MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
ML: “As we know, the Patriots are a good football team, well put together, led by a great quarterback. They have not lost a game this year. They’ve been opportunistic to put themselves in position early in games, and even coming back and winning games that they weren’t (ahead early). This is a team we’ve got to play very well against. It’s probably a time which is unique to us, that will fit well to what we need to get done. We need to play better football. We can draw things, and put words on paper and do all those things, but we need to go out an execute and play winning football. This is a good week and a good chance to go out and compete and win the battles and eventually, hopefully, win the war. I’m looking forward to it.”
This is a game of the two most- tenured head coaches in the league. What has made Bill Belichick such a great coach over the years?
ML: “From times as a coordinator, to being the head coach in Cleveland, to the Pats and Jets and back to New England as the head coach, since I’ve been in the NFL, I’ve been able to follow his path. I think you have to point to his diligence and the detail of what they want to get done, and how they try to take away what is the perceived strength of the opponent. He’s been able to devote full attention to that.
“This is a team that offensively, other than the line, is a little unique to their standards because they are not the typical New England team with the veteran players as much. They’re going through a little bit of a transition. Somebody said they have seven rookies and 14 young guys all together. Normally their thing is the veteran player. Bill’s got a great ability to input the veteran player. He’s able to plug those guys in and get the things done that they want to get done offensively and defensively.”
What makes Tom Brady so good?
ML: “He’s a very accurate thrower, he’s got great anticipation, and he has a great understanding of what they’re trying to do to, work leverage in coverage all the time. He gets them in the looks, and he’s obviously a great student of the game, because whether it’s the running game or passing game, he gets them in the right looks. He has a great feel for the tempo of the game, when to speed it up, when to slow it down. That’s part of what they do as well. They keep you alert that way.”
You guys saw a lot of Kenbrell Thompkins when he was at University of Cincinnati. What makes him so good in their offense?
ML: “He’s a good young prospect. He was a kid that was invited over to the combine in Indianapolis, and I watched him work out at UC, and then he came here and worked out for us. He’s got good ability. I think he probably plays a little faster than his timed speed, which is a good thing. He must be the kind of kid that it’s not too big for him. I don’t know him too well, but obviously the way he’s doing it, it doesn’t seem to big for him, which is a great credit to him.”
You and the Patriots have had such great success in mining and getting undrafted guys. Does it kind of prove that everything is an inexact science?
ML: “I don’t know if it’s an inexact science. When you sign some of these undrafted guys, you’re looking for certain characteristics they have, and if those things will translate into blossoming as they mature and grow. They’ve got to have certain NFL qualities that you feel good about, that you feel works on your team. That’s part of it. The defensive tackle, he fits what they’re looking for as far as a nose tackle in their defense. You’re looking for certain traits, and you’re trying to clone. At least those traits give him an opportunity to stay around, even if he’s on the practice squad for a year or two, and he can work his way up to the 53.”
How much does their defense change without Vince Wilfork?
ML: “I don’t think they’re going to change a great deal. They give you both looks: the three-down, 3-4 type look, and they’re going to give you some four-down, 4-3 type looks. Each week it’s hard to predict what you’re going to get, so you’ve got to be ready for both looks. The personnel doesn’t change much when they do it, it’s just the alignments of the players within it.”
It seems like they’re going through another reincarnation on offense. How important has their offensive line been?
ML: “Their offensive line is very important because those guys have been there. Four of the five guys have been there for quite a while, at least three years. I think (Nate) Solder and the center are the guys, and the other guys have been a part of it; they’ve had great continuity there, which is what you want to have.”
Dante Scarnecchia has been there 30 years. That’s unheard of continuity, isn’t it?
ML: “Well he’s not always been the line coach as we know. He’s coached different things there. He’s a great, great football coach. In fact, he and Jim Anderson used to be roommates. That’s a unique part of Dante. He’s a tremendous football coach.”
Last week you guys went 0-for-2 in the red zone, and the Patriots kind of let you play within the 20s and then find a way to shut teams down. How do you plan to attack the red zone?
ML: “We’ve got to execute the plays called and get it done, and that’s route protection and location. All things go together as far as what you think about throwing, and also the ability to run the football when you get down in the red zone, which is very important.”
