Patriots

Belichick provides scouting report on 'impressive' Bucs opponent

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Belichick provides scouting report on 'impressive' Bucs opponent

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick's standard operating procedure is obvious by now: Emphasize the positive when it comes to a given week's opponent. Prepare your players for the worst in that regard, and do the same when behind a microphone so that there's no doubt in anyone's mind as to how highly you think of the other team.

This week, a short week for the Patriots as they prepare for the Buccaneers, was no different. Belichick ran through Tampa's top players on both sides of the ball, detailing their ability to impact the game. His scouting report given to the media wasn't necessarily a full scouting report, though. 

Here's what Belichick had to say about the Buccaneers on Tuesday, with some editor's notes to round out the current picture on that particular player.

On quarterback Jameis Winston: "Good. Look, good quarterback, very good arm, accurate. Gets the ball to all of his receivers. Uses the tight ends well, the receivers well. Strong, can stand in there against the rush. Moves well in the pocket to create a little extra time. He’s a hard guy to tackle, hard guy to bring down. He can throw the ball with people hanging all over him and he can throw it accurately and throw it pretty far, too. He stretches the field on you, sideline to sideline, vertical passer, 5,000 yards the last two years offensively, 50 touchdowns. They’ve had a lot of production on offense in two years. Coach [Dirk] Koetter has done a great job with him. He’s done well. For a guy in his third year he’s had extraordinary production. Not many guys that have more than he has, and we've had some pretty good quarterbacks."

Editor's note: Winston is clearly one of the better young quarterbacks in the league, though he's not without his flaws. He's the No. 10 quarterback in the league in terms of rating. He has a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. He's sixth in the league in yards per attempt. He hasn't been consistently accurate, though, completing 63 percent of his passes this year (19th in the NFL) and averaging a pick per game so far. In 2016, he was a middling quarterback -- 23rd in rating, 16th in yards per attempt, 25th in completion percentage -- but he's on track to best all of those numbers in his third season.

On receiver DeSean Jackson: "I mean, he's a great big-play threat," Belichick said. "He’s had tremendous production in that area through the course of his career, as good as any player in the history of the league. He’s a very explosive guy, short catch-and-run plays, vertical speed, good intermediate route runner . . . One of their many options in terms of playmakers."

Editor's note: To this point, Jackson hasn't quite worked out as the Bucs (or Jackson) had hoped. He signed a three-year deal for $35 million in the offseason, missed OTAs, and thus far has nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. He's been targeted 20 times in three games, and he's been pretty openly frustrated with how he's produced. 

On receiver Mike Evans: "Yeah, big, fast, can really go up and get the ball," Belichick said. "They throw a lot of high balls to him and he goes up there and can take it away from the defenders. He's strong. He’s a big target, catches the ball well. He’s tough."

Editor's note: Pretty much spot-on here. Not much to dislike about Evans' game. Even when he's covered, he's not. He's averaging almost 12 yards per catch on his 19 grabs through three games. He's being targeted more than 10 times a game on average, and he has two touchdowns. He's also doing this to people.

On tight end Cameron Brate: "Yeah, I mean, their tight ends are good. Brate’s done a good job for them. He’s done a good job in the passing game. He’s caught a lot of touchdowns in the last two years, more than any other tight end, so a good receiver, very dependable, knows how to get open. They’ve got a lot of confidence in him. They go to him in critical situations with option routes and in the red area, things like that. He’s been productive for them. I’m sure they like him. I can see why. He’s done a good job."

Editor's note: The Harvard product has 10 scores since the start of last season, and he came up with a big one last weekend against the Giants, putting the Bucs up five with just under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Brate is more of a pass-catching tight end than a blocker, and he's seen first-round rookie OJ Howard play more snaps (122 to 99) through three games.

On linebacker Lavonte David: "Well, he’s second in production to [Luke] Kuechly in everything except tackles-for-loss, and he’s second to [J.J.] Watt in that. He’s a very explosive player, good blitzer. That’s probably the one difference between him and Kuechly is he blitzes more than Luke did, although, Kuechly blitzed, too. Fast, athletic, good instincts, good nose for the ball, finds the ball, good tackler, strong, strong tackler, runs well."

