Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.13

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Opening Statement:

I’m going to give you guys injuries really quick: so, (Mekhi) Becton, as y’all have heard, he’s got his knee, (he’ll be out a) minimum of four to six weeks. (Lamarcus) Joyner, torn triceps, he’s going to be out for the season. (Jamien) Sherwood has got a sprained ankle, he’ll be out a couple of weeks. (Blake) Cashman has got a hamstring, he’ll be out a couple of weeks. (Braden) Mann has got a knee sprain, he’s going to be minimum four to six weeks.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: So, Robert, with Mekhi specifically, to start off, how does it impact your offensive line play? Also, he’s having the scope, right? Has he had that already or is that upcoming?

They’re evaluating it, getting their second opinions and all that, so that’s to be determined.

 

(follow up) So, losing a guy like that, how does that impact your line, who obviously didn’t have a great day anyway yesterday?

Yeah, there’s a shuffling that has to happen but, with respect to Mekhi, he did only practice twice leading up to the game the last two or three weeks. George (Fant) will go to left tackle and Morgan (Moses) will play right tackle. They’ve gotten a lot of reps, so they’ll be able to work.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: You mentioned with Mekhi that it’s four to six weeks minimum. What goes into that? Is that where it could potentially be longer based on what?

He’s getting a second opinion. Obviously, if the second opinion reveals that there needs to be surgery, if there’s no surgery then the rehab time and all that stuff. It’s just, like I said, minimum four to six, after that, that’s more a question for the docs.

 

Neil Best, Newsday: Can you just confirm that it was a dislocated kneecap?

Yeah, from my understanding. I don’t want to get into all the terminology, it’s like reading Chinese, but there is a dislocation of the kneecap but, everything else seems to be intact.

 

(follow up) Obviously, you got a couple veteran tackles there, should it make it easier for you to adjust because these guys have been around and know what they’re doing?

It’s like I said the other day, we feel very fortunate we have three legitimate starting tackles. Getting George over there on the left and Morgan over there on the right, obviously Mekhi is a heck of a player and a heck of a talent, but to have two veterans that know how to play this game, getting them in there so they can get into a groove is beneficial.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Do you think you need to add anyone after these injuries, Robert? Do you have to look into signing some people?

For sure, there’s going to be talks, obviously, Joe (Douglas) and his staff getting together and gathering names, but there are going to have to be some additions.

 

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, you’ve spoken to us this summer about just kind of tempering the expectations for the young team that you have around you. Is what you saw yesterday a little bit what you expected? Obviously, you’re hoping to win, you’re planning on winning, but what did you see yesterday versus what you thought you might see?

Thought overall in the first half, what you just saw was a young team trying to find its footing. There was so many small little errors that were made throughout offense, defense, and special teams, even from coaching decisions and all that stuff. Just little things here and there, all the way across the board. But, got into the locker room, talked through it all, made the adjustments that needed to be made, both from a player, coach, all of it and, you just saw a better second half. Offensively, moved the ball a lot better, defensively, we were able to get more three-and-outs and create a little pressure on Sam (Darnold). But overall, the first game jitters and all that stuff, I don’t want to say we expected it but, I’m not surprised.

 

Bruce Beck, WNBC: Robert, what did you think of Zach’s (Wilson) toughness yesterday and did it surprise you in any way?

No, he is a tough kid. Obviously, I don’t like judging his toughness. Ideally, his toughness is never judged. He’s an off-schedule quarterback, what was good to see, if you’re going to take the silver lining out of all of it, was that in camp he was straining to stay in the pocket and go through and I was like, ‘Man, what is it going to look like when he gets his first hit, is he going to have a feel for the pocket? Is he going to be able to slide and move with the pocket and do things that he needs to do to avoid hits, and buy time, and gain the extra hitch and all that stuff?’ What was encouraging was, he had free runners he made miss, he showed elusiveness. Now, it’s just a matter of knowing exactly where he needs to go with the ball once he’s made that first guy miss, you’re probably not going to make that second guy miss. Thought he was really good in the pocket, he stood in there strong, he did take his lumps. He can learn from it and learn how to do the right things to avoid hits himself. Overall, I thought it was promising for him, just his pocket presence and his elusiveness.