Do you feel like you have an identity on offense, or are you guys still searching?
ML: “I think we’re carving an identity. Unless you’re sitting here with perfection, you’re not sitting here with a particular identity. We’re taking strides towards an identity very quickly.”
Do you threaten teams enough offensively deep with the personnel that you have?
ML: “Yeah, I think we do actually. We’ve got to continue to take advantage of it, because if you continue to keep hitting foul balls, they won’t take you seriously. Particularly if you’re on the other side of the ball calling the defense. If you’re striking up the band on me then I’m going to think twice about things a little bit.”
Is there anyway to get accuracy more consistently?
ML: “Being consistent and just the same thing you asked about the red zone. It comes from protection, it comes from schematics and being in the right spots and it comes from accuracy of the throw. All three elements have to work together.”
If the running game gets more consistent, can that open up more throwing lanes?
ML: “It can. It’s a matter of how you’re trying to develop things with what you’re doing.”
ML: “He’s a guy whose had great experience. He’s a great athlete, and he’s played a lot of NFL football. It gives us another opportunity as he moves forward and learns everything we’re doing inside out, to plug in and give us another athletic guy on the field defensively.”
Does he have any
ML: “I’ve had him for a day. I can’t tell you that. He hasn’t had a practice yet. He seems to be a very intelligent guy to talk with, and from what the coaches’ meetings have been with him, it’s been good. Watching on tape last year, he was productive with the Giants, which is what you’re looking for.
Is there a little bit of carryover with Mike Zimmer because he had him in Atlanta?
ML: “He knows what to expect from Mike, maybe.”
Weather forecast for
ML: “It’s not bad. A lot like the weather out there today. Partly sunny.”
Do you have any expectation for Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola to return?
ML: “I have no idea. I can’t predict. You can let me know maybe.”
With your two tight ends now, how much did you look at Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez?
ML: “Zero. I didn’t look at any, other than the tape. We weren’t trying to clone anything other than making our people and our offense more productive. They’re in a different situation there. They’re set up to work inside options, routes and things just a little different. We have a fine player outside so the dynamics of what we’re doing are just a little bit different.”
Just general during the course of any season, four weeks in, should you have an identity?
ML: “I don’t know because I don’t think you have one on defense. As a coordinator I always felt the same way. I think your identity gets put together over a stretch of time. Sometimes what you feel like going in is not actually what you end up with, because injuries and different things shape you a different way, So it’s hard to do that. If you would have said four weeks ago that we’d be sitting here having fumbled away all of the balls that we have this year, I would have said there was no way. The identity of the football team is that they’ll work their tails off, and they’ll fight, and we’ve just got to do it smarter and more accurately all the time.”
Have you seen another coach or another team change week-to-week as much as Bill has over the years?
ML: “They do change a lot. They can morph into different things.”
ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
AD: “Yeah, the big thing with them is, it feels like it changes every week. They've played every team this year a little differently. We have to be prepared for all the different things they have done this year. We figure we will get a specific plan, too. There's a lot we have to be ready for.”
Bill Belichick is known for taking away the strengths of teams. Do you expect
AD: “A.J. is a big part of our offense, so we kind of assume they are going to do something to try to take him away. We have to be prepared for all the different ways they are going to do that. We’ve got to get matchups with the other guys.”
Through four games, where is this offense?
AD: “There is still lots of room for improvement. I think we haven't played to our potential yet. We've done some good things and we've done some things that have hurt us. The biggest thing is, we’ve got to keep getting better. I expect that, especially this week.”
Is the offense still trying to find an identity?
AD: “If we could just be more consistent with what we are doing, that would help with it. It’s a big week for us, facing a really good team, so we have to come out and we got to play our best.”
Great defensive coordinators take away what teams do best. What do you guys do best?
AD: “I think there's a lot we've done well. A.J. is a big part of our offense, but he's not the only guy that's been making plays for us. We're expecting for them to double A.J. and make other guys make plays. We will kind of go from there. The biggest thing is, we’ve got to be able to adjust on the sideline once we see what they are doing and go from there.”
How different do they look without Vince Wilfork?
AD: “He's so good that it's a tough loss for them. We expect them to be a little bit different. The guy who came in for him played well.”
How has Aqib Talib played so far?
