The Patriots could be losing another assistant coach.
There are plenty of reports out there that indicate wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea will follow Brian Flores to Miami to become the Dolphins' new offensive coordinator. O'Shea is in his 10th season with the Patriots, and while he's had notable years in the past, he's really made his bones as a coach this season; as the Patriots have faced unprecedented turnover at the wide receiver position, O’Shea has distinguished himself as a coach who has been ready to deal with just about anything. It's also worth mentioning he has had his fingerprints on other aspects of offensive game-planning, and has also been an offensive signal-caller in the preseason on multiple occasions.
(For what it's worth, we write about the possibility of him becoming New England's offensive coordinator when it looked like there was a possibility of Josh McDaniels leaving earlier this year. Check out that story here.)
It's debatable if there's another assistant who is well-positioned to succeed O'Shea, but one name that has been mentioned is Jerry Schuplinski, who is the assistant quarterbacks coach. Schuplinski, in his third year at his current position, has earned a rep as a dedicated assistant who has helped shepherd the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett when they were with the Patriots.
The Patriots had another day of perfect attendance at practice Thursday, according to those on the scene. We'll get the full update a little later on Thursday, but when it comes to the Super Bowl, this New England team is historically healthy.
How rare is it that the Patriots don’t have a player listed on their initial injury report? Per @ESPNStatsInfo, in the last five Super Bowls, every team had at least one injury listed on its initial Super Bowl injury report.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 24, 2019
Here's how Thursday's injury report looks. Another clean sheet for New England:
Some of the highlights from Bill Belichick's Thursday morning Q&A with the media:
How unique is Johnny Hekker given everything they ask him to do as a punter?
“Yeah, again, he’s a weapon on the field. He can change field position and he’s a good situational punter and obviously he’s very athletic. You have to respect his ability to handle the ball. I think the main thing when you sent your punt return team out there is you want to make sure you get the ball at the end of the play. That’s not always that difficult but with these guys it’s pretty challenging. As I said, they’re all weapons. Zuerlein’s a weapon, Hekker’s a weapon. They do a good job in the return game.”
After the win last Sunday, we saw so many guys embracing and hugging and telling each other that they love each other. Where do those bonds get forged and how important is it for players to have that connection and trust moving forward and trying to keep this run going?
“Yeah, I think when you go through a whole year with other people trying to experience the same thing, which we are, we’re all trying to win games and contribute and help the team. You form a bond with individuals and collectively as a group. We achieved a very successful moment the other night. I think everybody felt it.”
Is it a credit to the Rams offensive line that they’ve brought in C.J. Anderson late in the year and he has had success running the ball for them?
“Well, I’d say just overall they, collectively as a group, because everything is so integrated with them, again, you can’t make yards with one guy blocking. You need them all to block. You need them all to – you need the backs to read the blocks properly. You need the line to sell the play-action to create the opportunities in the play-action game. I’d just say overall they execute extremely well as a unit on a very, very consistent basis. They do a lot of things to give the defense problems – misdirection and complementary plays so they all kind of look the same but it could be one of two or three things. I’d just say the overall level of execution. They have a good offensive line. They’ve been together. They don’t make many mistakes, but nobody makes many mistakes on those offense. Again, they execute extremely well and that’s a credit to the players and certainly the coaching staff.”
How much does the success of your offense late in games have to do with the conditioning of your offensive line, and how has the process of conditioning that position changed over your years in the NFL?
“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. I can’t really speak to how everybody else does it. Everybody has the same opportunity and they have to deal with the same 60-minute game. But I think, just in general, what we try to do is work very closely with Moses [Cabrera] and his staff and the assistant coaches to try and prepare our practices, plan our practices and prepare our team for the physical exertion – what the average is, what we have to expect and then in some cases we have to be ready to go beyond that, individually or collectively as a unit. If we’re playing a lot on one side of the ball or the other or an individual load might change. We try and monitor those things. I really lean heavily on Moses and his staff on that part of it, on the training part of it, the conditioning, the volume that we do, the intensity that we do and he’s very good at that. I really rely on him there, but it’s every position. But I think our offensive line is a pretty, overall, pretty athletic group. They work hard. They train hard. They all run well. When we do conditioning drills, I would say it’s always good, but it’s always a little bit surprising to me how well they run as a group relative to other groups. They’re not that far behind other players, in some cases skill players that you think of as faster but actually, those guys, they run pretty well.”
Do you think last year’s Super Bowl loss makes the Patriots extra hungry to win this year?
“Well, I think right now, this football team is this football team. It’s not any other one, and we’re going to do the best we can to perform as well as we can against the Rams. That’s going to be a huge challenge, but it’s really just about us right now – there’s nothing in the past that does or doesn’t help us. We’re going to bond together and coach and play as well as we can next Sunday night.”
When you watch Aqib Talib on tape, how much is similar to what you saw when he was here?
What has he brought the Rams defense from what you’ve seen in terms of his play?
“Well, he’s a very talented player. [Marcus] Peters is on the other side. I mean, they have two great corners that can match up, really, against any receiver – big, fast, quick, savvy. Those guys can cover anybody. They’re both very good with their ball skills. As we know, Talib’s got great hands, makes some tough catches. If you make a mistake around him, it’s not an incompletion. It could be going the other way. So, he’s a very instinctive guy, as is Peters, and they recognize routes, combinations, they have a real good feel for the pass rush, they know when the quarterbacks can’t hold the ball and they’re on their guys. So, they’re two great corners and again, guys that they don’t just cover their guy. I mean, you’ve got to worry about them not just intercepting the ball – you’ve got to worry about them intercepting and running back for a touchdown, too.”
You have spoken about having nerves before games. Do those nerves change at all for the Super Bowl?
“Yeah, same answer as last week.”
You guys have obviously competed against Wade Phillips for a number of years. When it comes to his defense this year, what are some of the things that they’ve done that are consistent with what you’ve seen over the years from Wade?
“Well, the scheme’s the same. I mean, I don’t think he’s changed his scheme. Wade does a great job of utilizing his personnel and putting his players in position to be productive and make plays. So, when he had Von Miller, he didn’t change what he did, just the volume and the percentages shifted to accentuate a player like that or Aaron Donald or whoever it happens to be. Certainly, there’s an element of game planning and how he plays one team or another team varies, but it’s within the system that he has. I don’t think he’s out there drawing up a lot of new defenses. I think he has a menu and he selects the ones that fit best against his opponent and the situations as the situations come up in that game. Now, this year, they’ve definitely gone from a higher percentage of man coverage to a higher percentage of zone coverage here in the second half of the season, but that’s been very effective for them. It’s obviously been productive and a good adjustment, but I’m sure they’re capable, because I know what they have in their system, they’re very capable of doing that or doing something that’s also in their system, whether that’s split-safety coverages or their quarter-quarter-half or man coverage. I mean, they can easily get to any of those things depending on how they want to play it.”
More updates throughout the afternoon...