PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
October 23, 2019
Q: Do you like having another Rutgers guy [Mohamed Sanu]?
DM: We’ll see. I mean, I might like it. We’ll see he does first – no, it’s good seeing him in here. [He is] one of the hardest working guys I got to be around when he was a young guy at Rutgers, so I’m excited just to see him here, and I know he’ll do well in this environment because of his work ethic and playing together in college, what we experienced together. Like I said, I’m excited to see him here.
Q: How explosive is Cleveland’s wide receiver room?
DM: Their whole offense. It’s not just – obviously, Odell [Beckham Jr.] and Jarvis Landry are the names, but I mean, [Antonio] Callaway is as explosive as they come. Nick Chubb is running away from guys in the secondary, which you don’t see a lot from running backs in the NFL. Then [Ricky] Seals-Jones has made quite a bit of plays down the field as well. So, as a unit, you have to make sure all of us are in position to do the right thing. I can’t help for somebody else or somebody help me because they just have too many explosive players. Even the way Baker Mayfield plays, he’s able to escape the pocket, still throw the ball on the money – the deep ball he threw against Seattle, where he was rolling right and was able to throw it to Odell down the sideline. So, it’s an offense that you have to be ready to go. They have a ton of big plays in the pass game and running game, so it’s a true “do your job” game for us defensively. Between the front, the linebackers and the secondary, is each one of us doing what we’re supposed to do on every defensive call.
Q: Why has zero-blitz been so effective for you?
DM: I think any of our defensive calls is knowing who’s supposed to be where and then executing it. When we talk about doing something in practice, if this guy goes here or you do this, it’s when it comes up in the game, it’s actually doing that. I think when you do that over and over and over again, repetition, then you can play fast and aggressive in a defense. So, whether that’s blitz-zero, whether that’s a zone coverage, I think anything we’ve run this year, when we do it right and everybody lines up and does what they’re supposed to do, it usually turns out well for us. But, there’s even some of those blitz-zeros where we don’t do that and then it doesn’t turn out well because of that. So, I think it has to be that sense of urgency to get it right on all our defensive calls because that’s the only way we’ll have success.
Q: You’ve been on a lot of talented defenses that have led to a lot of championships for you. Looking at this defense, is it a good marriage of intelligence, experience and athleticism?
DM: I think so far we’ve done a good job of that, but I can’t compare. We’re only seven games in. Like, we could stink for the rest of the season and then no one would talk about us being a good defense anymore. So, I think we obviously have a good group of guys when it comes to having knowledge of the system. I’m still not old enough to use a cane, and still can still run around a little bit out there. I think we have that, but I think it’s the mentality of coming and working each day during the week to be prepared for Sunday. I think guys attitudes of not having it – of understanding that we’re in a close race each week to try to out-prepare our opponents. Taking a unique week like this, where Cleveland’s on a bye week, we come off a Monday night game. Like, “Are we going to work our butts off to try to get as prepared as they are because they had a couple days advantage on us?” So, I think it’s that mentality that’s helped us out as a defense, but even overall as a team.
Q: Can you talk about veterans like Mohamed coming in during the middle of the season? Bill [Belichick] said it’s not about him learning the offense this week, but what he can do this Sunday.
DM: Yeah, I mean, I’ve never had to go through it, but I’ve been on the other side of trying to help guys. I think it’s, as an individual, how much you can pick up, and I think as a team, is understanding what a guy knows and what he doesn’t know. In the secondary, that’s always something we had to adjust to. I think about when [Aqib] Talib got here. He was smart. He picked up a lot of our defense right away and you didn’t have to tell him anything twice. I think that varies, but I think as players that are already here, you can help guys out a lot by understanding their terminology – how to tell them stuff, not just using our verbiage and our language, but so they have a little grace period to understand what you want from them. I know that’s always kind of a work-in-progress, trying to get guys up-to-beat and get them out on the field.
Q: What does Sanu bring on the field?
DM: I love him because he’s always been tough. He’s been a really good receiver in the NFL, but I always say he came to Rutgers as a safety. I was at corner; I was excited. You know, you get this big kid that can run and hit, and I think he’s taken that to the offensive side. Physical guy. Each time we played him, we talked about him being a bigger guy that’ll line up in the slot, line up outside. So, I’m excited just to see him. It’s not often you get guys – I guess for me, it’s happened quite a bit, with my brother and now Sanu – guys that I actually follow and keep up with. So, it’s a fun time just to have that personal relationship.
Q: Obviously, every player changes from when they were in college, but where else have you seen his game grow and change significantly since you came out of Rutgers?
DM: Damn, that’s deep. I haven’t watched him that closely. I think the one cool thing is he’s still throwing the ball. So, I guess that’s not great stuff to write about, but in college he was doing all that crazy stuff: kicking field goals and throwing the ball. So, I guess it’s not true growth, but I think his QBR [quarterback rating] is pretty high, so I’m happy to see he’s still able to do that.
Q: Who do you think is a better thrower: Julian Edelman or Mohamed Sanu?
DM: Sanu, because he went to Rutgers.
Q: Does it make it easier that he comes into a new team knowing you, your brother and Duron Harmon already?