AD: “He's done a good job. I saw somewhere he's leading the league in picks or tied for the lead in picks. He's done some really good things. We’ve got to be at our best. We expect him to follow A.J. a little bit. Like I said last week, we like A.J. on whoever is out there.”
You pride yourself on getting better every time step on field. How much was your confidence shaken after last week?
AD: “My confidence hasn't been shaken. There's times when we didn't play well, last week was a good example. We've got so many good guys on this team, so much talent, I haven't lost any confidence at all.”
Did it surprise you that the offense had a game like that?
AD: “We expect to be better. You’ve got to do whatever it takes to win games. For us, we didn't do that last week. It's unfortunate. If we would have played better, the game could have been completely different. That wasn't the case. We’ve got to move on from that and come out and play a lot better this week.”
Has any one thing been the biggest problem in terms of execution?
AD: “We would pick up a big first down or be moving, then we would have a play that would stop us. Either with a penalty or whatever the case was. That rhythm kind of got shaken a little bit. So, I think that's what hurt us.”
What are your thoughts about going against Brady for first time?
AD: “It's fun to play these quarterbacks, them being so successful in the league and some of the best to ever play the game. It kind of goes back to when we were playing (Aaron) Rodgers a couple weeks ago. Their offense can score at any time, just because of the guy they have leading that offense. But we’ve got to come out and play. We’ve got to take advantage of every possession we have and go down and get points.”
You studied a lot of quarterbacks in the offseason. What separates Brady from other guys?
AD: “For him, some of the stuff he does at the line. Making some of the checks, seeing what he likes, getting the ball out of his hands quick. I think that's one of the things. They run some of these option routes and things like that, and he gets the ball out of his hands quick with accurate throws and a lot of run after the catch. He's got full control of the offense.”
Matt Schaub deleted his Twitter account after last week. Are you ever appalled by things you hear or see?
AD: “The biggest thing with social media these days is anybody can say whatever they want and have no consequences for it. So, you can't listen to all that stuff. You can't read into all that stuff because honestly they have no idea what went on. Obviously you want everybody to be saying positive things about you, but if you don't win a game then someone is going to be saying something negative. That's just the way the world is today, but you can't worry about that. Social media can be a really good thing. It can also be a bad thing sometimes. You can't read into what everyone is saying.”
Is it hard as quarterback to avoid hearing criticism even around town or wherever you go?
AD: “It just kind of depends. If you want to watch all the shows, watch everybody talking about games that have gone on, you can listen to it. But if you don't want to, don't watch the shows. Don't read the paper, don't read what's on the internet. You can avoid as much as you want. I'm sure that's what Matt was trying to do. If he played well, I bet it's the same people saying a bunch of good stuff about him. But it just happened to be after a loss and a play that hurt him in the game. Everybody can do whatever they want, but I'm sure he wasn't active on social media anyway. Not that big of a deal.”
Do you read the paper/Internet?
AD: “I don't read much, no. Good or bad.”
Do you think one of your main attributes is tough-mindedness?
AD: “I think so. Ever since I have been playing the game, when things haven't gone right, I feel like I've bounced back pretty quickly and done some really good things. I expect that going into this week.
Fifty targets for A.J. is second-most in league, but he’s gotten nothing deep last three games. How can you change that?
AD: “That’s what teams are trying to take away. He's so good that when we have some of those deeper throws, deeper routes when the ball is in the air, teams are trying to take it away. We have to find ways when we do get our chances to hit them. That's the biggest thing, even with adjustments what teams are doing we still have to find ways to still take our shots with him.”
Is it a tough balance between of getting A.J. the ball, but not getting involved too much?
AD: “It kind of depends. You don't want to be forcing the ball to him. You want to get him his chances in the game because he can make a big impact. You’ve got to know when you can take your chances with him and when to go to the other guys.”
Do you try that with
AD: “Yeah, it's different guys when we want to take advantage of them, so it just kind of depends what's going on.”
Coach talked about recommitting to the run. How much getaway has there been from that since Pittsburgh?
AD: “It just depends on how the game is going. Obviously we want to run the ball and run the ball well. If that's what the plan is going to be going in, then I am sure that will happen. We'll run the ball more than we had the last couple games, but it just depends on how the game is going.”
