Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia checked in with local media on Tuesday, answering questions during an afternoon conference call. The following are some highlights from each.
* On the strengths of new receiver Greg Salas, whom McDaniels coached in St. Louis: “Greg’s a young player first of all and he’s got plenty of room I think to grow and improve as a player. Last year, he had an opportunity to get in there and play a decent chunk of time in some games against some really good teams and kind of got his feet wet as a rookie. (He) made some good plays and had an opportunity to kind of learn under fire there because we ended up in a situation where we lost a guy or two and Greg had a chance to get in there and get his feet wet. He catches the ball well, works hard and is a smart kid. We’re going to put him in there and kind of see how he can fit in with our group."
* On where Salas is best suited to line up: “Greg played a lot inside in college, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t play multiple positions. For the most part we ask all of our skill players to learn multiple roles and I don’t think that will be any different for Greg.”
* On the development of Ryan Mallett since McDaniels re-joined the Patriots’ organization: “Ryan started the spring, which would have been his first spring since they didn’t have the opportunity to do that last year, with a certain understanding of the offense and I think when he finished the spring, going through all of those reps and getting that many opportunities to go out and make mistakes and learn from some of the things he was doing right and wrong, I think he left the spring with a much better feeling of how to operate the offense. Then he came into training camp and he’s continued to work hard and tried to get better at a lot of different things. Certainly he’s another young player that has an opportunity for hopefully significant growth as a player over the course of time. He works hard, he cares about football and he’s going to do everything that he can do every week to prepare himself to be ready to play if we need him."
* On the differences he has noticed in Tom Brady since he left for Denver: "I think Tom has gotten better every year. I wouldn’t say it’s dramatically different for Tom in terms of the way he prepares. He studies and prepares so well for each team and puts in so much hard work and does a great job of demonstrating how to get ready for each game. I see the same things from him. It’s a great example for our younger players to see how he goes about trying to prepare for this opening game. I see a guy that’s determined, that’s working extremely hard, that wants to play his best football and he’s trying to do everything that he can to make sure that happens this year."
* On the challenges the Titans’ defense presents: "They’re an aggressive team. I’ve had a chance to coach against Jerry Gray’s defenses before and he always does a great job of having his group prepared. They have a front that’s pretty disruptive. They’ve certainly added (Kamerion) Wimbley and the group that they have coming back from last year was a group that made quite a few negative plays upfront. There are definitely some things that you’ve got to be concerned with upfront. They do have some very interesting pressure packages that he’s always planned for certain teams that we’re going to have to be ready for. They’ve got good players. I mean this is a group that has really good players at all levels of their defense and can apply pressure with their front four. Their linebackers get involved with the blitz game, I think Colin McCarthy has really kind of stood out to me and some of the things you see this guy do on film, he’s a really disruptive pass defender for a Mike linebacker.
"Then their secondary is young, but very talented. Michael Griffin certainly made a lot plays over the course of his career; [Jason] McCourty. They’ve got some really good players at all three levels of their defense. I know he’s going to have them prepared and we also know that we’re going to see some different things on opening day that you couldn’t necessarily prepare for, as happens most years. [It’s] a great challenge for us and a tough place to play and certainly a lot of excitement for opening day."
* On his impressions of Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones so far: "I think they fall in the same category as Nate (Ebner) and really everybody who has come into the defense this year: just guys that we’re trying to make sure improve every day and learn the system every day to get better. I would say those guys, all three of them and really the defense as a whole, I would say comes into work every day. (We’re) very blessed to have great guys that like to come to work, like to work hard, study, work together, and just really love football, which is what you're looking for. So, (we’re) just really lucky to have all these guys on defense that will come in and work hard to get better every day. That’s kind of our focus."
* On rookie safety Nate Ebner: “I think with every rookie that comes into our system, we’re obviously hoping that they can handle what we do, progress through the defense, learn our system and try to prove themselves every day, which hopefully we’re getting that done on the defensive side of the ball. Certainly, Nate would fall into that category: someone who’s got to come in and work hard and improve and keep learning the game of football. He’ll come in and worked every day, so we’re definitely pleased with the effort and his ability to come in and work hard. But he’s obviously got a long way to go, so he’ll just keep working at it."
* On what safety Steve Gregory has added to the defense: "I think Steve comes in and really tries to help us as an experienced player who has played in the league for a little while here. (He’s) someone that can be a true professional around some of the younger guys and show them how to study, maybe how to learn, and just be a good role model for them. But obviously in his own right, having to come in and learn our defense, learn our system and the way we do things here, so he’s had some of his own learning to get done. But so far, he's just been, like I said with all the guys, he's been great as far as coming in and working hard to get our defense learned and get on the same page as far as what we’re doing. That's been a great positive.
* On the way that offensive football has changed has affected the way he coaches defense: "I think offenses in general have different trends every year or every couple of years: things that you'll see a lot more of or things that you’ll see a little bit less of. You’ve just got to try to recognize -- and that can change every week, too -- but just try to recognize: ‘What is this offense doing? What is it doing differently? Is it similar to what somebody else is doing?’ I just think that in the recent years, whatever trends offenses tend to be pushing towards -- whether it’s more passing, more running, more multiple wide receivers, bigger running backs, whatever it is -- I think you just tend to see more of that in general. I think it really just depends that year or those two years' time where an offensive system may be trending in a particular direction, which can obviously adjust how you try to defend it. So I would think that in general since starting on defense, definitely things change, but then again they change the next year or the next year, so it might just cycle through."