|Highlights from conference call with Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels||09.04.12 at 2:02 pm ET|
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a few highlights from Tuesday’s conference calls with coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
How long before Visanthe Shiancoe will be able to be an active participant?
“We’re just taking it day to day.”
Do you have any plans of making a move with the IR exemption rule kicking in today?
“Whenever we make any roster moves, we’ll make sure that you get that release as quickly as we make them, like we always do.”
What kind of challenges does Chris Johnson present for your defense and what skills does he bring to the table?
“It’s a huge challenge. His production speaks for itself. He’s really an outstanding player with the ball in his hands – in the passing game, in the running game, inside runs, outside runs, draws, screens. Everybody is at the point of attack because he has the speed to start one way and go the other to get back to the cutback backside of the defense or bounce out in either direction. Really everybody is at the point of attack when he has the ball. It’s a big challenge for our defense. He’s very dangerous. He’s had like four touchdowns over 75 yards, something like that. Whenever he gets the ball anywhere on the field, he’s just one play away from the end zone. Everybody has to be ready and do their job and make sure that no matter where he hits it, we have to defend it because he can attack anywhere on the field.”
Does Greg Salas have any experience on special teams outside of returning punts?
“It’s been limited but he’s got good size. Physically he’s got a good makeup to be able to compete in the kicking game from a size, speed, athletic standpoint. As you mentioned, he’s had some experience in the return game. We’ll see how it goes there.”
Is that something you look for when you’re getting into third, fourth or fifth receivers – someone who gives you value on special teams units as well?
“Of course it’s always a plus. The more versatility the player has, the more things he can do, the more value he has to our football team and to himself in terms of roster spot, playing time and so forth. That’s always good to have it. Some players don’t have it and they’re good at the position that they play or the things that they do and that’s great because we need that too. Players that have versatility and can do multiple things and particularly do them at a good level add a lot of value to our team and to themselves.”
As you start to wrap your head around the challenge the Titans present offensively, where does it start?
“I think obviously this is a real challenge for us here to go against the Titans. They have a lot of different weapons they can use offensively along with obviously a great coaching staff to utilize all those players. So, we’ve got to just really pay attention to all of them, make sure we understand who’s out on the field and make sure we understand what packages they’re running in the game. I don’t really think you want to single anybody out; they obviously have great players at every position. Chris Johnson and all the ability that he brings; [Jake] Locker, the quarterback, obviously, everything he can do; the wide receivers, you could name them all: [Nate] Washington, [Kendall] Wright. The tight ends: [Craig] Stevens, [Jared] Cook, I mean, all of them, along with a really solid offensive line that does a great job within their system.”
Can you talk about Jake Locker a little bit and how he’s played in the preseason?
“I think you can definitely see just the ability that he has to be able to run their offense, recognize what the defense is doing, get the ball to the appropriate people versus whatever the defense may be running and be able to read the coverages and get the ball to the soft spot of the defense. I think he’s done a great job as far as running the offense and showing his athletic ability along with his ability to read the defense and get the ball to where he’s got to get it.”
Has Nate Ebner’s work on defense been as advertised and what you expected? Or is he maybe picking things up a little faster than you expected, given the fact that he didn’t really play much defense last year?
“I think with every rookie that comes into our system, we’re obviously hoping that they can handle what we do, progress through the defense, learn our system and try to prove themselves every day, which hopefully we’re getting that done on the defensive side of the ball. Certainly, Nate would fall into that category: someone who’s got to come in and work hard and improve and keep learning the game of football. He’ll come in and worked every day, so we’re definitely pleased with the effort and his ability to come in and work hard. But he’s obviously got a long way to go, so he’ll just keep working at it.”
Does he seem to be picking things up quicker than anticipated?
“I think the whole point of all of it is that you don’t set your standards too high and you don’t set your standards too low. You just try to see how he progresses each day, and that’s really just what we grade it off of. Make sure he comes in every day and tries to improve from the previous day, so that’s kind of where we’re at with it.”