Is the running game New England’s best friend because it opens up passing lanes for Brady?
AD: “Watching the game Sunday night, I think Brady ran the ball on every play one series then threw a touchdown pass the final play. If you can run the ball well it definitely helps with the passing game and everything that goes on.”
People say it's a passing league, but teams that can run and pass seem to win:
AD: “You never know. Some games you might need to throw the ball more, and some games you might need to run the ball more. If you can be as balanced as you can, you can win a few more games.”
MARVIN LEWIS CONFERENCE CALL (with New England media)
Q: How have you been deploying your defensive ends and how have you been treating the rookie
ML: Well, Margus hasn’t had an opportunity to play in a regular season game yet, but his development has been great and I am excited for his future.
Q: What have you taken away from the Patriots’ first four games, particularly their defense in the red zone?
ML: Well they are a very physical defensive group and a very physical football team in general. Obviously they have done a great job in the red zone. They are going to try and take away what they perceive as your threats, and they make you try to beat them with others.
Q: What are you seeing from these young Patriot rookie wide receivers in terms of stepping up the first few weeks?
ML: The game hasn’t looked too big for them, so they have been able to handle the situation of it. It’s not too big, they just keep playing and that is part of it. I think as the year goes on they will just continue to mature and grow, but it hasn’t seemed too big for them. They have been up to the challenge.
Q: When you do your offensive planning you have to go against the entire defense, but when you see a player like Vince Wilfork go down, how does it affect the way you plan?
ML: I mean, again, he has been a good player, a very good player. He has been the center point of that group for a long time. They obviously in their minds have planned, you always plan for the loss of a player, so they’re going to have the next guy step up and go with the addition of Tommy Kelly that they had in the offseason and they have the young players in there also that played when Vince was out and have been rotating in throughout the season. But, he is obviously a good player. I’m sure they have guys that are excited to get their opportunity.
Q: You guys are 2-2, how would you characterize how your team has performed so far?
ML: We really haven’t performed to expectations totally throughout an entire football game. We can play brilliantly and we can play with a lot of error, and the error gets you beat. So we have to do a better job of taking care of the football, we have to do a better job of converting third downs and we have to get takeaways on defense.
Q: Considering where
ML: Actually, when we drafted Geno we thought he was one of the better interior rushers coming out of college. So we were excited to get him and he was a guy that we really targeted for that particular thing. His development over his first and second years and his ability to play and be productive on first and second down, he has continued to grow and be great at that.
Q: What has
ML: Benny has really been a stabling force to the offense, to the football team. He’s got just a great personality, a great work ethic and he fits well with the guys here. When we bring [in] a guy from another team, a team that has been very successful, they watch how he goes about his business and it really is a great reinforcement for the things as coach that you’re always trying engage your guys in and reinforce to your players.
Q: What would you characterize as being the problems on third down?
ML: Last week we didn’t execute very well. Prior to that we were pretty good, and if you don’t execute on third down, as far as, everything has to match up – protection, route discipline, throw – everything has to be coordinated. You have to have all three things coordinated and put together.
Q: How has A.J. Green been dealing with the increased attention years after year?
ML: He has to continue to develop the ways to move and shake free. That is the constant challenge for a receiver. If you just stay stationary and stay in one spot it is pretty easy for people to take you out of a football game, so we have to create ways to move him around. We’ve got to create chances for him to be one-on-one, and A.J. has to continue to embrace those opportunities and get better with them as time goes on with different ways to move him around.
Q: How much time do you have to spend preparing for if Rob Gronkowski plays?
ML: Rob is a fine player and he makes a difference to their offense. Yeah, you have to be prepared that if he is in the football game, it makes a little bit of difference as you put together your defensive plan.
Q: Speaking of tight ends, you have a good collection over there as well. How has the Patriots success with multiple tight ends influenced your plans at the position?
ML: We’ve constantly looked for another player that can be a productive guy and can help us as a blocker and a receiving threat. They’ve had a great model of it. It’s not so much what we envisioned that way, but just the fact that we play against a lot of 3-4 defenses in our division, we have to feel like we have to button up both edges and also be able to get a mismatch when we can get those guys put on a linebacker.
Q: I’m sure you use both tight ends at the same time, but in general, do we frequently see them on the field together?
