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November 21, 2007
Transcript of Bill Belichick's Wednesday press conference
We’re on to the Eagles today. We’ve had a couple of days after the late night Sunday to get on Philadelphia and, as usual, they seem to be playing their best football this time of year, November and December, like they always do. Andy [Reid] I think does a terrific job. I have an awful lot of respect for him and the job that he does down there, and the entire organization. They’ve been a consistent winner for a number of years and we’ve kind of played them on a regular basis there in preseason for awhile and haven’t seen them for a little bit, but they have a lot of familiar faces, a lot of great players, some of the best players in the league that have been around for awhile and know how to win. Certainly [there is] a veteran core there and then they’ve supplemented that with both some young players and some guys that have come on to the team recently, like [Takeo] Spikes and [Kevin] Curtis, guys like that that they’ve added on to the roster that have continued to make them strong. They definitely can run the ball; they can stop the run. Defensively they’re excellent in the red area and on the goal line, as they usually are. They’re usually right up there at the top of the league defensively and they are in a number of categories. The red area, of course, is outstanding. I think Jimmy Johnson does an outstanding job. I’ve known him for a long time and I have tremendous respect for what he does on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve got some very experienced players and they also have a very good scheme. They’re a hard team to get ready for. We’re going to need all of the preparation time we can get to handle what they do offensively. Of course, Andy runs the west coast system. They’ve been running it for a long time. There’s a lot of consistency there. They certainly know what to do and how to handle different defensive schemes. They handle them well. They can run it and they can stop the run. It’s a veteran, proven team and I think that they know how to win at this time of year. They’ve been doing it for a long time. That’s what we’re looking forward to this week. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll need to be on top of things on Sunday night.
What’s the greatest change in the Eagles from the last time you played them, in the Super Bowl?
I don’t think the scheme has changed a lot. They have a very extensive scheme. I don’t mean to say that it’s just very simplistic -- That’s not the case at all. It’s very extensive, but it’s still the same comprehensive scheme that they’ve had and a lot of the key players are there - [Donovan] McNabb, [Brian] Westbrook, L.J. Smith, [Juqua] Thomas, [Jon] Runyan and defensively [Brian] Dawkins and [Lito] Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, guys like that. [David] Akers. There’s a lot of players that are constants. They’ve got some new players that are in there one way or another, whether they be draft choices or whether it be, again, guys they’ve brought in like Curtis and Spikes and players like that. I think it’s a combination of the old and the new. The scheme’s kind of what we’ve seen before, but there are some new players and we’ll have to be ready for them, so I guess that will be the biggest change. The two coordinators, in essence Andy and Jimmy, that has been pretty consistent.
I know they have the normal offensive scheme that they would normally use, but how different would it be with a [A.J.] Feeley running it verses a McNabb running it, because you don’t know that this week?
As always, we’ll be ready for both of them. Feeley beat us down there in Miami a couple years ago, so we have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for McNabb. They’re both outstanding quarterbacks. They both can run the system and Feeley got in there and ran it last week in Miami after McNabb went out. He played it very well. I think that they can keep it rolling no matter who’s in there. Again, it’s such a well-oiled system and they’ve had a lot of continuity. They have a very experienced offensive line, a very good offensive line, certainly one of the best offensive lines in the league, so they can pretty much keep it rolling probably with just about anybody in there. Just like they did last year when they plugged in [Jeff] Garcia. It seems it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. They seem to be able to move the ball pretty effectively, and I think that’s a credit to not only the quarterback and the coaching but the entire offensive unit.
Trent Cole is not nearly a household name but he’s done a good job of getting to the quarterback. What’s distinctive about him?
Well, he does more than just get to the quarterback. He plays end very well. They’re a very active front up there. He’s got good quickness. [He’s] a little bit undersized compared to some ends, but he’s quick, he’s active, he’s very instinctive. Guys that overset him or don’t get out there quite on top of him like they need to, if there’s just a little bit of a mistake there by the tackle or by the tight end, whoever is standing there to block him, he has the quickness and explosiveness to get on the edge and make you pay for it. He has a lot of negative plays in the running game. He’s a disruptive pass-rusher. Thomas, [Jevon] Kearse on the other side, whoever it is, both of them - I think Kearse played very well early in the year. I know he hasn’t been playing as much lately, but he’s been productive for them this year. [Darren] Howard in passing situations coming inside, [Brodrick] Bunkley is an outstanding player. He has a lot of power. They play a lot of guys on the defensive front and they’re pretty good.
Why is Brian Westbrook such a difference-maker in their offense?