Editor's note: David missed Sunday's win over the Giants with an ankle injury. He did not practice on Tuesday, and it's looking like the Bucs may be without one of their best defenders Thursday night. Starting linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) has missed the last two games injured as well, so perhaps the Patriots will be targeting the linebacker level -- with rookie Kendall Beckwith and Adarius Glanton -- when their offense hits the field in Tampa. 

On defensive lineman Gerald McCoy: "Thirty-three sacks in the last -- whatever -- four years, an explosive guy, quick, good athlete, good balance, smart, plays blocking schemes well, recognizes protections well, instinctive player, strong tackler, good against the running game. He’s got a lot of negative plays, good pass rusher, good leverage, rushes with power, has quickness, a tough guy to block."

Editor's note: Belichick hit the nail on the head with this one, too. McCoy is one of the most disruptive three-techniques in all of football. He didn't notch a sack against the Giants, but he had four total pressures and three defensive stops last week, per Pro Football Focus. He'll be a headache for Patriots interior offensive linemen.

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Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Most of the highlights of Tom Brady's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey were released here and here last week before the interview was broadcast Sunday morning on Winfrey's OWN channel.

Also, in the hour-long interview, the Patriots quarterback was asked by Winfrey, amid an offseason filled with reports of tension between him and coach Bill Belichick, “Is there something going on with you and Belichick?”

“Umm, no. I mean, I love him," Brady said. "I love that he is an incredible coach, mentor for me. He’s pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don’t agree on absolutely everything, but that’s relationships.”

When Winfrey asked about his "separate training place" - the TB12 Sports Therapy Center next to Gillette Stadium that Brady and business partner and trainer Alex Guerrero have run for five years - Brady said he wouldn't characterize it as separate.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” said Brady, who stayed away from Patriots voluntary workouts this spring, has worked out on his own with teammates, but did report for mandatory mini-camp June 5-7. “I probably do some of my own techniques a little differently than the rest of the team. The team, I would say, like most teams, is very systematic in their approach. What I learned, I guess, is different than some of the things that are systematic, but that work for me.”

Brady said he's talked about those techniques with Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Belichick restricted Guerrero's access to the Patriots sideline and team flights last season. 

“It’s nothing that I don’t talk about with my coach and owner,” Brady said. “It is what I want to do and is what I need to be the best player I can be. Hopefully, you can support that.”

More highlights from the Brady interview: 

On why he gave up his court fight in the Deflategate case and served his NFL-imposed four-game suspension:

"Too much anxiety," Brady said. "And I realized I couldn't win." Watch that clip here: 

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How this Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in February was a little easier to take than his others, watch here: 

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James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

As adversaries and former players openly wonder if the football culture in Foxboro is "fun" enough, recently-retired Pittsburgh Steelers legend James Harrison is asking, why does it matter?

In an interview with CBS Sports Network earlier this week, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year reflected on the final stop of his 15-year career, the Patriots, who signed him late in the 2017 regular season after Pittsburgh released him, as insurance for New England as they geared up for their run to Super Bowl LII.

The biggest takeaway from his time with the Patriots?

"Discipline. That’s the big thing," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what you’re capable of doing. And it’s, you learn the system and you go out there and you play it. And like I said, it's very regimented, so if you’re a guy that’s not used to discipline, you’re not going to like it there."

Harrison said it was even stricter than his years with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, with whom he won his first Super Bowl in 2006.

"Cowher wasn't as regimented as Bill [Belichick] was," Harrison said. "Like I say, I didn’t have a problem with it. You know, I enjoyed my time there, you know, I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to continue to play."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has repeatedly mocked the Patriots since his team them in Super Bowl LII, calling them "arrogant" and a "fear-based organization", even telling the Pardon My Take podcast, "I'd much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls."

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, who was released after eight games with the Pats in 2017, says he hated his time in New England and didn't have fun, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. It just wasn't a fan."

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