and give them a good foundation for what our system is about. We've dealt with these types of situations before in the past with a few different players, and they use training camp and they get themselves ready to go. They've learned our system, they know our terminology and that we're counting on the work that we've put in with them in training camp to really carry us through. And when they get back, we'll see kind of where they're at physically and mentally, and just make the appropriate decisions from there.

Q: You seemed to have more success on interior runs last week with Jakob Johnson in the game. What are your thoughts on the interior running game?

JM: Yeah, we had some productive runs and created some holes and had a place for the back to enter. And then there were some other one's where Sony [Michel] really did a good job of having good vision on the play and finding the cutback lane, or bounced it out a couple times and found some yards there, too. So, look, we're going to continue to work hard at the running game. I don't think – you know, we're not where we want to be in any area of our offense at this moment, and we're going to continue to try to get better at each one of those. We've always said the running game is really a team play. We've got to have good communication about the front and set the distribution of blockers properly, and receivers did a much better job – really did a good job of springing it back on some of our blocks in the secondary in this game. And then we need the fullback to do his job and the back to run hard. So, there's a lot of things that go into productive runs. We saw some good things Sunday and some things we need to improve on, and we'll work hard to try to do that this week.

Q: Is there anything that you can point to on your struggles trying to get the ball to the perimeter on outside runs?

JM: Like I said, there's been some things that have been decent and then there's been some things that we need to work on. The running game, there's a lot of things that go into it – the defense's posture, their alignment, our hat-and-hands, our footwork, our combination blocks on the edge, being able to block the force with the receivers. So, there's a lot that going into productive runs, inside or outside. Like I said, we're not exactly where we want to be in any area of that, and we're going to continue to work hard to try to progress in those areas because certainly you want to be balanced run-pass. You also want to be balanced inside-outside in the running game, and we're going to need to continue to try to work hard to improve in that area.

Q: When your defense is playing as well as it is, does it allow you more freedom to call some plays that might be a little more risky?

JM: Yeah, I think there's a lot of things that go into that. You know, our defense is certainly playing very, very well. Really great to see those guys over there doing the things that they're doing, and it gives us a lot of confidence to go out there and try to do the things we're responsible for, which is throw the ball and score points. I think there's times in each game where you may have an opportunity to call something that also encompasses more risk, and then there's other times in a game where you certainly want to, I would say, call things that eliminates, or certainly limits, the amount of risk that you're putting out there because the situation is either in control or you feel comfortable with the scenario. So, I think that's really a feel thing, and there might be times where Bill [Belichick] will talk with me during the course of the game about those things, as the game is moving along. But, certainly you want to try to protect the team and do the right thing, and sometimes that means being more aggressive, and sometimes it means being a little bit more conservative. So, whatever we need to do on offense to help us win the game, that's really what we're focused on trying to do each week, and I think our group is really in-tune with that – very unselfish. Whatever that means, we have to do our job, and at the end of the day the most important thing is that we have an opportunity to win the game. Again, defense is really doing a great job and we've got to do our part and play complementary football with that and the kicking game, which I thought the kicking game was great again the other day, too. So, we're one of the three compartments, and we certainly are going to work hard to improve in our area and try to play good, complementary football moving forward.

CORNERBACKS COACH MIKE PELLEGRINO

CONFERENCE CALL
October 1, 2019

Q: What do you see from J.C. Jackson that has allowed him to put himself in a position for success?

MP: With J.C., he’s done a great job all year. He’s been working hard, putting in the time, taking the time out to really focus on his opponents and study the quarterbacks, the receivers. He’s made a great jump in his sophomore year. I’ve been impressed with him, pleasure to work with him and very excited for him moving forward.

Q: Devin McCourty has four interceptions in four games this year. What have you seen from him in terms of the type of season he’s having? I know interceptions aren’t the only thing you look at, but that number sort of jumps out this early in the season

MP: I think that’s just what it is. It’s just a number. Devin does a lot of things well in a lot of different categories. One, he’s a tremendous leader. His dedication to the team and to the game is unmatched. Just watching him interact with the players and the rest of the team is impressive. His preparation for the game is unbelievable the way he studies a quarterback. He’s just been in the right place at the right time, and that’s from his preparation – practice execution equals game reality.

Q: We haven’t seen much of Joejuan Williams since the regular season has started, but how are you seeing him progress as he goes through the early part of his rookie year? Is there anything more he can do to get on the field?

MP: Joejuan Williams has a role on the team – everyone has a role on the team – and he’s done very well at his role. He continues to improve every day. That’s all we ask of him, to go out to practice every single day and improve. He’s great in the classroom; he’s great on the field. I come to work excited to work with Joejuan every single day. I’m excited for him to get his opportunity and get out there and get ready to play.

Q: Jason McCourty had the big pass breakup in the Super Bowl at the back of the end zone, but he also had a breakup at the goal line in the first half against Buffalo. What makes him so competitive when he is engaged with a receiver? What goes into the skill of timing it right so he can get his hand in and knock the ball away and not get called for pass interference?

MP: Jason just has awareness that you can’t coach, teach. He’s a tremendous player. Again, just like everyone else, he puts the time in. He really cares about his craft. He comes in every single day – this guy is just locked in. It’s incredibly impressive to watch him work and watch him interact with the team. His ability to make that play, as a coach, you’re incredibly happy to see that.

Q: Terry McLaurin has looked to be an impressive rookie for Washington this year. What makes him a challenging matchup?

MP: I mean, Terry, he’s a great rookie currently. He doesn’t play like a rookie at all. He’s fast, he’s reliable, he’s an explosive player, very dangerous. The guy had three touchdowns in three games. I mean, he’s definitely someone you need to be alert for out on the field. He’s fast. You’ve got [Paul] Richardson – he’s fast. And then you’ve got [Trey] Quinn – a second-year guy who doesn’t play like a second-year guy either – another crafty, savvy guy.

Q: Did you know that you wanted to get involved in football coaching coming out of Johns Hopkins? How did you get hooked up with the Patriots to start in that career?

MP: That’s a good question. I’ve always been a football guy my whole life. I played lacrosse in college. I had an opportunity to internship here due to my head coach at Johns Hopkins, Dave Pietramala. And I walked in the building, just did as much as I could to help around. I was going to come back and do the same kind of internship. Luckily, great people here gave me an opportunity and I’m just trying not to let them down every day.

Q: Stephon Gilmore has said a big part of improving his game since joining the Patriots was improving his patience at the line of scrimmage. How have you seen him work on that and perfect that part of his craft?

MP: Yeah, Stephon Gilmore, he’s a tremendous athlete, tremendous professional. He comes in every day and it’s impressive to watch him work, as well. He’s putting in extra time on the field and in the classroom, extra film study, always asking for cut-ups. This guy is an impressive person to watch and it’s a pleasure to work with him every single day, to see him work on his footwork and technique. Truly, truly impressive to watch him get better every single day.

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