ML: They’re on the field quite a bit for us, yes.
Q: What do you think of Aqib Talib so far? What have you seen from him?
ML: I think he’s playing very well. I think it has been great for him to get his career back on track. He had great skills when he came out of Kansas, and he is really – sometimes it’s good to get a change of scenery for a player. He has done a nice job and he is playing very, very well.
Q: You have a couple defensive backs banged up, how are they doing?
ML: They’re doing well.
Q: Do you anticipate them playing on Sunday?
ML: We’ll see Sunday.
Q: It is rare for someone in your profession to stay in one spot for so long. Can you speak about your time in the organization and the process of rebuilding the team?
ML: I think the opportunity and the things that you do you just work at each and every day. On both ways, the people that I work for and work with, I’ve been blessed with good coaches and we keep grinding at it. We made a huge overhaul in players and so forth and the coaches did a great job of that, accepting that we were going to get young in a hurry. They did a nice job of that, and now we are coming out on the other side of it. We have to really continue to press hard on our guys and coach them and get us to really round into a great football team.
Q: Has there been a time or two where you thought it was going to be the end in Cincinnati and time to move on?
ML: I made a decision to come back here, and I’ve stuck with it. A couple years ago, I decided that’s what I wanted to do, we were able to come to an agreement, and it’s been good.
Q: Kenbrell Thompkins played right there in Cincinnati, and I was wondering what type of interaction you had with him before the draft and whether you were interested in him?
ML: Actually quite a bit. He came up and introduced himself to me at the combine over in [Indianapolis] and I was over at UC [University of Cincinnati] a couple times for work outs. We had him here for our local day, so we had quite a bit of interaction with him.
Q: Was there any interest in signing him after the draft?
ML: That’s not what I do, so I can’t tell you that. You know what I’m saying? I’m sure we had interest. We felt he was a really good prospect. Our receiver coach felt really good about him.
BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS CONFERENCE CALL (with New England media)
Q: What have you seen out of the Patriots defense so far this season?
BG: They’ve been playing good team defense. They’re holding teams to where they can’t score the ball. Sometimes they may give up a few yards and everything, but [the] big thing is they’re not giving up a lot of points, I think it’s like 14 points a game. And those guys are a very physical bunch: all three of the linebackers, [Jerod] Mayo, [Dont’a] Hightower, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, all those guys are very physical. They’re just playing good team defense.
Q: Can you use your time here to your advantage at all, or is it just a completely different team and completely different defense? Can you lean on any of the stuff that you learned while you were here?
BG: It’s a new team, man. This league here, there’s a lot of turnover in this league, and obviously as you guys already know there’s always a lot of turnover from year to year in New England. So, some of the things are similar, some of the forms and techniques they use on defense are similar, but for the most part their defense has always been one that changes every week with the personnel. So we’re going to have to go out there and try to adjust when the game starts on Sunday.
Q: From your time here, you know what Vince Wilfork is like on the defense. Can you imagine at all what it’s going to be like without him playing on Sunday?
BG: Yeah, obviously it’s a big loss, and what Vince brings from not only being maybe the best nose tackle, best defensive tackle in the league to his leadership on and off the field is something that they’re going to have to lean on the other guys, Mayo and things like that for a time, for leadership right now, because you can’t really describe what you’re going to miss when Vince Wilfork is not out there, from not only being a standout player but also being a leader out there on defense.
Q: What have you seen on film, even in the Atlanta game when Vince went out, in how the defensive line reacted with some of those younger guys out there?
BG: Those younger guys have been playing this year, so it’s an adjustment obviously. They can’t do the same things that Vincent does, but the guy [Joe Vellano] came in, he got a sack. I remember watching the game and he came in, he got his sack, so obviously he brings some things that are going to challenge the defense as well. Every player has strengths, so we’re going to have to take away his strengths and make him play to his weaknesses. But obviously, like I said, you never can replace a Vince Wilfork, not in the middle of the season like this. But the other guys, the young guys that they have are doing a good job when he’s not in of coming in and playing well as well.
Q: How did your time here in New England shape you as an individual, maybe not as it comes to on-field stuff but also learning how to play at the professional level?
BG: I could never go back and change anything that happened in the past, and nor would I want to go back and change anything, but the things that I learned in New England not only helped me on the football field but also in life. How you approach your business and how you go about being a professional at whatever you’re doing, not just a professional football player but just a professional in life, doing things the right way. The Patriot way has helped me tremendously throughout my career, not only throughout my career but coming into the league as a young man and also growing into a full-fledged adult now and having a family of my own. It’s things like that that I think the Patriot way helped me tremendously.
Q: Is there a difference between the Patriot way and what you’ve experienced in Cincinnati with the Bengals in terms of the organizational philosophy and approach to things?
BG: No, it’s the same thing here. Guys are working extremely hard and going about their business the right way, and I’m here also mentoring some younger guys that have just come into the league and just teaching them some of the things that I know as well. But we’re all about business as well over here; it’s been same thing since I left New England. It’s strictly business every time we step into the building, and we’re just trying to win games.
Q: Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
BG: Yeah, some of the guys we’ve always been close with and we keep in touch. There’s always going to be – our business relationship may change, but our personal relationships will always be the same.
Q: How sweet would it be for you to beat the Patriots on Sunday?
BG: That’s what we strive for. Every week you go out there, you go out there and you play to win the game, and that’s what we want to do on Sunday. We have a good challenge ahead of us, but we play to win the game.
Q: Is there any friendly trash-talking going on between you and your former teammates?
BG: Nah, we’ve all been against each other countless times, a number of times in practice. I mean, it’s nothing new to us. It’s all about going out there, strapping it on, and going and playing ball.
Q: You mentioned Vince is irreplaceable and nobody obviously wanted to see him get hurt, but don’t you think that opens things up more for your offense with him not in there?
BG: Like I said, the young guys are doing a good job of coming in and doing their thing as well. They’re not Vince, but they come in and they’re not giving up plays and things like that, so they’re doing a good job of coming in and playing ball. Vince, him going down it’s hard to replace him, but the next guy has to step up, and that’s what you’re seeing from the young guys. The young guys are stepping up and playing ball.
Q: When you watched them on Sunday night, what do you think of some of the backs in the Patriots backfield, like Brandon Bolden for example?
BG: Those guys are doing a good job of playing football. They’re doing a good job hitting the holes and running hard. LeGarrette Blount had the big run of the night, and it’s always nice to see guys doing well, just doing a good job.
Q: Do you see any similarities between Brandon Bolden and yourself?
BG: I don’t really compare, I don’t really watch offense.
PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK PRESS CONFERENCE (with New England media)
BB: Once again, I feel like we’re going up against a real explosive team this week in Cincinnati; the more that we’ve watched them, and we’ve watched them pretty much over the last three years. We of course played them in 2010 and then the last two years, they were potentially one of the teams that we could have gotten matched up with in the playoffs. Of course it didn’t work out that way, but they were definitely a team that we were working on at that late point in the season, both of the last two years. Of course this year, we’ve got them on the regular season schedule. So just watching the team develop, obviously offensively they’re a very explosive group. They have good tight ends, they have good receivers, a very good receiver in [A.J.] Green, good backs, big, strong offensive line. Defensively, they have a very dynamic front. Geno Atkins is probably as dynamic a player at that position as we’ve seen in the league in quite awhile. They can really rush the passer, be very disruptive. [They have] good corners – Leon Hall,
Q: You said Geno Atkins is as dynamic a player as you’ve seen at that position. Is there any player that comes to mind when you think of him?
BB: Like a John Randle type, but I’d say more powerful. This guy has some power rushes where he just takes linemen back, those guards back and it just looks like they’re on roller skates. He just walks them, literally, right back into the quarterback. He’s very quick. He can get the edge and work up or up-and-under on the guards. Then when they try to set deep or take those quick moves away from him, he can turn those into power moves and collapse the pocket. He can ruin a game, there’s no question the guy can ruin a game by myself. Every play, you can’t get away from him either. There aren’t many plays you can run where you can say, ‘We don’t really have to block the three-technique.’ You have to block him and he’s a factor in the running game, he’s a factor in the passing game. You try to throw screens and stuff like that, he’s quick and fast, he’ll run those plays down. The guy is a really good player. Obviously their ends are good too: [Carlos] Dunlap, [Michael] Johnson, [Wallace] Gilberry, they’re very disruptive; [Domata] Peko is a big guy inside that’s a powerful guy, good run player and a power pass rusher. They have a lot of good players on the front, the young kids in there, [Devon] Still. They have good depth but he’s a very dynamic player.