He does everything well. He’s just an outstanding player. He’s got great quickness, he’s a hard guy to tackle out in space, he’s very good on screen passes and out of the backfield. He’s obviously got good hands. He’s a good inside runner, he has good vision, good balance and good speed. Just like in the Washington game, he took a screen pass, got a key block from [Shawn] Andrews and went whatever it was, 50-some yards and that’s the difference in the game, so it doesn’t take much from him. He’s had great production in the return game for them, even though they haven’t used him as much on that this year, but in the past. So he’s very good in space, he’s got good vision and good power in the inside running game. He’s leading the league in production from the line of scrimmage. He does it in a lot of different ways. That’s what makes him hard to defend - he’s pretty good at everything.
Do you see similarities between Brian Dawkins and Rodney Harrison?
I mean, they’re both good players. Dawkins is a real good player. He’s been very productive for the Eagles. [He’s a] kid who was drafted there and played his whole career there. [He’s had] interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, good blitzer, good in the deep part of the field, good at man-to-man coverage, good in zone coverage, good down closer to the line when he does play down there, even though [Sean] Cosidine and [Quintin] Mikell and now even [J.R.] Reed, he’s been mainly the free safety, but there’s plenty of times when he plays down close to the line of scrimmage. I think he can do it all and he’s been very productive for them. Again, they [have] a very complex defensive scheme. They do a lot of - they have a lot of different schemes and I’m sure he’s a big part of getting that coordinated, getting everybody on the same page and executing. He’s an outstanding player. [Their] corners are good, too.
For years McNabb was more or less the face of that offence. Is Westbrook now the face of that offense?
No, they have a lot of good players. They have Curtis, they have Brown, L.J. Smith, who must be averaging 50 receptions a year for the last three or four years, they have a couple of big receivers - [Jason] Avant, [Hank] Basskett, those guys are big guys. Greg Lewis - he’s killed us before. They have a good receiving corps, they have good tight ends [and] they have good backs. [Correll] Buckhalter has come in there and given them a lot of production in the running back position when Westbrook was out. He’s a hard-nosed, tough guy that has a lot of positive plays, returns kicks for them, so I think they’re a well-balanced offense and it starts on the offensive line. You look at Thomas and Runyan and those guys - it seems like they’ve been there forever. And Andrews, he’s the best guard we’ve played against all year. I mean, this guy is really good. You talk about go-to guys [for] running backs and receivers and all of that - Andrews is a go-to guy. [When] you need yards, you run behind Andrews. You’ll get them. I mean, this guy is really a good player. They’re a well-balanced offense. They’re no one-man band. And they have a good scheme and they know what they’re doing. Andy is a good coach. He knows how to spread the ball around, he knows how to attack defenses. They move the ball.
Can you make a comparison between a player you’ve coached in the past and Heath Evans, in terms of the way one week he can be a lead blocker and the next week it might be running the ball, and he’s also fast enough to be out on coverages?
[Tommy] Vardell was similar to that in Cleveland before he got hurt. He probably had a couple of 100 yard games and was good on special teams, caught the ball well, was a good runner. And then he got hurt so it was never quite the same after that, but…Heath’s a versatile guy for us. He can play on third down, he can play on early downs, he can play on fourth down.
Is that unique or is it less unique than it would have been in the past because, as you’ve talked about, that traditional fullback isn’t really that prevalent in the league anymore?
When I came into the league in the 70’s and then even into the 80’s, the fullback and halfback, the carries were kind of evenly balanced. You had Franco Harris and Rocky Blier. You had fullbacks that carried the ball - [Larry] Csonka and [Jim] Kiick - all of those combinations - [Jim] Taylor and [Paul] Horning. I mean, that was a little before that, but I’m just saying that there was a time when - Before the I-formation you had some type of flat-backs, either away from the tight end, to the tight end or split backs. And the carries were kind of equally split between those two positions. And the halfbacks blocked for the fullbacks and the fullbacks blocked for the halfbacks. That’s kind of what Heath is. Heath can block, Heath can carry the ball. He would be a natural fullback for the offenses of the 60’s and 70’s. When teams went to the I-formation then you really, in essence, you put a guard in the backfield and you gave the ball to one guy. In I-formation there’s two backs back there, but it really isn’t a one-back set because the tailbacks get 90 percent of the carries, if not more. And then you get teams that decided, you know, like when Joe Gibbs and went to Washington, [Don] Coryell system and all of that, they said, well, look, why put another basically lineman back there who’s a big - you know, like [Jim] Braxton, Maurice Carthon and guys like that who were just kind of pure fullbacks - why put a fullback back there that’s basically a guard in the backfield? Let’s get another tight end or let’s get a more - what they called at H-back. Let’s get a guy who’s got a little more play-making ability. So then those teams became true one-back teams and they didn’t make any bones about it. We’re not going to put a guard back there in the backfield, we’re just going to go to a one-back set. So that’s kind of how the game has evolved. Of course, you watch college football and some teams don’t have any backs in the backfield - teams like Florida and all they have is a quarterback back there. Now you’re back to almost like a single-wing running game, where your quarterback, that’s your runner. It’s just kind of how the game has evolved, but Heath is a lot like the fullbacks from back in, like I said, the 70’s and early 80’s when I came into the league, and prior to that going back into the 60’s.
