PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL: 10/29
(with Baltimore Media)
Can you recall preparing for another NFL offense that was built around a quarterback's running skills to this degree? (Childs Walker)"When we've played against Coach [Greg] Roman before, there was an element of that. I don't know. Buffalo and San Francisco, when he was there, definitely had elements of that. When [Tim] Tebow was [in] Denver, we faced him a couple of times; there was an element of that. So, it's come up a little bit from time to time."
How are you able to replicate QB Lamar Jackson's skills if you may not have a guy who can do the things that Lamar does on the scout team? (Kirk McEwen)"We don't have a guy. I don't know if anybody else in the league has a guy, either. He's a very talented player with a great skillset that's unique. So, that will be a big challenge for us to try to do that, no question."
You've been around a lot of great kickers in your day, and I know how much you appreciate the special teams aspect. How impressed are you with what K Justin Tucker has been able to do in his career, and did you ever think eight or nine years in, there would be a kicker that's hitting almost 90, 91, 92 percent of his field goal attempts? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's exceptional. He's had a great career. [He] followed another great kicker [Matt Stover] there. Both specialists [K Justin Tucker and P Sam Koch] in Baltimore, they're probably the two best specialists in the league – kickers, anyway, as good as anybody. They're both weapons – field goals, punts, plus-50 punts, fakes and all that. We were fortunate to block one on Tucker last time we played them, but that's very hard to do. Once they get into field goal range, it's about as close to automatic as you can get. That's a great weapon to have, and [it] certainly helps the Ravens win a lot of close games when you have a guy that's that dependable to get you three points in those tight situations."
How different is the defense here compared to the past? They seem to be inserting so many new key pieces each week, guys they're signing off the street or promoting off practice squads, that kind of thing. How different are they to prepare for, defensively?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_"They're a very well-coached team in all three phases of the game. They have a good scheme, so they challenge you with scheme. And certainly, with their talent and the players they have … You're right, they've had some moving parts back there. But I think when you have a player like Earl Thomas, who is probably as good a free safety as there is in the game, his ability and his experience to get things worked out schematically, but also his instinctiveness to anticipate plays and make quick decisions based on the offensive formations and how the play starts to develop … He's a very tough guy to play against because of his, again, his instinctiveness and awareness, that you have to really be careful with a guy like him. So, that kind of adds a dimension to the defense that makes them hard to prepare for, because he'll do things against you that he won't do against somebody else because of your tendencies and so forth. So, I'd say there was an element of that in … Obviously, Ed Reed was the best of all time, in my opinion, at that. [Eric] Weddle had an element of that, but Thomas is a special player back there."
What were your thoughts when CB Justin Bethel became available, and why did you feel like he would be a good guy for you guys to bring in?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_"Because we think he's a good football player. We didn't expect him to be available, but when Tennessee cut [Brent] Urban, we anticipated that the Ravens would do what they did based on the comp pick formula. So, when they did it, we contacted him, and he came here, and we were able to work it out. So, we're glad to have him."
With all the success you've had in New England, you're always ripe for the picking for coaches to be picked off – Brian Flores, Matt Patricia come to mind. Are you surprised that other coaches haven't stayed with you, like Josh McDaniels has spurned jobs and stayed with you? And how hard is it to reload with coaches after your best guys are picked every year away from you? (Kirk McEwen) "Well, you'd have to ask the other coaches about that. Every individual is different. Each coaching career takes different paths, so how it goes for each individual coach and what will happen in the future is really out of my vision. I just try to do the best job that I can to prepare our team and prepare our coaching staff to coach our team as competitively as we can be against a great team like Baltimore, playing them at home here on Sunday night. This will be a tough challenge, so we'll have to do all we can to put everything we can into it to be ready to go and compete against a team that's playing extremely well. The rest of it, there's movement in the league every year. Every team loses players and coaches and [brings] free agents in. That's the National Football League. Whatever we have to deal with when that comes up, we'll deal with it. But right now, we're just focused on getting ready for the Ravens on Sunday night."
You alluded to QB Lamar Jackson's unique skill set. Did that make it a stimulating week for you and your staff as you try to figure out how to deal with that? (Childs Walker)"Yes, well, it's challenging, but that's – again, it's the National Football League. Every team has good players and good coaches and schemes that they have developed for their personnel. And then there'll be a gameplan, as to how we get attacked by that team, and it's different every week. So, yes, that's the challenge that we face on a weekly basis, and we'll just, again, do the best we can to prepare for it. I'm sure Baltimore with the extra week to prepare is going to do some things that we haven't seen and give us some different looks, and we'll have to be ready for that in all three phases of the game. But that's the way it is. We dealt with the same thing last week with Cleveland. They had an extra week to prepare, and they did some things that we hadn't seen them do all year. So, again, every team has one opportunity to do that with the bye week. It's a good time to take stock of where you are. If you want to put something new in, you have a little bit of extra time to work on it – maybe make some changes on some things that you're doing based on the extra time you have to analyze it and work on it. So, yes, all of that is challenging. The Ravens are a well-coached team. They have a lot of good players. They're strong in all three areas of the game, and we'll get tested in every aspect of it."
Is the Ravens' running scheme a little different than other teams in the NFL? Are they straightforward? Or do they change it up a lot? What do you see on film when you're looking at their running game? (Jamison Hensley)"They're very balanced in the running game between the running back, whoever that is – those guys are all good, they're good downhill runners and strong, break a lot of tackles – and the quarterback. The running backs have a little more production than the quarterback, though the quarterback has a lot of production and probably a little bit higher yards per attempt, but he has a lot of explosive plays. So, you have to defend those. That makes it a little bit different. I'd say the runs themselves are Coach [Greg] Roman's runs. We've seen those before. A lot of teams run them – power plays, some zone plays, a lot of gap-scheme plays with a variety of motions to utilize the personnel that they have which is, obviously, unique in Baltimore with [Mark] Andrews, [Hayden] Hurst and [Nick] Boyle and also the way they use [Patrick] Ricard in there as well. But that's kind of what he's done where he's been. They had a lot of success with that last year. We saw that last year prior to … In the playoffs, where we thought we might play the Ravens, but we ended up playing the Chargers … But we didn't know who we were going to play. We had a bye week there, so we looked at both teams. There were a lot of things that we saw last year that are carrying over into this year. There's some new things but similar to what they had a lot of success with last season."
When you're looking at film of CB Marlon Humphrey, what stands out about him as a corner? (Jamison Hensley)"Good athlete, good ball skills, instinctive player. He's, obviously, been well coached in college and in the NFL. He's a talented player."