Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick Transcript
October 19, 2022
BB: Okay. We’ve had a chance here to spend some time looking at the Bears. This is a pretty impressive group and really a young team that you can see getting better all the time. Coach [Matt Eberflus] has done a really good job here with installing his system and I think adapting to the personnel that they have there. Obviously, getting a lot of young players involved. It’s one of the youngest teams in the league. Offensively, [Justin] Fields is a major threat every time he touches the ball, very athletic kid. [Darnell] Mooney is really an outstanding receiver. He’s had a ton of production and I can see why. He’s very good at everything, plays multiple positions. In the slot a lot, but they’ll move him around and he’s had a ton of production. Then, of course the backs, [Khalil] Herbert and [David] Montgomery are very good. This running game is right there with Cleveland. I mean they literally have about the same exact amount of yardage. I think [Khalil] Herbert is leading the league in yards per carry. They’re very hard to tackle. They do a real good job with their running game and the play action game as well. A lot of explosive plays. Lead the league in yards per pass attempt. They’ve hit some big plays. Some of those are catch-and-run plays and then when you add on [Justin] Fields’ scrambles, which might count as running plays in the stats, but they’re actually passing plays, in terms of having to defend them. They’re really a lot of explosive plays there that are a problem. Young offensive line, talented offensive line, two young tackles. But, really the backs, [Darnell] Mooney, [Justin] Fields, guys that can really score on any play. A good group of tight ends that they use in there, so they give us multiple formations and personnel groups. Special teams is another young group, core group of players. [DeAndre] Houston-Carson is really one of the better coverage players that we’ll see all year. [Velus] Jones [Jr.], the rookie, has been great for them and [Josh] Blackwell is very fast. They have a lot of team speed. [Dane] Cruikshank, and some of their linebackers, which those guys run well too. It’s really a good group. One of the better groups that we’ve played. [Cairo] Santos, really solid kicker, veteran guy. Just hits the ball straight through, very consistent. The skills, got a big leg, punter’s got a big leg. He [Trenton Gill] whacks it down there pretty good. So, they can change field position, especially with their fast coverage players, the three guys I mentioned there. They’ve done an excellent job of creating good field position for their defense. [Velus] Jones [Jr.] in the return game, strong, explosive guy. We spent a lot of time on him. Really dangerous with the ball in his hands. Then [Dante] Pettis and [Trestan] Ebner, Ebner on the kickoff returns, another fast guy. Plays really in all their special teams. [Dante] Pettis, an experienced guy back there, they use him some on punt returns. But, it’s a good special teams unit, very sound, good players and a lot of tough matchups there for us. Defensively, Matt’s [Eberflus] obviously brought his very successful system from Indianapolis with him. In Indy, they led the league in turnovers for four straight years. Forced a lot of fumbles. They’re very disruptive on the ball. Ball security is going to be a big issue. They’ve got a lot of outstanding players. They’re hard to block on the front. Obviously, [Robert] Quinn is one of the great defensive linemen in this era. I mean, his numbers are ridiculous and whatever it was last year, 17, 18 sacks. This guy is a major disruptive force on the edge. The two linebackers, [Roquan] Smith and [Nicholas] Morrow make a ton of tackles. Obviously, [Roquan] Smith leading the league in tackles. Been at the top of the league almost every year. He’s very hard to block and a very good tackler from sideline to sideline. He’s got a lot of range, very instinctive, gets off blocks well, obviously finds the ball and really is just a tackling machine. [Eddie] Jackson’s been a guy we’ve played against before that always is around the ball. Very instinctive player at the safety position. He does some different things, but he’s around the ball. Kind of quarterbacks the secondary back there. Makes a lot of plays, makes a lot of big plays, turnovers, returns for touchdowns and stuff like that. That’s kind of his play making style back there. That’s a problem. Coach Eberflus has really done a good job. I mean, in the second half, they’re the best defensive team in the second half of games in the league. Haven’t given up much of anything here in six games. I think they’re under seven points a game in the second half, or something like that. You watch them play in the second half and seems like as they gain confidence, figure out what the offense is doing, make some adjustments, they’ve been able to really shut almost everybody down. That’s obviously a big concern for us as well. Young players, guys that we don’t know very well, that have already jumped in and made a big impact for them, first and second year players. Guys like [Darnell] Mooney, [Kyler] Gordon on defense, [Velus] Jones [Jr.] in the kicking game, [Trenton] Gill in the kicking game, players like that. Then obviously, there’s a few guys, [Cairo] Santos and certainly [Robert] Quinn, guys like that, Roquan Smith, that have been around for a while, that are good players as well and have had good careers. We’ll again get to work on these guys from a schematic standpoint and get to know them from a personnel standpoint, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. They’ve had some time here and talked about some of the things that they’re going to change or do differently or whatever, so we’ll have to be prepared for maybe something that we haven’t seen from them, whatever adjustments Coach Eberflus and his staff decide to make. Need a good week of preparation here and be ready to go Monday night.
