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Five takeaways from the Tuesday afternoon conference calls with Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and Nick Caserio

12.06.11 at 4:15 pm ET

Five takeaways from the Tuesday conference calls with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien and director of player personnel Nick Caserio:

1. Belichick spoke at length about his longtime relationship with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The two go back a long ways as assistants, and have faced each other eight times as head coaches, with Shanahan holding a 5-3 edge on Belichick (when Shanahan was in Denver) in their head-to-head matches.

‘€œI think Mike liked me because he used to like to beat up on us all the time,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œMike was out in San Francisco when I was with the Giants, so we’€™ve always competed against each other; we’€™ve never been on the same staff. I’€™ve gotten to know Mike a little bit off the field, league meetings and stuff like that. He’€™s a great competitor, I have great respect for what he’€™s done, all the championships and all the outstanding teams he has had and coached. I’€™d say most of our stuff has been off the field.’€

Belichick hosted Shanahan at training camp a couple of years ago, and clearly has a deep and abiding respect for the former Broncos coach.

‘€œIt’€™s great to be able to talk to somebody that has that perspective,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œThe Jimmy Johnsons or the Mike Shanahans or people like that that have been through NFL seasons and have a lot of experiences and can relate to all the different points in time, whether it be the draft, training camp, regular season, Xs and Os, personnel and so forth. It’€™s great to be able to exchange ideas with somebody like that. Mike is a really smart guy and he’€™s had a tremendous career. I think he has a lot to offer in a conversation.’€

2. We touched on this in our story today on the Redskins’€™ defense, but the strength of the Washington defense appears to be in their two young pass rushers, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

‘€œThey don’€™t move them around a whole lot. They have a couple looks, but for the most part, it’€™s not hard to find them. The problem is blocking them,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œIt’€™s kind of like [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney. They move those two guys around a little bit, a couple of snaps here and there, but the problem isn’€™t finding them; the problem is blocking them. They’€™re very good. They each other well. They’€™re both strong guys, really powerful and can collapse the pocket and also are fast enough to run around, work the edges.

‘€œThey both do a pretty good job in coverage, better than a lot of linebackers that I’€™ve seen that are outstanding pass rushers. They use them in some coverage responsibilities and they’€™re pretty competitive there. They do a good job in the running game. They’€™re both strong tacklers ‘€“ they wrap up well, they finish well. It will be a big challenge for us. These guys are two good bookends.’€

3. O’€™Brien discussed the recent run of (relatively) turnover-free football over the last four games. In that span, Tom Brady hasn’€™t thrown an interception, while the Patriots have lost just one fumble.

‘€œThe way that we coach that, number one is that we emphasize it,’€ O’€™Brien said. ‘€œOne of the keys to every game is always going to be to not turn the ball over and to take care of the football and ball security. If you’€™re a ball carrier and you’€™re handling the ball then you’€™re handling the lifeline of the team. We emphasize it. Then I think we do drills during practice. Our defense does a good job of trying to strip us after the play, things like that, to remind us to take care of the ball. I think there’€™s been a lot of emphasis on it, which has always been the case here, but I just think we’€™re doing a better job of it the last four games.’€

As for Brady, he’€™s in the midst of his longest interception-free streak since last season when he only threw four picks over the course of the entire regular season.

‘€œHe’€™s as hard on himself about interceptions or strip sacks and things like that as I could be hard on him,’€ O’€™Brien said of Brady, who has 10 picks on the season. ‘€œHe’€™s done a really good job in the drill work, in practice of just reminding himself, me reminding him, the backup quarterbacks reminding him, ‘€˜Hey, look take care of the ball,’€™ ‘€˜Hey, this was a good throw,’€™ ‘€˜This was a nice job of taking care of the ball in the pocket.’€™ I think over the last four weeks, he’€™s really improved.’€

4. O’€™Brien was asked about the fourth-quarter struggles the offense had against the Colts — the Patriots had just 11 total yards in the fourth quarter Sunday against Indianapolis.

‘€œNo question, we have to finish these games better,’€ O’€™Brien said. ‘€œWe play well for a big part of the game and then we go into the fourth quarter. It’€™s coaching, it’€™s playing, everybody is involved in it ‘€“ we’€™re all in it together. We just have to do a better job of possessing the football at the end of the game.’€

5. Caserio talked about newcomer Nate Jones, who saw his first action with the Patriots after being signed to the active roster days before. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 70 of a possible 74 snaps at defensive back in Sunday’€™s win over the Colts.

‘€œNate’€™s played a lot of football; [he’€™s an] experienced player, pretty instinctive,’€ Caserio said. ‘€œHe played star with the Dolphins. He played some star and some weak safety when he was in Denver when Josh [McDaniels] had him. He was available. He was somebody that we were familiar with having played against him, even in Dallas. He played in Dallas ‘€“ I think in ‘€˜07 he was with Dallas when we played them down there.

‘€œHe’€™s an experienced player, had some position versatility, pretty smart guy, pretty instinctive guy. He was available, so we made a decision to add him to the team. That’€™s why we did what we did.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brian Orakpo, dwight freeney



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