Patriots coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels held conference calls this afternoon.
From a “what we learned” perspective heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Bills, here are some highlights:
1. Bills’ defense has Jet-like feel: As one would expect with coordinator Mike Pettine moving from the Jets to the Bills this year, Buffalo’s defense looks “a lot like the Jets,” according to Belichick. That means a lot of different looks (especially on third down, when a defensive lineman could play a linebacker-type role), multiple fronts, and a heavy percentage of blitzing. So as Patriots offensive players prepare this week, they are marrying two areas: Bills personnel that they’ve come to know in recent years playing a Jet-like scheme.
2. Scouting report on Mulligan: Asked about signing 28-year-old tight end Matthew Mulligan to the 53-man active roster, Belichick cited his experience and blocking ability before saying, “he’s a tough, physical player.”
3. A lot of no-huddle on offense from Bills: There is an element of unknown with any season opener, which Belichick repeated multiple times, but one thing the Patriots are most certainly expecting from the Bills is the no-huddle attack. “It’s really all no-huddle,” Belichick said of what he’s seen from the Bills’ offense, later adding the Bills’ fast pace on offense draws some similarities to the Eagles under Chip Kelly which the Patriots practiced against in August. Another point Belichick made was that there isn’t a lot of NFL-based film for the team to watch of Bills rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel.
4. Pleased with Talib’s presence. Patricia, the defensive coordinator, said he is “very, very happy” with cornerback Aqib Talib’s work ethic and approach. The Patriots acquired Talib last November, so as time has passed, coaches have had a longer look at Talib's integration into the team’s system and way of doing business. “He really practices hard and competes every day,” Patricia said. “He’s a good example out on the field for those guys that are coming into our program to get behind and follow along.”
5. Young receivers have grasped multiple roles. It is often said that the Patriots' complex offensive system can be tough for rookies to pick up, so it was notable that Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator, said that receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Aaron Dobson (second round) have all grasped multiple positions. "We've already moved them and played multiple roles with them, multiple positions with them," he said. "In our system, that's a really big 'plus' for us to have some flexibility with those guys. They've shown that they'll work and study on the mental side of the game to be able to be flexible and play in multiple spots when we need them to."