New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is contractually obligated to take questions from the opposing team’s media each week via conference call. Over the past two decades, the often-terse six-time Super Bowl champion has become quite adept at avoiding topics he doesn’t want to talk about and making inferior opponents sound as if they’re on the cusp of becoming the NFL’s next great dynasty.
On Tuesday, ahead of undefeated New England’s visit to FedEx Field, the winless Washington Redskins were the latest recipient of Belichick’s praise. He laid it on thick.
“They’re all pretty good,” Belichick said of quarterbacks Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins, one of whom will start against New England’s top-ranked defense. “Obviously, McCoy is an outstanding player with a great deal of experience, and so is Case. Those guys have played a lot of football, they’ve played a lot of good football, and they have a very talented group of skill players with them. Haskins is a young, talented player. … We’ll have to be ready for all three players, and that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Belichick said McCoy and Keenum are “very efficient at getting the ball into the hands of very good skill players” — which is true, in Keenum’s case, if one includes the hands of the opposing team’s defensive backs.
The Redskins have “great skill players at every spot,” according to Belichick, who somehow neglected to mention punter Tress Way when rattling off his list of examples. (Belichick was on the phone, not at a dais addressing a room of reporters in person, so it’s impossible to say for sure whether he was stifling a laugh or his usual stoic self at this point.)
“[Adrian] Peterson and [Chris] Thompson, [Vernon] Davis, [Jeremy] Sprinkle’s been playing more,” Belichick said. “Add [Terry] McLaurin to that group. [Trey] Quinn, [Paul] Richardson. They’ve got a very good group of skill players, and they get them out a lot in the West Coast passing game. It’s up to the quarterback to make good decisions to get the ball to those players, to those open players, and let them advance it with their run-after-catch skills.”
Washington is missing two starters along the offensive line — three if you count holdout left tackle Trent Williams — and tight end Jordan Reed, the team’s best skill position player, has been out all season with a concussion. While Thompson leads the league in yards after catch, the Redskins rank 28th in total offense, and their 199 rushing yards are their fewest in their first four games of a season since at least 1940.
Belichick also was complimentary of Redskins Coach Jay Gruden’s “very well-designed and thought-out offensive scheme” and Washington’s “well-balanced offense.”
“It makes you defend everything; the running game, the play-action game, the quick throws, the screens and the vertical passing game, where they’ve hit a number of big plays and had other guys open that just didn’t connect,” he said.
Keenum has missed a few wide-open receivers, including Quinn on two plays in the first half against the Giants that contributed to his benching, but the “number of” big plays Washington has hit is a small one. The Redskins are tied for 21st in the league with 11 passing plays of at least 20 yards. Their two passing plays of at least 40 yards, both of which came in a Week 1 loss to the Eagles, are tied for 16th. Washington scored three points against the league’s 31st-ranked defense last week.
Belichick similarly talked up the Dolphins’ personnel ahead of New England’s trip to Miami in Week 2.
“They have a lot of good players, a lot of good skill players, a lot of good players on defense,” Belichick said on a conference call with Dolphins reporters, two days after Miami’s 59-10 season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens. “They’re young, they’re aggressive, they’re talented and we’re going to have to contend with all of them and the scheme that they come up with. I’m sure they’ll have things that we’re not working on and we’ll have to be ready to handle those.”
The Patriots managed to overcome Miami’s abundance of talent to eke out a hard-fought, 43-0 win.
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