Thursday Belichick transcript

**

Q:** When you play a team in the preseason that you are going to play in December what do you hope to get from watching the tape or what can you get from the tape?

**

BB:** I think there are certain fundamental things that you can see in the game. Certainly there is more strategy between the two teams than what was shown in that game. There are certain matchups that you can see for whenever the players that are playing in this game played in that game and just certain schematic things when you are in certain formations, these are the basic adjustments and vice versa and how things fundamentally are done. As you get into the season, there is a lot more beyond that. There's no question about it. You still run your basic stuff and you have to handle it a certain way. Things that you got hurt with in that game or things that you might have felt were advantageous, I think you want to take a look at, maybe not that exact thing, but at least some element of that the next time you play the team. Then, you take into account certainly what they have done in the regular season and what they have done in the last four, five or six weeks to see what tendencies and what type of schemes you feel like you are going to have to deal with on a current basis. So, even though things change from game to game, it's hard to change everything in one week. I think there's an element of that game. It's a percentage of what you do. It's not everything. The most recent games are also factors and the personnel matchups. It's all kind of combined.

**

Q:** We talked to Marvin [Lewis] yesterday about what you mentioned about the Bengals ability to force fumbles. He said it all stemmed from emphasizing from day one, making sure you are using your arms on every tackle, which I'm sure is something they heard before. When you prepare each week, to what extent is it a matter of re-ordering fundamentals? In other words, protecting the ball is always important, but this week it's extra important and it would be a different order for next week.

**

BB:** I think that is exactly the way it is every week. I think that you've identified it. Protecting the ball is never not important. But, it's just a question of where you want to rank it on the priority list. Picking up the blitz is always important. Some teams are going to blitz more than others. It just maybe has a little bit of a higher rank on the scale, but it's going to be important whenever they blitz for you to pick it up. It's always going to be important to stop the run. It's always going to be important not to give up big plays. It's always going to be important to have good field position in the kicking game. It's always going to be important not to have a lot of penalties. But, sometimes, those things are a little bit more of a factor because of the style of player, because of your matchup against that particular team, that they do get re-ordered a little bit from week-to-week. Where you want to attack or where you feel your strongest line of defense needs to be is definitely game specific. That's really what, in my opinion, coaching and game planning is about. It's not reinventing the wheel. It's ordering them for the specific task at hand.

**

Q:** Does Ted Johnson play linebacker differently than the position is evolving to? In other words, it seems like guys like they're getting a little smaller and guys are more sideline to sideline.

**

BB:** I think it depends on the scheme. No, I don't think so. I think it depends on the scheme. I think you can look at guys, [even though] Andra' Davis didn't play last week for Cleveland, but there's an example of a big, physical middle linebacker-type. A team like the Jets, they've made a transition from a guy like Marvin Jones to [Jonathan] Vilma. They've also changed their scheme a little bit to adapt to that. But, I think it varies from team to team. There are some teams that play more of the Tampa system where the middle linebacker has a lot of deep field coverage responsibility. You have to put a priority on that guys speed and range and athletic ability over taking on blockers. You can do both, but I think you just have to prioritize what you're looking for and do it accordingly.

**

Q:** [Tedy] Bruschi said that he thinks that Ted Johnson is one of the best linebackers in the league at taking on blocks.

**

BB:** Sure. I think that is a real strength of his. He's always done it well. He did it well in college. He's done it well since he's come into the NFL, taking on blocks, separating off blocks and instinctively fitting the running game. A lot of being a linebacker is being a running back. It really is. Linebackers see holes open up and then they instinctively go to those openings. Linebackers that aren't instinctive kind of plug gaps that really aren't areas where the ball carrier is going to run anyway. A good linebacker will fill that gap, but then he'll instinctively look to move out of that area into the area that the runner is going to see as an opening and make plays that way. You have to be careful about jumping out of there too soon and creating openings. Again, that is a little bit of a cat and mouse game between the linebacker and the running back relative to cut back plays and bounce out plays and misdirections and things like that. Maintaining your leverage and maintaining your position until you're sure that the ball isn't going to enter that area and anticipating where it is going to go and then being able to get over there and make the play. That's something that we can talk about, but some guys instinctively feel it a lot better than others.

**

Q:** When John Thornton was a free agent in 2002, what did you see in him that made you want to take a closer look at him? Did that ever get close to bringing him in?

**

BB:** No, not as close as it got to Cincinnati. John came in as a productive player out of West Virginia, a strong guy that has good quickness and can run. He is a powerful player. He played a little bit at end. I think he's probably a natural fit inside in a 4-3. In the 3-4 though, a lot of those guys, the 4-3 tackles, could play 3-4 end. That's a little bit of a similar position. You talk about [Richard] Seymour as a 4-3 tackle or a 3-4 end, [Ty] Warren, it's the same type of thing. I think Thornton could probably do that, maybe also he could play nose, because he does play some of that for the Bengals. He is a strong, powerful guy that has good quickness, that can get on the edge and rush the passer, is strong to hold the point of attack, a good athlete and plays on his feet. He plays with good balance. He is a productive player for them.