Q: Morning Bill. I was curious with regards to Mac’s [Jones] situation, how important is it that he’s able to move well enough to protect himself in the pocket? And, I guess knowing how guys want to play and how’s he’s been pushing to play, how do you have that conversation with him and trust that he’s being completely honest with you that, ‘I’m good and I can move’?
BB: Yeah, I have total trust in Mac [Jones] and our conversations over the last couple of years, but we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know. We’re not practicing today, we’re going to get a jump on the Bears on some meetings and film work and things like that. Then we’ll practice tomorrow, so we’ll give you the injury report tomorrow, let you know how things are then, but really there’s nothing to talk about today.
Q: On Tyquan Thornton, it’s a two-game sample here, obviously a long way to go. But from what you’ve seen going back to the spring, how would you characterize what type of route runner he is?
BB: Tyquan [Thornton] didn’t have a big variety of routes at Baylor. But he’s a smart kid. He has a good skill set. He’s picking those things up like everybody, every rookie. The passing game in the NFL is quite different from college. A lot of refinement. But he gets better every day. We’ll see how it goes. Like you said, it’s only been a couple of weeks out there in the regular season. So he’s working hard and we’ll work with him. Ross [Douglas], Troy [Brown], he’s got two great coaches that have helped him a lot. He’s working hard and getting better.
Q: From one Ty to another, I wanted to ask about Ty Montgomery. Just from a standpoint of injured players are always working back on a timeline that’s specific to their individual situations. Some may be coming back this season, others it’s already looking ahead to next season, just based on what they’re dealing with. Specific to Ty Montgomery, which category is he sort of in? Just trying to get a better feel.
BB: Yeah. Well, I appreciate that Mike [Reiss]. I really do. I appreciate the in-depth questioning. I’m going to leave the injury conversation out of it for right now. But thank you. I appreciate you asking.
Q: You have a really important decision coming sometime in the next couple of weeks, obviously regarding the quarterback position. I want to talk just in general though, come at it a different way. In general, when you have tough decisions that are ahead of you, what criteria do you use when you are thinking to yourself, or talking to other coaches in terms of getting to that final answer, which is of course, player that you decide to go with is the player that gives you the best chance to win?
BB: Well, there isn’t really much to talk about here today. As you know, Mac’s [Jones] been inactive the last two weeks. So there really isn’t a conversation to be had here. Hypotheticals and all that, I’m going to stay away from those. We’ll see what we are actually dealing with here as we go forward.
Q: Wanted to ask you about N’Keal Harry. Obviously, he’s in Chicago now. When you think back to your time with him, what sticks out about N’Keal? What do you expect from him if he plays on Monday?
BB: Big, talented kid. Things didn’t really work out here the way that I think all of us hoped for. Everybody tried, it just didn’t work out. So I’m sure he’ll be ready to go. I’m sure he’ll play hard.
Q: Just curious about the process in a week like this where obviously Mac [Jones] was questionable last week. There’s some uncertainty maybe on whether or not he’ll be available this week. But as a coaching staff, do you have to get two different plans ready maybe as that quarterback situation is still unfolding here?
BB: I wouldn’t say two different plans. No. But again, we’ll get ready for the Bears. Again, there’s always players in a situation where there’s some uncertainty about their availability. That’s the way it is every single week. So depending on who those players are, what the plays are, what we’re talking about, they’re all kind of a little bit different. But we’ll manage them the best we can.
Q: So there doesn’t have to be a lot of tweaking whether it’s Bailey [Zappe] or Mac [Jones] at that position? You can kind of come up with one plan and feel like it’s good for both?
BB: Well, I didn’t say that. I just said every situation is different, and they are. We’ll evaluate each one based on the individual circumstances and do the best we can with it.
Q: On the defensive line, we’ve seen guys like Sam Roberts, Daniel Ekuale play a little more recently. I know some of that is injury related. But it’s really been sort of a group effort on the D-line. I’m just curious how that added depth and that versatility that you have with those guys has allowed you to play multiple fronts and sort of game plan the defensive line in different ways?
