Bill Belichick on EJ Manuel: ‘We have to be ready for everybody’
|09.04.13 at 5:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Doug Marrone may have confirmed Wednesday that rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will get the start over Jeff Tuel for the Bills Sunday against the Patriots but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick is taking anything for granted.
“We have to be ready for everybody,” Belichick said Wednesday during his press conference. “We all know that could change in one play so we have to be ready for all the guys on the active roster.”
What are Belichick’s impressions of the rookie out of Florida State?
“An athletic guy,” Belichick said of the signal-caller some draft experts had as the most talented quarterback out of college. “He hasn’t played a lot; he played against Indianapolis. Good arm, good athlete and a very productive player in college.”
Manuel was 26-of-33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason games.
Belichick dismissed the advantage his defense has going up against a first-year quarterback.
“We’re playing against some individual players but we’re playing against an entire team too and their scheme and what they do,” Belichick said. “We have to have an awareness of the players that are in there but we have to defend the scheme that they run against us and we have to carry out our responsibilities. It’s kind of a combination of those things. We’ll be aware of the skills that Manuel has, that Tuel has, that Spiller has, that [Fred] Jackson has, that [Tashard] Choice has, whoever they are in there, we’re going to have to be ready for all of them. We still have to play our defense and maybe we have a little bit better awareness specifically of one player over another and we should. We still have to play our defense, still have to play football.
And then there’s Stevie Johnson, the wideout who said this week that New England doesn’t have anyone who can cover him, including Patrick Chung, now of the Philadelphia Eagles. Does that make Belichick laugh?
“We can’t really worry about what they’re doing,” Belichick said. “We’re just trying to get ready to go. We’ll try to be ready on Sunday. That’s what we’re going to do.”
As for what Johnson brings to the Bills’ offense?
“He’s an explosive player,” Belichick said, staying on the high road. “He’s got great quickness, catching skills, good route runner. He’s a hard guy to cover.”
Here is the remainder of Wednesday’s press conference with Belichick:
BB: I feel like we’re kind of catching up here this week. Being on a regular Wednesday today, this we’re where we normally would be in terms of our preparations. We’re ahead because we’ve had time but from a team standpoint, we’re trying to get on a normal weekly schedule here. It’s a good opportunity for us to start pulling things together. The extra time, we definitely need it. We certainly have a new group of players on the team that need to get familiarized with the way we do things with our preparation schedule and so forth. We’ll try to march on through the week here. As I’ve said, there’s a lot to get ready for Buffalo so it’s good we have the extra time, we can use it.
Q: Can you talk about the challenges of game planning for a guy like C.J. Spiller?
BB: Very difficult. He’s one of the most explosive players in the league. He has great run vision, speed, catching the ball, he can line up out of the backfield like a receiver, can run receiver routes out of the backfield. He’s a combination of a back and a receiver. He’s a hard guy to tackle, a hard guy to cover; a versatile player who has a lot of skill. He’s one of the toughest players in the league to match up against.
Q: How difficult is their front seven to deal with?
BB: Good, they have a good group, real good group. They added [Alan] Branch to the group, he’s another powerful guy. They have good edge players, good inside players, the linebackers run well. [Manny] Lawson is another long guy that’s sort of like a linebacker/defensive end that he can blitz; they use him on the edge as well with [Nigel] Bradham and [Kiko] Alonso, those guys can run. They’re good up front. They have good depth and they have good players.
Q: Do you expect them to be a more up field team with Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine?
BB: They do both. They can attack and get up field, they can play technique. They run techniques depending on, I’m sure, what the call is, what he’s trying to stop. But, they’ve definitely shown the ability to do both. It’s a good group. They have good depth, they have good players. They’re hard to block and their scheme is good. They have a lot of things going for them up there.
Q: What do you like about Matt Mulligan as a football player?
BB: We’ll see. We added him to the team, he’s got some experience. We’ve seen him play tight end for a couple different organizations so we’ll see how it all plays out here. We’ll let him compete and let him try to learn the system and see how it goes.
Q: From last season to this season, what have you seen from Steve Gregory that you feel has improved?
BB: Steve has been a pretty solid guy for us, all the way through on defense and in the kicking game. Smart, very well-prepared, instinctive player. I think the biggest thing for him is it’s another year in the system, another year of working with his teammates – linebackers, communication, with the safeties, that communication, corners. I think he understands everything we do and he has a great handle on it. A lot of things he’s done before in his career. I think it’s just the communication, the timing, the execution, disguises, reads, all those things with his teammates. I think the improvement is more with the group. I think individually he has a good handle on things.
Q: Are reliability and dependability as important as potential?
BB: We like to say that dependability is more important than ability, so put it that way. Maybe I use your phrase but that’s one we use. I think we’re saying the same thing.
Q: What is your connection if at all, with Coach Doug Marrone?
BB: Yeah, sure I have a lot of respect for Doug. He was with the Jets, he was at New Orleans as the offensive coordinator and at Syracuse. He did a great job at Syracuse. We had contact with him about a number of his players, of course we drafted Chandler [Jones] last year. I think he does a good job. He runs a solid program. He’s had a lot of success, I’m sure he’ll do a good job in Buffalo.
Q: Have you seen any common threads with the teams he’s coached?
BB: He’s an offensive line coach so I think that offensive line, all the offensive lines he’s been involved with – the Jets, New Orleans, at Syracuse – they’re fundamentally good. He’s turned out several good players at Syracuse, [Justin] Pugh most recently. Yeah, I think he’s good, sound, fundamental coach. It certainly shows up in the line but I think it shows up everywhere. They’re a solid team. That’s what they looked like in preseason, that’s what they looked like at Syracuse.
Q: How has Rob Gronkowski’s progress been the last couple days?
BB: Another couple days. We’re trying to keep stringing them together. Trying to keep heading in the right direction, just trying to keep taking it day by day.
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