You mentioned Florida. There’s obviously more college teams going to that spread with just a quarterback in the backfield. Do you think that type of game will ever make it’s way to the NFL or is that strictly a college thing?
I don’t know. There’s times in the NFL where you see just a quarterback in the backfield. There are situations like that. But I mean, you watch the PAC-10 and a lot of times you can watch a whole game and not see two backs in the backfield. It’s empty or it’s the quarterback back there with one other back and three, four, five extended receivers. I mean, I don’t follow college football that closely, but I watch it in the spring when you watch certain teams play and you’re watching players. You watch the PAC-10, you watch…whatever it is out there. The Big West or whatever that conference is. Those teams are in - I don’t know if it’s five receivers, but they have four or five guys spread out over the field the entire game. That’s their goal line offense, too.
Could you see - Oregon has [Dennis] Dixon and Florida has [Tim] Tibow, where the quarterback runs the ball, too - Could you see that in the NFL?
I don’t know. We’ve seen it in Vince Young. The guy had - I don’t know how many yards he had rushing last year but it was quite a few. But I mean, I think when you look at teams like Florida and Oregon, teams like that that do that, their running game really then becomes, it’s like the single-wing. When you run the single-wing, you have an extra blocker. You don’t have a quarterback handing the ball off like you have in a T-formation, so you have a guy carrying it and there’s no wasted guy, which is really what the quarterback is. He hands it off and that’s it, whereas in the single-wing and those kinds of offenses, you pick up an extra guy that they either have to cover or you pick up an extra blocker in the play because you’re not having a quarterback hand the ball off. Really, that’s the essence of the single-wing offense. Everybody is a blocker and you have one ball-carrier. You don’t lose the T-formation quarterback.
What’s your schedule tomorrow for the holiday?
We’ll go a little bit earlier, finish a little bit earlier.
Will you have time to enjoy it?
Yeah, we’ll be done a little bit earlier. We’ll try to take what we do on a normal Thursday and just push it ahead a little bit and then what we don’t get we’ll add on to Friday.
It’s been awhile since you’ve had a Thanksgiving off, hasn’t it?
In the past a lot of times we’ve practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday and then given the players off on Thursday. We probably would have done that this week, but then when the game got moved to Sunday night we didn’t get back here until like 4:00 in the morning Sunday night. We just didn’t feel like we had enough time to prepare, as a staff, for the players to come in on Tuesday. Plus, it was kind of pushing it with them, too. We’ve done it both ways, but that’s what we’re on this week. We’re fine with that. I don’t think I’m going to go hungry, though, if that’s what you’re [worried about]. I don’t look like I’m undernourished, do I?
Will you have some of the coaches or anyone with you?
Well, yeah, I think everybody has kind of family time [and] does their own thing at Thanksgiving. We’ll all be a part of that.
Kelley Washington’s snaps on offense have been really limited. How has he done adjusting to becoming more of a special teams specialist?
Kelley’s always played in the kicking game. I thought he did a good job with that for Cincinnati. He’s done a good job of that for us, and he’s done a good job offensively when he’s been called on to play. I think he unfortunately missed a little bit of time early in the season in training camp and that let some other guys probably get a little bit ahead of him there and they’ve done a good job, but I have a lot of confidence in Kelley. I think he can do whatever - Whatever we’ve asked him to do, he can do it. We have other players that have been productive at that position, too - tight ends and slot receivers and perimeter receivers, but I don’t think there’s anything that he’s been asked to do from a receiver standpoint that he hasn’t shown he can do a good job of, whether it’s play outside, play inside, block, run after catch. We saw him do a lot of those things in preseason. He hasn’t had as many opportunities to do that in a regular season as… He hasn’t had very many opportunities, but I have every confidence that he could do it when he gets the opportunity to, and maybe it will come soon.
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