How different is what you’re doing defensively this year compared to last year? Are the techniques the same? Is it a drastic change in your view?
“I think defensively, what we’re trying to do is just go out and play good, solid, fundamental football and make sure we can handle the fundamentals and that’s really our focus of what we try to get done every year. We’re always a defense that’s going to have different things, different changes, whatever it is, but the basics and the fundamentals are really what we focus on.”
What are your thoughts on the work of Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower so far?
“I think they fall in the same category as Nate and really everybody who has come into the defense this year: just guys that we’re trying to make sure improve every day and learn the system every day to get better. I would say those guys, all three of them and really the defense as a whole, I would say comes into work every day. [We’re] very blessed to have great guys that like to come to work, like to work hard, study, work together, and just really love football, which is what you’re looking for. So, [we’re] just really lucky to have all these guys on defense that will come in and work hard to get better every day. That’s kind of our focus.”
What has Steve Gregory brought to the back end of the defense?
“I think Steve comes in and really tries to help us as an experienced player who has played in the league for a little while here. [He’s] someone that can be a true professional around some of the younger guys and show them how to study, maybe how to learn, and just be a good role model for them. But obviously in his own right, having to come in and learn our defense, learn our system and the way we do things here, so he’s had some of his own learning to get done. But so far, he’s just been, like I said with all the guys, he’s been great as far as coming in and working hard to get our defense learned and get on the same page as far as what we’re doing. That’s been a great positive.”
Having a background with Greg Salas last year in St. Louis, what do you see from him and what are his strengths as a receiver?
“Well Greg’s a young player first of all and he’s got plenty of room I think to grow and improve as a player. Last year, he had an opportunity to get in there and play a decent chunk of time in some games against some really good teams and kind of got his feet wet as a rookie. [He] made some good plays and had an opportunity to kind of learn under fire there because we ended up in a situation where we lost a guy or two and Greg had a chance to get in there and get his feet wet. He catches the ball well, works hard and is a smart kid. We’re going to put him in there and kind of see how he can fit in with our group.”
Where is his best spot to line up?
“Greg played a lot inside in college, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t play multiple positions. For the most part we ask all of our skill players to learn multiple roles and I don’t think that will be any different for Greg.”
Carrying just two quarterbacks into the regular season can you talk about how far Ryan Mallett has come since you’ve been in New England and where he is as the regular season begins?
“Well Ryan started the spring, which would have been his first spring since they didn’t have the opportunity to do that last year, with a certain understanding of the offense and I think when he finished the spring, going through all of those reps and getting that many opportunities to go out and make mistakes and learn from some of the things he was doing right and wrong, I think he left the spring with a much better feeling of how to operate the offense. Then he came into training camp and he’s continued to work hard and tried to get better at a lot of different things. Certainly he’s another young player that has an opportunity for hopefully significant growth as a player over the course of time. He works hard, he cares about football and he’s going to do everything that he can do every week to prepare himself to be ready to play if we need him.”
With the cuts that were made last week some people say that the Patriots are thin at wide receiver. Obviously you guys run your passing game in a unique way, but can you comment on that and do you see it that way?
“We have plenty of players that can make a contribution on offense. We throw the ball to – hopefully every skill player that plays in the game has an opportunity to make some plays for us: whether that be in the backfield or tight end or at the receivers position. So no, we’ve played with a lot of different variations, a lot of different numbers at certain positions over the course of time and the guys we’ve got now, we feel good about and are excited to use them on Sunday.”
Now that you’ve been back for a good stretch of time have you noticed anything different from Tom Brady at this stage of his career versus when you left to go to Denver?
“I think Tom has gotten better every year. I wouldn’t say it’s dramatically different for Tom in terms of the way he prepares. He studies and prepares so well for each team and puts in so much hard work and does a great job of demonstrating how to get ready for each game. I see the same things from him. It’s a great example for our younger players to see how he goes about trying to prepare for this opening game. I see a guy that’s determined, that’s working extremely hard, that wants to play his best football and he’s trying to do everything that he can to make sure that happens this year.”
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