**

Q:** You have the eighth ranked rushing offense. Obviously a lot of that is attributable to the job that Corey [Dillon] has done. How much do you attribute to the job the offensive line has done?

**

BB:** Well, certainly, it's a combination of the line, the tight ends, the second back in the game when we had one, primarily [Patrick] Pass and good running. Kevin [Faulk] has had some production back there as well. I think overall the running game collectively has been certainly the most productive as it's been since I've been here. That takes a lot of parts into account there, the blocking, the combination of the blocking, some of Tom [Brady's] ability to redirect the play or re-call the play at the line of scrimmage based on the look and absolutely the guy that is carrying the ball starting with Dillon. I think they are all a factor.

**

Q:** Has Pass really improved as a run blocker? It seems as if he showing up a lot more.

**

BB:** I don't know about that. He played there quite a bit last year. I think that Patrick is productive. He's not like [Jeremi] Johnson from Cincinnati as a run blocker, a 260 pound lead back. He has a different set of skills, but I think that he has been effective in the running game both as a ball carrier and as a blocker situationally. Patrick's game has improved since he has been here in all areas, in the special teams area, in blitz pick up and blocking. He's always been a good guy with the ball in his hands.

**

Q:** Do you consider Daniel [Graham] one of the better blocking tight ends in the league?

**

BB:** I think he does a really good job for us. I don't know about ranking him against everybody else. I'm sure he's up there. But, he's strong. He's athletic. He plays on his feet. He does a good job of pinning people on the line of scrimmage and that can create space on the perimeter of the defense. He's athletic enough to get out there and stay on him. A lot of guys can initially get the position, but being able to sustain it, that's the thing about blocking at tight end. A lot of times you have to sustain that block for four, five or six seconds in the play. It's not like sometimes where you hit the guy and get in position and the ball is through there. For the ball to get outside, you have to stay on that block a long time. It's the same skill for a linebacker is to be able to control that block for the whole duration of the play as the runner starts in, comes out, gets a feel for the hole, you still have to maintain that position and finish the block or finish defending the block whichever side of it you're on. Those positions take a lot of strength, but they also take a lot of athletic ability and a lot of technique because the play lasts so much longer.

**

Q:** What skills does Marques Sullivan bring, and how is he fitting into the offense?

**

BB:** He is getting there. He has only been here about a week. I think the skills are there. I don't think that is a problem. He definitely looks the part. He looks like a tackle. You can just see him. He is tall. He is athletic. He has good size. He runs well. He has good feet. We will just have to see how quickly he can adapt to our system. I think there is some background. He has some background for us because of his time with the Giants, with [Tom] Coughlin and [John] Hufnagel and some of the terminology and stuff like that. There is a little bit of carry-over from what he did earlier in the year. He has been a multiple-position player in his career at both tackle and guard, so that position flexibility has some potential. It could potentially be an attractive situation there. We will just have to see how he works in our system relative to the other ones he has been in.

**

Q:** You mentioned that he is practicing both sides. You have said before that some guys can do that and some guys can't. Is he a guy who has the ability to play both right and left?

**

BB:** Well, he has done it in his career. We will find out how effective he is or isn't in our system. But, he has done that in his career and he has done that at guard as well. So, I think that speaks to his overall athletic ability and his position versatility. At least he has lined up there in this league, which is more than a lot of people can say.

**

Q:** Is it rare to find someone with his resume at this point in the season?

**

BB:** That is why we brought him in. Yes. I would say nothing totally surprises you. Teams get in situations and they make moves sometimes out of necessity because of them being stressed in other positions. I know in the Giants case they had, and I'm not saying this is what happened because I don't know for sure, but they had a lot of injuries on the defensive line. They had several defensive ends get hurt. I just know from experience that when you have a lot of problems in one area then the only way to be able to shore up that area or just competitively get some numbers in there is to take it away from somewhere else. Maybe that is what happened. I'm not sure.

**

Q:** Can you talk about Randall Gay and how far he has come this year?

**

BB:** I think Randall is one of those guys that has had really a pretty consistent year. He started maybe in the back of the pack relative to his draft position and so forth, but by the time the rookie minicamps were over and the spring minicamps were over, I think that the opportunities he had, he was pretty productive with them. He is a smart kid. He picks things up very well. He has had experience playing at corner and safety at LSU and a little bit of that here. So, he mentally understands from a football standpoint what is going on in the secondary, whether it is as a perimeter player or as an inside player. He has pretty good skills. He runs well. He has good quickness. He has shown some toughness tackling and also on special teams. He has been pretty consistent with it. He hasn't been an up-and-down guy. He works hard. He is smart. He pays attention and takes the coaching from Eric [Mangini] and Romeo [Crennel] well. You can see him improve. Those things all work in his favor.

**

Q:** He seems to be around the ball a lot. That doesn't really seem like something you can teach. Is he a very instinctive player?