Q: How have they been using their two tight ends?
BB: They’re on the field a lot. They’re a two-tight end, one-back team, primarily. They also use some three receivers. They’re good vertical players. Those guys, at times they split them out, sometimes they’re in there together, sometimes they’re on opposite sides. They have excellent receivers to go with them: [Marvin Jones], [Mohamed] Sanu, obviously A.J. Green. They have different combinations. You have to find them but they attack you down the field. They both block, they’re good catch-and-run players. When they see bad matchups there, they go to them. If you take them away, then you’re probably having trouble matching up against the receivers. If you’re matching up against them, then [Giovani] Bernard can kill you. He’s a very good space player. They have gone to him quite a bit in the passing game, on option routes, screen plays, shovel passes, things like that, get him the ball. He’s a quick, playmaking guy. BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] gives them a lot of power, gives them tough yards. Those two guys complement each other well. They have a good, well balanced offensive team.
Q: Geno Atkins was a fourth-round pick when he came out. What do you remember about him at that time? Obviously if we did it again, he’d be much higher.
BB: He’d probably be the first pick in the draft. He was an athletic guy that you saw maybe as a sub rusher, a nickel sub rusher, but he’s way more than that. He’s a good one too. Everybody has trouble with him. You look at all the games last year and all the games this year, it doesn’t matter because they flip him, he plays on both guards, the centers slide to him. He’s seen plenty of different combinations and matched up against plenty of different players: big guards, quick guards, strong guards, athletic, however you want to put him, he gives them a lot of trouble.
BB: Yeah, he was a 4-3 end at Florida and he’s a 4-3 end for Cincinnati. Big guy, athletic guy, runs well. He’s got good size and he’s a good athlete.
Q: What kind of progression has
BB: Yeah, sure, every player. Of course, he’s getting good coaching, he’s in a good program, he’s with a good team. He’s definitely developed. His rookie year there was a lot of, or certainly an element of just managing the game with him. I think he’s well beyond that. He handles himself well back there; he does a good job of making changes in the offense at the line of scrimmage. They give him that responsibility, he does that. You can see him do it a number of times on film. Again, I think he utilizes all of his weapons offensively: the tight ends, the backs, the receivers, the deep balls, the intermediate, going to check-downs and secondary and third receivers – he does all that. I think he’s a good, solid player for them at that position with very good skill players around him and an experienced offensive line. Like I said, it’s an explosive offense.
Q: Was Nate Solder raw when he came out because he made the move from tight end to tackle in college?
BB: No, I wouldn’t say that, no. I think there were some things that Nate, like any college player, had to adjust to in this league. He made that adjustment very quickly. Colorado was a spread offense. They were usually in a two-point stance, did a lot of pass blocking and that type of thing. But he made those conversions pretty quickly. Nate is a very, very smart kid. You tell him something once and he has it. He also can do it, he’s very athletic. He has the physical ability to do what you ask him to do and change techniques and that type of thing. Physically I don’t think it’s hard for him. He’s very conscientious, he works extremely hard. I think he transitioned into this league like every other rookie has to transition to it, but I’d say he made the transitions very quickly. He played well as a rookie. We had [Matt] Light playing left tackle and he played plenty of tackle. He played more on the right side, which was another new thing for him because he really hadn’t played much over there, when Sebastian [Vollmer] missed a few games but he played well there. He played tight end and he also played left tackle. He’s played left tackle very well over the last two years since Matt retired. I think he’s come in and played as well as any rookie could come in and play. I think the circumstances were he just didn’t start at left tackle because Light played left tackle that year but I’m sure he could have if we hadn’t had Matt.
Q: Is there a player or players that can fill the void for Vince Wilfork?
