Leftovers from Tuesday's conference calls with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:
Matthews on the inside. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has shifted inside at times this season, putting him in a different role than his typical pass-rush off the edge. McDaniels sees Matthews as a major threat no matter where he lines up.
“Well [Matthews is] a versatile guy,” McDaniels said. “There’s no question about it. We need to know where he is on each snap. He’s not just in one place, that’s for certain. So, I think that no matter where he is at -- inside off the line, if he’s on the line of scrimmage playing in a linebacker position or if he’s in their sub package playing an end or in the pass-rush position -- he’s a very good football player.”
What makes Lacy so good? Packers running back Eddie Lacy is a big back at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds. His size makes him tough to stop, but the way he runs and uses his body makes it even tougher to take him down.
“You’ve seen the film on [Lacy] and see him run the ball with power,” Patricia said. “He does a great job of running with his pads over the ball, where he is protecting the ball and taking contact on with his shoulders. He’s very difficult to tackle a runner like that. So on first contact he is usually running through arm tackles or he does a great job of spinning out of difficult situations, constantly driving his legs. He has extremely good lower-strength to push a pile or drive through a tackler.”
Branch’s increased role. Defensive lineman Alan Branch was signed midseason to bolster the run defense. Branch played in 29 of 81 defensive snaps in Sunday’s win over the Lions, showing his quick progression in helping the team.
“I think coming here later in the season, [Branch] is trying to adapt to the different techniques, different system that we run here,” Patricia said. “He’s a big guy. [He] has some power, some length. He’s strong and has good quickness off the ball so he can present a problem for an offensive player.”
Ayers and Casillas’ contributions. Two other midseason acquisitions, linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas, have also made steady contributions this season. Ayers looks explosive in the pass-rush after hardly playing in Tennessee and Casillas’ experience is on full display.
“I will say that those guys work extremely hard,” Patricia said. “They are true professionals as far as ability to study, learn the game and understanding what we are doing from a system standpoint and have matriculated into what we are trying to do defensively fairly quickly from their study and their work ethic. So, they’ve really fallen right in line.”
LaFell’s commitment to success. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell has become a consistent receiving threat for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. McDaniels touched on LaFell’s work ethic as the reason for his success.
“Brandon came in here in the spring with a great attitude and was involved in the offseason program and out there every day, really works hard at his craft,” McDaniels said. “He’s a professional. He’s available for us to work before or after practice whatever it may be. He wants to learn and get better and you can see that with his preparation each week. He’s a tough guy that does a lot of things well at the position.”