 

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, Sunday will be your first go around in the Jet/Patriot thing, obviously the rivalry here and whatnot. I’m curious, obviously it’s a home opener, you’re coming off a loss, there’s a lot of things going on here but, what is your impression of (Bill) Belichick and kind of your anticipation for this coming game on Sunday. And do you know Belichick well from circles pretty well?

No, I don’t know him. I know of him obviously, I think the whole world does. He’s one of the greatest of all time. His schemes, his personnel decisions, all of it has withstood the test of time. He’s won many, many different ways. He’s won without a quarterback, he’s won with quarterbacks, he does it all. So, it’s always a tremendous challenge to go against him and their schemes, both offensively and defensively, and special teams, for that matter. So, it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. He’s been coaching the Patriots since I first started coaching so, to watch his legacy grow and the coach that he is it’s an honor to share the same field as him.

 

(follow up) Just as a quick follow on that. You’re a defensive coordinator by trade, your last job. What’s your respect level for him for the defensive mind he is and how difficult is that and the things he does for a rookie quarterback, for example?

Just through his knowledge, to take a piece from him, his understanding of offensive protection systems and all that stuff, he understands it like an offensive coordinator would, so because of his understanding of protections, he’s able to attack protections better than all defensive coordinators, for that matter. It’s something that he is always doing schematically, he is always attacking protections, he is always putting you at a disadvantage with regards to your whole protection system and the looks behind it because of the way he’s manipulating protections is very hard for the quarterback. So, there’s a lot of film study, there’s a lot of trust that has to happen, there’s a lot of communication that needs to happen but understand that every single down, first, second, third down, it doesn’t matter, he is finding way to manipulate your protection to get you in a position where the quarterback is at a disadvantage. Respect the heck out of it, it’s hard to go against and it’s going to be a great challenge this week to prepare against it.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, we talked a lot throughout training camp, obviously, about the struggles in pass protection but the one thing you guys were able to do throughout the summer was run block. Was it alarming that the run game was never able to get going? I think you guys averaged like 2.6 yards a carry and a couple of those, those numbers were even embellished some by a chunk play there by Ty (Johnson).

I’m not going to say alarming, it’s disappointing because we expect to come out and run the ball, but again, collective effort. There was things that we hadn’t done that showed up in the game that are easily fixed, from the backs track on an outside zone scheme, the double-team reach blocks, the cutoff blocks, all the different things that we’ve been really good at this whole entire training camp and preseason in games, just showed up. It’s not something that we’re going to hit the panic button on but it’s something we’re going to go to the tape on, learn from it, trust what we’ve done. I thought the backs had a great week of running the football in practice and it just didn’t quite show up the way we wanted to, same thing with the offensive line, I thought they were doing a great job with their technique and execution throughout practice, and it didn’t show up. I don’t think it’s indicative of what this group is capable of, it’s just something that we’ve got to learn off of.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: With some of the pass protection issues, how much is it having a rookie quarterback who’s in his first game and is maybe seeing some fronts that he’s never seen before or maybe making a wrong read or not diagnosing things quickly enough, how much of it could be to just inexperience?

I’ll flat out say it, I’m standing by it, especially after watching the tape and I get grades get floated around and all that from people who aren’t in this scheme, game planning sessions, but protecting the quarterback is a collective thing. It is not one position groups job to protect the quarterback. The coordinator has got to protect the quarterback, the o-line got to protect the quarterback, the receivers got to protect the quarterback and the quarterback needs to protect the quarterback. If you took, I don’t know, 20-some-odd pressures that we had on the quarterback, I promise you, if you divvied that up on who is responsible, you guys would see a clean divide amongst all the different position groups and even coaches. So, we’ve got to do a better job with the way we want to plan; two, communicate; three, execute our technique; but four, trust. Quarterback has to be able to trust what he sees, quarterback to be able to make the right reads, quarterback has to have a consistent set in his drop. O-line has to be able to communicate, execute their technique, trust one another, the backs have to execute, the receivers have to execute, all of them. They all took turns on each of those pressures, everyone took turns on their pressures and coaches not excluded in this. It’s just something that we all got to do, obviously, to get better at.

