FOXBORO — In a compressed week, Wednesday becomes Saturday. And with a game Thursday night against their AFC East rivals from New York, the Patriots could announce roster moves to fill the void created by injuries to Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley, both of whom are expected to miss the rest of the season with lower leg injuries.
That is, of course, if the Patriots decide they need to put both on season-ending injured reserve to create roster space for a move like running back Jonas Gray from the practice squad. Belichick acknowledged he’s spoken with player personnel director Nick Caserio about their roster options.
“I think that’s something that we’re just going to have to evaluate here in the next day or two,” Belichick said Tuesday. “I’ve talked with Nick Caserio and our coaching staff and Nick’s staff and we’ll just have to try to figure it all out here. It’s a real short week. So, we’ll just have to take all those things into consideration and try to figure out what we’re going to do ‘ if we would make one and who it would be and so forth. We haven’t decided that yet. We’ll see how it goes here.”
While Deontae Skinner figures to move up on depth chart and get more playing time to help with the loss of Mayo, the running back situation could be different. Brandon Bolden figures to get more carries but there is the chance for someone like Jonas Gray to be promoted from the practice squad. If that’s the case, then the Patriots need to make the move by Wednesday.
“We tell the practice squad, all those players every week, that they’re one sprained ankle or one day away from being active,” Belichick said. “We’ve made those moves as late as the day before the game ‘ Saturdays on a Sunday game and things like that. Those players prepare every week to be ready to play both on offense or defense and in the kicking game. As you know, we’ve done that before. That’s the same for them every week.
“There’s no difference for them this week or from any other week. They’re on the roster, on the practice squad, they’re potentially on the roster for the game. So, they prepare for the game as if they are on the roster. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then we go to next week.”
Belichick was asked why he didn’t have a lot of numbers, in terms of depth, at the linebacker level to begin the season.
“I would say in general when you put the roster together you try to create as much depth as you can on the roster,” Belichick began. “I think as you look at every team in the league there are certain spots on each team where you have a little bit less depth than others. If anything happens at those positions, then you have fewer people to work with. If you have situations at a position where you have more depth, it’s still challenging but you have more people to work with. It’s just a question of either how you want to handle a team just in terms of numbers or where you feel like the quality of the players are in terms of the strength of the players that you put on your final roster.
“[You] keep a position over a more talented guy or a more talented guy over a position because you want the more talented player but I think no matter how you put it together when you start, you’re going to be thinner at some positions than at others. Then you just have to wait to see how the season plays out to see how that materializes because there’s really, I don’t think, any good way to forecast, even though we’ve looked at it every year and continue to look at it, any kind of predictor as to how those are going to go or how many of them or where they’re going to be or that type of thing. You just have to react to them as they come. What we did is we tried to put together our best roster, including the practice squad. We try to take into consideration those two basic things: overall depth and numbers at different positions as well as the quality of the players that we’re keeping.”
Here are some other takeaways from Belichick on Tuesday:
Q: What makes Muhammad Wilkerson so productive?
BB: He’s big, he’s fast, he plays with good technique. He’s strong. He’s an instinctive player, very instinctive player. He’s well coached. He’s a good fundamental player. He’s got good talent. [He] recognizes things quickly. He’s really improved every year he’s been in the league. If he gets a little bit of an advantage, gets an edge, gets a gap, he’s a big, strong, fast man that’s hard to recover against. And I would say they have a lot of other good players too so you can’t just concentrate on any one guy. They have a lot of good players in their front ‘ linebackers and defensive linemen. If you put all your attention on one, you have a lot of problems to deal with so that really makes it hard.
Q: I know Sheldon Richardson has been playing well too this year. How have you seen Rex Ryan use those two guys to take advantage of their strengths in his defense this year?
BB: I don’t think it’s anything ‘ I’d say they kind of do what they’ve done. They’re just very good. Again, they’re complemented with good players on the edge, whether it be [Calvin] Pace, [Quinton] Coples, [Jason] Babin, so there’s only so many places you can put those guys. They’re basically between the outside shoulder of the guard or I’d say ‘ they can be anywhere between the tackles. But you know, they’re somewhere in the inside part of the formation. They’re usually not out on the edge, out past the tackles. But they can be together ‘ one on the nose and the other guy like in a three-technique on the same side. They could be opposite. They could be working in conjunction with the defensive ends or [Damon] Harrison on the nose. But I don’t think any of those are ‘ you look up on the film and say, ‘Geez, we’ve never seen the guy there. We’ve never seen him do this before.’ They’re in, I would say, common positions. They’re just very good players.
Q: How have you seen Calvin Pryor perform?
BB: He’s been involved in the kicking game and then defensively he’s in there with [Dawan] Landry a lot. There have been a couple games ‘ last week and I want to say the Detroit game ‘ where they’ve used [Jaiquawn] Jarrett in his place. How much of that was injury or substitution, I’m not sure exactly. So, he’s played quite a bit. He’s a tough kid. He’s involved in a lot of contact plays in the running game ‘ wants to be part of it. He’s kind of a likes to go for the big hit type of guy. He’s playing with a very experienced player back there ‘ Landry. Landry is excellent, does a great job of kind of quarterbacking the defense or the secondary in particular. It looks like Pryor has certainly benefitted from having a real experienced player like that alongside him. He’s a tough kid that’s helped them on defense and in the kicking game.
Q: Do you have to guard against paralysis by analysis and giving the players too much to think about on a week that’s this short?
BB: Yeah definitely. I think that’s definitely ‘ I think that’s one of the big challenges for us as a coaching staff is to try to find the sweet spot. The Jets are, as we know, a big game plan team. They change things from week to week in all three phases of the game: offense, defense, special teams. They have specific things that they run against a team and then you may not see those things for a while or they may come back at a later point in time. So you have to be aware of them and cover them, but at the same time that may not be what they did against you, what they did last week or what they did the last two or three weeks. We obviously have a long history with the Jets. We’ve seen all their games this year. We had all their games last year, the year before, all the matchups we’ve had against them. There’s enough information on them to keep us busy for a month or six weeks. But we need to boil that down and get it into certainly a manageable amount of information. We have to, somewhere along the line, put our chips on what we’re going to do and we can’t worry about every single thing they’ve ever done or what could happen or we’d be here forever. We have to whittle it down to what we feel like are the most important things and how we’re going to handle it. I’m sure they’ll do that on their end too. That’s just part of the challenge of this game. Obviously any time you play the Jets you’re going to have to deal with in-game adjustments. Things are going to come up that you haven’t practiced or you haven’t practiced as much as they come up in the game. You have to be ready to make some in-game adjustments or changes as you see the game unfolding based on what you’re doing and what they’re doing.
Q: What did you see from Zach Moore on Sunday? Is a he player that may have earned some more snaps moving forward?
BB: I think Zach had limited opportunities but I thought he was good in his limited opportunities last week. Again, Zach is making a big jump from the level that he played at last year to the NFL to the weekly changing offenses and defensive game plans and so froth that all go into that. But I think he’s worked really hard, both at his individual fundamental techniques which he needs a lot of work on but also the overall scheme and variations of the scheme from week to week, game plan variations that he has to, I’d say, learn and become familiar with. He works hard. He’s a smart kid. I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s just his experience is improving every week. He still has a long way to go. He played a little bit in the opener, then he didn’t play for a few weeks, then he played last week. It was a good opportunity for him to get some playing time. I think he showed that he has been working hard and he is staying up on things and is in position to help us. How many more of those opportunities there will be or when they’ll come, I’m not sure. But I think the message is to be ready and take advantage of them when they do occur. So I thought that was good.