As I'm working off something of a theme based on my last post -- you know, Bill Belichick doing Bill Belichick things -- I figured I'd remind you something else the New England head coach always does against practically every opponent:
He singles out one area, facet or player on the opposing team's offense and decides that area, facet or player is absolutely not going to beat him. Belichick, in other words, tries to shut out something the other team does very well to beat that team.
The idea is the opponent then has to find some other way to beat the Patriots.
When the Patriots played Denver, Belichick tried to shut down Wes Welker. When they played the Saints, he locked Aqib Talib on Jimmy Graham and shut him down for the most part.
Against the Dolphins in the second meeting last year, Belichick decided the one thing he needed to shut down was tight end Charles Clay.
The Patriots bracketed and sometimes double-covered Clay in that second meeting. Clay had caught seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers the week before the New England game. He caught one pass for six yards against the Patriots.
So I asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor about this on Monday. I asked if he was aware of the issue and what he planned to do about it:
“Well, if they put 11 guys on him, we’ll have a hard time, that’s for sure," Lazor joked.
I doubt that will be their approach ...
"There are very few pass plays that are designed to only go to one person," Lazor said. "There are a couple. There are times when you have to work hard to get the ball to someone that people are looking to take it away from them.
"I have great confidence in [Clay's] ability to get open, probably shown specifically by certain people trying to take him away because they know what he can do and they know that if you have an average player on him, he’s probably going to get open. I’ve seen the film from last year. We know what plans have come against us. We know what’s worked against certain people."
That's good. Knowing what the Patriots tried previously before a columnist says it is always a good start so I am encouraged the offensive staff is on its game.
"Hopefully, all of the time we’re spending in the meeting room, we’re doing the right things as far as how we plan against it," Lazor continued. "There’s no doubt about it, when certain guys are taken out by double coverage or for whatever reason, others have to step up and they understand that."
So it is clear Lazor expects Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to step up if the Patriots decided to erase Clay.
Lazor addressed a number of other issues on Monday, as he'll do every Monday. This is all he said:
(On the pace of the offense and if there will be more high speed starting on Sunday) – “There is no I think about it. I think we have certain decisions that we have to make on the strategy of how we’d like to approach each game and we’ll probably keep those to ourselves."
(On if there is a reason that the offensive pace during the preseason was not as fast) – “Yes.”
(On what he’s seen from QB Ryan Tannehill through the preseason and what his next step will be) – “I think we’ve spoken from the beginning about how he approaches the game and how he approaches practice and I’ll just echo that again. You’re talking about a guy that has the desire to be great and the desire to work at it, which is really important. We ask him every single day to be the most prepared player when he walks out on the practice field. So the first thing it’s going to be for the quarterback is work, off the field and in the classroom. I think he’s done a great job with that. We need Ryan to just continue to show mastery of what we’re doing, decisions that he makes, making them fast, being accurate with the football, getting the ball spread around. It just takes repetitions, it takes time. We try to put him in really hard positions in practice to get him ready to do it in a game."
(On if the players on offense are reacting more now versus when camp started) – “I think we’re getting faster. I think you see it on the practice field. Yesterday, when we went out and practiced, I thought our pass skelly was faster. I think guys are moving. We want guys that can play in space. We want guys who when they get the ball in their hands, (they) know what to do with it. We want guys that can separate and that’s really what we’re pushing toward. I think every single day we’re seeing it get better."
(On how dangerous WR Mike Wallace and RB Lamar Miller can be in space with their speed) – “Time will tell, but that’s part of what we’ve talked about from the beginning about being exciting here. I think there are guys who can run and we’ve just got to get them in those positions. That’s our job as coaches."
(On where his comfort level is with the offense and how they’ve adapted to his system and how he feels going into the Patriots game) – “I think they’re all going to be important. I don’t think it’s any different. Certainly, being a division team has a little extra maybe that it counts, but I don’t think the guys will approach any game any differently. I think you have 16 regular season games, you’ve got to make them all count. I don’t think of it as adjusting any more. I think we’re here, we’ve been working at it a long time. We’ve put a lot of time and effort in, players and coaches. So this is who we are and it’s our turn now to step out and prove it."
(On what he wants the personality of the offense to be) – “I think Coach (Joe) Philbin talked earlier today about scoring points, and in the end that’s what it’s about. We’ve got to do a good job getting points on the board. That’s how we can contribute to winning. There are a lot of ways to do it. There are some weeks where we’re going to do it running the ball more. Some weeks we’re going to do it throwing it more. But every single guy that gets the ball in his hands has got to run with a certain kind of attitude and every guy that’s blocking has got to block with a certain kind of attitude. Starting this weekend, I think the players will have the ability to show that on the field."