 

Bruce Beck, WNBC: Robert, what does the fight you showed in the second half and the improved performance tell you about your ball club?

The same thing that I said yesterday. We’re going to be in a ton of one score games in the fourth quarter, that’s just the NFL, right? I mean most games are decided in the fourth quarter. The way I’ve always explained games is the first quarter is about the game plan, the second quarter, is minor change ups, the third  quarter is what you change at half time, and the fourth quarter, all the chips are on the table, everybody knows what everyone’s doing, everyone knows what everyone’s checks are, they know the communication that’s being made. So now it comes down to precision, detail, technique, and execution at the highest level. And that’s what fourth quarters are about. There’s no magic elixir, there’s no magic play, it’s about execution. Because, like I said, by then all the calls are on the table. Defensively, you’re scheme has been exposed, offensively, you show them your hand, and it comes down to execution. And so we’re going to get these opportunities again. We’re in the fourth quarter, we’re in a one score game, offense scored, defense has got to get off the field, we had a fourth-and-one opp to get off, missed it on the Jets sweep, they end up going to score three points, offense goes down, scores again, we need to get off the field on a four-minute situation. Again, Carolina captures the edge and gets first down. But throughout that fourth quarter, execution has to be at its highest level, and we’ve got to make plays to close the door and we had our opportunities, didn’t quite get it done but we’re going to see those opportunities again. These are professional football players, I’ve yet to be on a team that’s ever quit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Do things get away from people sometimes, yeah, and the narrative wants to pitch that a player quit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player quit, regardless of the score. But, what I will tell you is that we’re going to have these opportunities again, and often. And how we execute is going to be the difference between winning and losing

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Is it worth, when you have, you kind of mentioned, it’s not just the offensive line, right? You said it’s some of the running backs, it’s some of the reads, it’s the protection, it’s coaching. Is it better when you can say, “Okay, it’s just one thing.” And you can fix that one thing but, it kind of seems like everyone’s failing to pass protect, like is that worse?

It’s a good question, Connor. I don’t know if it’s worse, because it’s always one, right? It happens in all three phases. It’s one mess-up here, collectively. But the teams that operate at the highest level, it’s just boom, boom, boom, you’re operating at that level. But yeah, you can always say it’d be good to say, “Well, clearly it’s just one person. Let’s fix him.” But when you have so much youth, I’ve talked to you guys before about it before, youth makes mistakes, but they’re fast as heck. Veterans don’t make many mistakes, but they don’t have that youthful juice that they have when they’re 29, 30-years-old. But at the same time, these young kids were put in a lot of different situations yesterday and they’re only going to get better. They saw a lot of stuff yesterday that we’re hoping they can make that jump to the second game.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: With Braden Mann, you said 4-6 (weeks) on Mann. A, is that a surgical situation and B, are you just going to roll with (Matt) Ammendola since he’s hot now?

I thought Ammendola did a great job. We’re going to work out some guys but, I don’t think Braden’s got a surgery situation.

 

Andy Vasquez, The Record: Robert you guys obviously had some depth issues yesterday at wide receiver with (Keelan) Cole and (Jamison) Crowder out, but from the outside, it seemed like an opportunity for Denzel Mims to get some run, but he only got three snaps, so what was the reason behind that and what do you see as his role going forward?

A majority of the reps went to Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, (Braxton) Berrios, I think they dominated the reps. Part of that is kind of the sequence of the game. In that first half, a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives and because of it, those receivers were able to play. You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, that’s where the other guy’s step in. Mims, he’s been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities. So, if the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll. But yesterday was more of a timing thing where offense really didn’t get rolling until that fourth quarter, which is where you started seeing him show up on the football field. We had those extended drives, I think we had a 10-play, 93-yard drive where the receivers needed a break, and it gave them that opportunity to step in and get action.

 

Dennis Waszak, The Associated Press: Robert, Andy mentioned Crowder and Cole, is Crowder still on the COVID list and Cole, does he have a shot to coming back this week?

Both have a shot to come back this week. Crowder, he should be testing out today, hopefully. Cole, he’s going to be more day-to-day.

 

 

 

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