BB: I think everybody is going to have to, we’re all going to have to pull that rope. There’s no Vince Wilfork, you just don’t replace Vince Wilfork. We’ll still have his presence around the team and in the locker room and those types of things, which he’s great at. On the field, we’ll miss him but whoever is out there, those other 11 guys that are out there, we’re all going to have to pull a little bit harder, including the coaching staff and all that. It’s a big loss, but we’re just going to have to find a way to do it. That means everybody doing their job. Obviously somebody is going to have to replace him and whoever those people are, they’re’ going to have to answer the bell but collectively as a team, we’re all going to have to pull together. There’s no one person that can replace Vince Wilfork.
Q: Do you have to change what you want out of that position?
BB: Look, he hasn’t played every single play. There have been times when he hasn’t been on the field. It isn’t like we haven’t seen him not on the field but obviously he’s been a key guy for us and he plays a lot. We had to deal with that in the Atlanta game and we’ll deal with it going forward. We may do that, some things I’m sure we’ll continue to do, there may be a couple things that we may need to modify when he’s not in there. We’ll see how that goes.
Q: Is there a reason he wasn’t put on IR? Are you still evaluating?
BB: When we have anything to announce, we’ll announce it, I’ll put it that way.
Q: The confidence in LeGarrette Blount seemed to be there the last few weeks –
BB: The confidence in him has been since day one. I think we saw it in the Philadelphia game. There’s no issue with confidence in LeGarrette, none.
Q: Is he giving you what you thought he was capable of?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I think he’s a good player and he’s played well. He’s played well for us, again, going all the way back to the preseason. He has good run skills, he has good vision, he’s a big, strong guy, he’s got good speed, catches the ball well. He’s been a dependable player for us. We asked him to do kickoff returns, he’s done that. He’s really done everything we asked him to do. We also have a lot of confidence in our other backs: Shane [Vereen] and obviously Stevan [Ridley], Leon [Washington], Brandon [Bolden], they’ve all done a good job too. We think we’ve gotten good production from that entire group. When we’ve asked him to do something, he’s stepped in there and given us good production. I mean really I thought the run that he had on the third-and-one in Atlanta was about as good a run as we’ve had all year. I don’t know about the spot on that one. He did everything he could to get that first down. It was a very close play. Nobody will every talk about that one, but I think that’s as good a run as we’ve had. I don’t know if it gained any yards, but it was a good run.
Q: What made it such a good run? Was it that the tackle had the initial penetration?
BB: Yeah. I mean the fact that he even got as close as he did – again, we could talk about whether he did or didn’t have the first done, but whatever he got on that was more than on his own.
Q: What do you see from him that you like to keep him back there on the kick return?
BB: I think we’ve all seen his run skills. He’s got speed, he’s got good vision and he’s a big, strong guy that’s hard to tackle. He’s good with the ball in his hands. On kickoff returns, he’ll get it.
Q: Is there any element of building up speed in that role, if you were to compare him to Leon Washington?
BB: They’re two totally different types of runners. They’re both good, they just have different styles. Leon hasn’t been totally available for us this season. At times he has, but at times he hasn’t and LeGarrette has. That’s been one difference. They’re totally different styles. They’re both good players. I think they’re both productive, but they’re different that’s all. I don’t know if one’s better or one’s worse, but they’re just different.
Q: Can you talk about James Develin and his transition from the practice squad?
BB:I think James is really one of our hardest working guys. He just comes to work every day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s April in the offseason program or Wednesday of game week or Sunday. He’s very consistent, very dependable. He’s a smart kid, works hard, tough, doesn’t say much, wants to know how to do his job and goes out there and does it the best he can. Like I said, he works extremely hard in his preparation in the weight room, in his training. He’s in good condition. He studies hard, he prepares hard, he works hard, practices well. He’s a guy who just gives you a good, solid effort every single time. It doesn’t matter if it’s OTAs or the third quarter of the Atlanta game, you’re going to get the very best from him on every snap. That’s a dependable, consistent feeling that you want out of that position and I think he’s given it to us. I think we all feel like we can count him because he’s just done it so many times, so many days. He’s just been so consistent and he did that last year on the practice squad. I think he earned everybody’s respect and trust through that. Then his opportunities this year, we’ve kind of become a little more of a two-back team. When he got here last year, it was in the season and on the practice squad and we weren’t able to make the same kind of commitment that we’ve been able to make this year. He’s taken advantage of his opportunities to make the most of them. He’s been a consistent player for us in his role.