Patriots offensive coaches spoke with the media on Friday, a day after a disappointing end to their two-game road trip to Los Angeles. After the loss to the Rams, Bill Belichick affirmed that Cam Newton is the team's quarterback, quelling any discussion if Jarrett Stidham might be inserted for next week's divisional game against the Dolphins.
Josh McDainels echoed Belichick's support of Newton.
"Cam's certainly been the best option for us all year long since he earned the opportunity in training camp," said McDaniels via conference call. "Whenever the offense struggles I know the attention is always going to get turned to that position.
"Quarterback play is dependent on a lot of things to be done right and to be executed properly and the quarterback has to do his job but there's a lot of other people that go into doing that same thing and being a productive offensive unit."
As for Stidham, Belichick confirmed he's still an ascending player, something that has shown up in practice.
"Jarrett's done everything we've asked him to do and he's done everything that he can do, and I don't think you can ask any more than that," said Belichick on Friday morning via Webex.
"With Jarrett in particular, he has a good amount of reps against our defense every week," said quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, adding that Stidham's processing speed has increased over the course of the season. "We'll continue to watch Jarrett grow and evolve and see what he can do with the opportunities that he does get when those opportunities present themselves."
For another week at least it appears Stidham's wait will continue as Newton prepares for a rematch against the team he led the Patriots to an opening day victory over.
"Cam works hard," said McDaniels. "Cam knows what we want to try to do to win. And right now there's a lot of things we can all do better. We've got to work hard and try to come back and have a good week of preparation and practice and see if we can't play better as a unit down in Miami and get this thing back on track."
Tight ends making strides
With Ryan Izzo heading to Injured Reserve on Thursday, it thrust rookies Devin Asiasi (23 snaps) and Dalton Keene (31 snaps) into the fire against the Chargers. Tight ends coach Nick Caley likes the progress the duo has made, but still sees plenty of room for improvement.
"I thought overall Devin did a great job of preparing throughout the week," said Caley. "He's been working hard to put himself in a position to come and play a decent amount of snaps.
"He played a fairly clean game, obviously things we've got to improve on overall in general for him as well, but I thought he worked hard, he tried to play tough in the run game and do some different things that we had asked him to do throughout the week. He was locked in and had a good focus for 60 minutes. He was ready to go."
Keene played an even bigger role than Asiasi, as the two third-round picks are finally getting more game experience.
"Fundamentally, Dalton's taken a lot of pride in just playing with better pad level in the run game and working on his techniques," said Caley. "He's always ready to go, he works extremely hard. It's just continuous improvement from week-to-week is what I've seen in general. That's the focus continuing to move forward really."
It's been a challenging season on multiple levels, especially for two rookies who have both had stints on Injured Reserve, but Caley acknowledged the entire league is dealing with the same thing.
"I think certainly just across the league in general, it's probably a little more of an uphill climb for all rookies, just the lack of the off-season and preseason," said Caley. "Everybody's in the same boat and we're never gonna make excuses, we had to acclimate on the run a little bit sooner and grow up fast and that maturation project continues.
"Things are going to come up and the biggest thing is eliminating the repeated mistakes and I've been pleased with the growth from that standpoint."
Quotes of Note
Mick Lombardi on N'Keal Harry's progress:
"The progress we're seeing any young players, especially N'Keal, as he starts to learn who he is and how to play the games at the NFL level, he understands his size, his ability to catch the football, and luckily the quarterback trusts him to catch the football and like you saw last night, go up and get it. As he starts to learn how to play and who he is playing against and how we can be effective on those certain players. It starts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, before we get there Sunday, to really understand, this is how I'm going to attack, this is how I'm going to play."
Ivan Fears on his running backs' focus against heavy defensive boxes:
"I think they don't care about that. I think they look about it the other way, 'what's it take to win? What do we have to do to win?' Whatever our strengths are, that's what we got to put out there and we got to be able to get after people. Whatever it takes, we're gonna play the game, whatever it takes to win, that's the way they look at it."
Cam Achord on the value of good special teams players:
"This group of guys, they've been consistent through the season. Jake's done a great job for us obviously placing the ball. Then, when you've got guys like Slater and Bethel and Cody that can run and really get down there and force the fair catch. A lot of times that goes unrecognized -- the hidden yardage when you're down there. It's probably the least talked about stat is the fair catch because if you're able to get guys down there to force the fair catch, that's hidden yards."