BB: Right. Well, as you mentioned with Lawrence Guy [Sr.] being out, and inactive for multiple weeks, that’s created opportunity. [Christian] Barmore missed some of the game last week. So that creates opportunity. Whoever those players are in any situation like that, when opportunity is created there, have a chance to show where they’re at, how they can help the team and what they can contribute. Some players have had that. Some players haven’t. Depending on the position and situation in front of them. Last week it was Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong [Jr.] at the running back spot. As always, we evaluate everybody on what they do. Obviously the better they do, the more playing time they can earn. However, they’ve actually gained it in the first place, whether that was about performance, injury or game plan, formationing, personnel usage or whatever it is, if they can build on those opportunities and create value for the team, then that will help them more going forward. If they can’t, then we’ll probably restrict it a little bit. So that’s why everybody has to be ready to go every week, all the time. You never know when you’re going to get that call and be able to take advantage of it when it happens.
Q: Want to ask you about filling the absence of Cody Davis, multiple roles on special teams. When a guy goes down like that, as good as he is, how do you describe the potential domino effect? What does it take to replace him or at least get through his absence in his various roles?
BB: Right. Well, that question is really on point Bob [Socci]. Because that’s what happens with a player like Cody [Davis]. You lose that player on five different units. So each unit has its own dynamics. Each unit has its own responsibilities that come with what he does. I don’t think – no team has a player that can replace a player like that. So it would have to be some type of multiples. Nobody can just plug in a guy and get out of Cody Davis what he has given us. That player would already be on the field and if you move that one to him, then you replace the other guy. So however it goes, is some type of combination of maybe changing some responsibilities, maybe in certain areas, again you’re talking about five different units. So the answer is really not the same for every unit that he’s on. But the question has to be answered somewhere along the line. Then of course, there’s also the backup for those five spots. Once you identify who the person is that’s going to replace Cody, then there’s five people that have to replace him. Or one person has to replace him on five different units. However you want to look at it. But it’s five replacements that you have to come up with. That’s part of the challenge of special teams and certainly being a special teams coach. You have multiple units, a lot of moving parts, you can’t backup – you have 66 spots on the six special team units, not counting the hands team and other situational plays like that, so forget about all those. But those 66 spots you have to have 66 backups. Obviously, you have to have multiple players backing up in some capacity, however you organize it. But that’s what you deal with. Then when you lose one or two players in a game or whenever it is, it just becomes exponential. So I know that Cam [Achord] and Joe [Houston] and I’ve spoken with them about it. We’ve talked about what some of our options are. I think some of that is also going to be determined on how things play out this week. How much is too much for a player taking on some of that responsibility? Or can they handle more? Or is it multiple players? So forth, and so on. So definitely a challenge. Definitely a player, Cody’s going to be a player that’s really impossible to replace one-for-one. It’s going to have to be some type of maneuvering and shuffling to be able to handle the responsibilities that he’s done for us. So we’re working on it. Again, every team has to deal with some element of this every year, every week. We’ll see what we can come up with.
Q: When you look back at scouting Justin Fields as a rookie last spring, what did you see from him at Ohio State?
BB: I think a lot of what you see from him in the NFL. Again, a very athletic kid. He gets out of a lot of trouble with his athleticism, his speed, his size, balance. He runs well. I think he can see the field. Again, they lead the league in yards per pass attempt. When they throw it, they’re a lot of down field plays. He’s accurate. He can throw on the run. He can throw in the pocket. He sees down the field as well as at other areas, in the intermediate, check-downs, screens and things like that. Which they’re very good at. Especially with the two outstanding backs that they have. So like any quarterback, it’s coming in to the NFL, it’s a big change from the system they ran in college. New coverages, different type plays, and so forth and so on. But you can see him getting better every week and making plays consistently in game after game. Throwing the ball, running the ball, throwing on the run. He has quite a few decision-making plays, whether those are RPOs or line of scrimmage checks based on the defensive deployment and so forth. So I think he’s a very talented player that’s getting better all the time. Honestly like a lot of players on that team are. They’re a team that each time you watch them play, you kind of see some of their younger players get a little bit better. They have a lot of them in there. This is a team that’s shown a lot of growth in six weeks. I’m sure with the good coaching they’re getting and the good fundamentals that they have established that that’s the way they’re going to trend.
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