(On if there is a specific area in which he’s seen the most growth from QB Ryan Tannehill) – “I think in the first year of running a new system, it’s in learning what to do, learning how to call it, being comfortable with what you do. I think as far as his personal individual ability, I think we’ve seen him work to be decisive and to be on time, to get the ball out of his hand. I think in the games, he’s proven that he can do that, he knows what to do, he’s getting the ball off on time. So that will be a continual process. It’s not just him, it’s everybody. We’ve been pretty pleased with how he’s done that in the games."
(On the run game and how it important it is to have a balanced offense) – “We expect to be productive when we run the ball. We think we have good backs. I think we have a good offensive line. I thought the third preseason game, when we played everybody, was the best that we’d run it and we had gone into that game with that being one of the goals of the game for us as an offensive staff was we thought we needed to run it better after the first two. We thought that was the best that we’d done to that point. I think it’s on track. I think we’re going to face some real challenges as far as the people that we’re playing (against) up front. I think it’s going to be quite a challenge for us."
(On if he will be calling the game from upstairs or the sidelines) – “I’ll be downstairs. I’ll be on the field.”
(On why he decided to coach downstairs) – “I think it’s a comfort level, both for me and for some of the other coaches, for the players. I just felt like we tried both and that worked the best. We always reserve the right to change our mind. Had to put that in just so we were all together later."
(On what he likes about the offensive line and what he thinks they do well) – “I like how quickly that they’ve learned to communicate together. I like the fact that, when you walk in the room, when you talk to them, if we make an error, if you come out of a game, off a practice field and you talk about something that needs to be fixed, you very quickly get the sense that they’re all together, that they agree with you, that they understand what you’re talking about and that they quickly get it resolved that, ‘Yeah, we’re going to get this thing fixed.’ I feel like it’s a unit. I feel like John Benton and Jack Bicknell (Jr.) have done a great job in coaching that unit because we also have new coaches at the spot. When you’re with them every day and you’re watching them on the practice field, you’re talking to them in meetings, you feel like they understand our goals, they understand how we plan on getting there and they have great resolve to get it done. To me, it’s the unity, it’s the attitude and now it’s time to put it on the field."
(On what he needs to see from RB Knowshon Moreno to emerge as the number one back) – “I don’t think of it probably in terms of that, I just think about I want to see the guy be productive. You can’t argue with the fact that in the amount of time that he’s been on the field for us he has been. So I’m looking for him to continue that."
(On if RB Knowshon Moreno looks fully healthy) – “He looks good to me. It’s for me to probably answer that. This is the first time I’ve been around him, but yeah, I feel great about where is. I felt great about how he played against Dallas and looking forward to seeing more."
(On if he has a feel for at the moment if he thinks the offense can be above average or if it’s unclear) – “Well, it’s hard to qualify it. I guess I wouldn’t get into the job of predicting things. I would tell you I feel very good about the talent level that we have. I think, when you start new, which I am and some of our coaches are, there’s always that little bit of the first couple of games to see certain people. We have some new people that we need to see operate in a real game, live bullets. I think the preseason’s given us a good glimpse of it, so we have a pretty fair idea where we’re headed. I think there’s a lot that still needs to be developed. Some of it’s going to get done out here on the practice field. Some of it’s probably going to have to develop as the season goes on, but it’s time to go right now. I think the guys have proven to us on the practice field or the preseason game field that they can get it done. That’s who we’ve got to go with. It’s time to put up some points."
(On if WR Jarvis Landry is ready to play a major role in this offense) – “I have no concerns about Jarvis being ready to play. I think, from the day he walked onto the practice field, he’s shown that he’s prepared. I think in every preseason game, he’s played at a high level. I think Jarvis is ready to play."
(On the challenge of going up against CB Darrelle Revis) – “I think the guy is a fantastic player. I think they’ve got a lot of fantastic players. I think, defensively, in coverage, what they’ve shown is the willingness to play man coverage and challenge you. Sometimes, they have guys that are huge big name players. Sometimes, they’ve had guys who maybe aren’t considered at that level, but it hasn’t stopped them from contesting the throws, playing man coverage. There no doubts about the challenges ahead of us in the passing game as far as getting open."
(On what he’s seen from RB Lamar Miller in the preseason and where he would like to see him improve) – “I think we’re expecting to have more production. That’s the biggest improvement in just the numbers that you’re talking about. I’ve seen lots on the practice field that tells me where we’re headed with Lamar and I feel very good about it, and his ability to be productive. But if you talk about the preseason games, our production needs to improve."
(On what specific areas of RB Lamar Miller’s game does he need to improve) – “I think what Lamar is improving at right now and I expect him to continue to go is to be decisive from the backfield. I have no doubts about how explosive and productive he can be in space. There might be some schemes that are a little bit different for him and, the more reps he gets at them, the more decisive he is from the backfield. I’ve seen that happen during the preseason. I’m excited where we’re headed.”