DM: I think from a personal level, knowing us won’t help him on offense or learn the playbook. But, I think when you get somewhere and you’re trying to acclimate, whether it’s family coming up, or where you want to live, I think it always helps to have guys you know and guys that know you personally. That can help you out and can kind of figure out the whole lay of the land. Like I’ve always said, there’s a lot that goes into being a football player that isn’t the playbook and being on the field, but having everything worked out in your personal life. And when you move to a whole new state and new area, you’ve got to figure some things out, so I think we’ll try to help him out with those things.
Q: Have you ever gone up against a wide receiver group that is as big and physically intimidating as the Patriots’ has the potential to be?
DM: I’m not sure, but I think a lot of that is just how you play. To me, Julian’s a great example of that – not physically imposing at all, but you look at how he plays the game, his toughness. So, I think that’s what it’s all about – how you go out and play the game. We’ve got some tough guys in that locker room that I love going and playing with on Sunday, so I’m excited to just see our team as a whole continue to work and get better. We’ll see how it all works out, but starting with a big test this Sunday is very exciting to know as a team, we’re still working and trying to get better.
Q: Even though the Browns are 2-4, is this the most talented team you’ve seen so far this year?
DM: I think definitely, for us. On offense, you talk about all the skill positions: wide receivers, tight ends. They don’t just have one tight end, they have a group of tight ends that can all play. We got to see [Demetrius] Harris when he was in Kansas City. Then you look at the running back position, you look at the quarterback position – they’re talented as a group. You’ve got a ton of first-rounders. You’ve got the high picks, guys that have been highly productive in this league. So, I think from a defensive standpoint, it’s a game, like I said earlier, that we all have to be on point. We have to understand our leverage, we have to understand techniques, our fundamentals of how we’re playing the game because one slip-up – it’s not a 25-yard play and a touchdown, it’s an 80-yard touchdown. I think you saw against the Jets, you have one bad step or a guy’s out of position, Odell catches it, now you’re trying to catch a guy that you’re not going to catch. So, we’ve got to all make sure that we’re on the same page this week.
Q: The Patriots usually use smaller, shiftier guys in the slot, but what advantages might Mohamed have in the slot because of his size?
DM: I don’t know. I think more than anything, from a defensive standpoint, we always look at personnel. So, it wouldn’t matter who you usually have in. We break guys down by who they are as players, so we would want to know the difference of who’s inside, “Is this guy inside? Is this guy inside? Who’s outside?” So, I think from a personnel standpoint, you view it more along the lines of what each individual does, no matter what the team has traditionally done or when another guy is in there. I think you do it more on an individual basis by the personnel.
PATRIOTS RUNNING BACK JAMES WHITE
October 23, 2019
Q: What do you think about Mohamed Sanu?
JW: He’s a good football player. Obviously, he played with some of the guys on our team in college and stuff. He’s a big, physical guy, can catch the football, so it’s good to have him on our team.
Q: How is the process for a veteran guy coming into this locker room? Bill Belichick was asked about Mohamed getting up to speed, and he said it’s more about what he can do for the team on Sunday.
JW: Yeah, I mean, it’s just learning as fast as possible. It can be a lot thrown at you in a few days before a game day, but like I said, our coaches do the best they can to get them prepared and us as players will help him do the same. However much he’s out there, he’s out there – I mean, the coaches will figure it out.
Q: How disruptive can Cleveland’s defense be, particularly Myles Garrett?
JW: Yeah, Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon – those are two guys off the edge who are very dangerous, can change the game, create negative plays. I mean, they’re a young, athletic defense and like to create turnovers and negative plays. So, it’s going to be a good challenge for us. Each and every week, we’re just trying to get better and better as an offense. Monday was a good step in the right direction, so hopefully we can keep that going.
Q: How tough has it been to go from a short week, to a long week, to now another quick turnaround for you guys this week?
JW: It’s just part of being in the NFL. You have to be able to focus on short weeks or be able to adjust on short weeks and turn the page from the Jets now to the Browns, and getting healed up as much as possible so you can go out there and put your best foot forward. So, all of us as players are studying up on the Browns. We haven’t played them in a few years now, so getting to know their players, their coaches so that we’re super prepared.
Q: You see your defense every day in practice. Are you at all surprised to see how dominant they’ve been with a couple shutouts this season?
JW: It’s not really surprising. Those guys work hard in practice, they play well together, they can rush the passer, they can cover, do whatever they need to do, stop the run. So, I mean, they continue to get better each and every week. It’s been pretty cool to see. They’ve had our back all year long, and I’m sure those guys will keep it going.
Q: Is this the most talented 2-4 team you’ve ever seen, top to bottom?
JW: I mean, every team in the NFL is talented, honestly, and anybody can get beat on any given Sunday if you’re not prepared. But, these guys have a lot of great players on their team. Like I said, they’re going to come out ready to go coming off a bye week, so they’ll be refreshed. So, they’re going to give their best shot.
Q: Is it crazy in the locker room now with so many Rutgers guys?
JW: We always have a bunch of Rutgers guys on the team. They’ve been some good players for us for a long time, so the more we have, the better, I guess.