**

BB:** I think has good instincts. But, I think when you are a rookie defensive back you are going to be around the ball one way or the other. They are going to find you. Hopefully it doesn't end up in their hands too many times. But, that is the NFL. If you are a rookie defensive back somebody is going to be throwing on you. I know he expects that. We expect it and that is just the way it is. But, I think that overall his production has been pretty good. For the opportunities he has had, he has been pretty consistent with them. He has established a certain level of play in the games he has been in this season and he needs to try to continue to build on that.

**

Q:** As a team, the Patriots are at the top of the league, but there are not many individual players at the top of the list. The sacks are spread out among 13 guys. What does that say about the defense? Is it an equal-opportunity defense or is just a matter of taking advantage of certain matchups?

**

BB:** I think [it is] a combination of both. A lot of times, the guy who sacks the quarterback is the second guy or the third guy in after somebody else flushes him or breaks the pocket and forces the quarterback to move, and then that chases him into somebody else. Sometimes the guy coming first gets in there and can cleanly make the play. So, it is not geared toward one guy, one thing or one matchup. It is usually a combination of things. We just try to keep balance in our defense, and our offense for that matter, but enough balance in our defense so that it is not a situation where the opponents can just zero in and say, 'Well we can just stop this one thing. If we take care of that that will handle it'. We want to try to make them defend on all fronts and that creates, I think, more opportunity across the board.

**

Q:** At the beginning of the season when you account for player injuries and attrition, how many players do you need to get through the season?

**

BB:** I have always said, and I have always thought when you cut to 65--and in previous years back to two or three years ago the cut was to 60-- at the 60 cut I felt like every player that made your team at the 60 cut was going to play in the National Football League in one way or another. That might not be on opening day or on opening week, but before the season was over [I have always thought] that that player would be on your roster. At the cut to 65 I think that is probably still pretty close. A lot of times at the 60 cut you actually had to go beyond that to another team's player or maybe somebody you cut at the 60 cut. I would say 60 to 65 players is about where you want to be. The problem is having the right players at the right position. Sometimes, you've seen it through the league, you look at the first three or four weeks of the season and it seems like guys get injured at a certain position and all of a sudden there is a run on that position and you look and say, 'Boy, there is nobody out there in this spot that has much experience or much production'. Sometimes you look at another spot and say, 'Wow. It is hard to believe that guy isn't on a team. If we had something at that spot that would be the first spot we go to.' You know he isn't going to last very long. The rest of the league is looking at the same players you are. Once that opening is there for somebody it is kind of easy to figure out which guys are going to get picked off first. There is always a surprise or two. Maybe somebody lasts longer than expected, but 60 to 65 would be my number. That is usually a combination of veteran players and rookie players that you feel like have some promise and have some skills going for them. They just, for whatever reason, haven't done enough or didn't get enough of an opportunity in training camp or preseason for you to give them that roster spot over somebody else who has done more. But, if you could keep 58 instead of 53 some of those guys would make your team. So, I don't think it is anything scientific. It just kind of works out that way.

**

Q:** Even in 2000 when you only had 49 guys on the team?

**

BB:** Regardless of how good or bad you think your roster is-I mean, you could feel like your roster is 32nd or you could feel like it is 2nd-after 16 games the likelihood of the attrition of the players throughout the course of the year is probably about the same. So, whether it is your 60 or it is somebody else's 60, I think that is the ballpark. Obviously, if you think your roster is 32nd you are probably going to go after somebody else's players to add to yours. That was probably more the case in 2000 where we brought in more people from the outside. Although, we kept, I don't know, whatever it was, 20-some rookies that year, rookies and free agents that year. Again, you get to that point and you look around. If you have an unproven rookie and somebody else has an unproven rookie and the guy has does some things that you liked, all things being equal, you probably keep the guy that you have some familiarity with.

**

Q:** It seems like a lot of teams this year are experiencing a run of injuries at a very specific area. Is that common, or is that just something you happen to notice more as an outsider?

**

BB:** I think that is the case every year. It is just if you are the team where the injury run is, you know it better than anybody. It is a difficult problem. If you are not with that team, then whatever issues you are facing, it kind of doesn't seem that important. But, as soon as it hits you then it is tough. But, I think that is true every year. I think that every team gets into a situation during the year, some worse than others, that you just get wiped out at one position. [For example], the Bears at quarterback this year. They have had a lot of injuries at that one position. It seems like it never fails. You go through a few games and you are sitting there and saying, 'Okay, other than this one position we are not in bad shape, but if anything happens here we really have problems'. And then inevitably something will happen there at the point where you can least afford it. I think you have to be careful in practice. That is certainly a concern in practice when you are running low on a certain position, whatever it is. So, you want to go out there and practice. You have the rest of the team that needs to prepare, too. You have a tendency, do you kind of overwork the position that you are short at, or do you scale back the entire rest of the team that needs that preparation because you are light at one spot? That is a tough decision to make and sometimes you have to try to modify it to maximize those practice opportunities. Those things can really cut down your preparation on the practice side of it as well as the performance side of it on Sundays. It is always a challenging situation to manage.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising