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Bill Belichick on Chandler Jones and Patriots: ‘There are a lot of things that we’re doing better’

09.23.14 at 9:39 pm ET
Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

An evolution is taking place in the Patriots defense. And it’s an evolution Patriots fans have seen before.

Chandler Jones was drafted in 2012 as an edge-rushing defensive end out of Syracuse. Bill Belichick saw more than just a pass rushing specialist. He saw someone who had the potential, with the right guidance, who could learn how to drop back in coverage as an outside linebacker.

Now, in his third season, Jones is growing into the hybrid edge position.

“He’s done well,” Belichick said Tuesday of the hybrid position. “Chandler’€™s got good physical skills, does a good job. He’€™s long, he has good playing strength, he’€™s able to use his length to his advantage. He’€™s certainly gotten better at that each year since he’€™s been here.

“He’€™s been durable, tough, been out there, played a lot of plays and has good durability and stamina. He has the ability scheme-wise ‘€“ he’€™s a smart player ‘€“ he has the ability to do multiple tings for us defensively in terms of playing on the tackle, playing on the tight end, playing on space, playing in coverage. He’€™s been a versatile player. He’€™s done a real good job.”

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones has had breakout games from the moment he broke into the NFL in Sept. 2012 in Tennessee, with a strip-sack and a dominant game in his career debut. This year, he had another one of those games in Minnesota with eight tackles, two sacks and his blocked field goal attempt return for a touchdown.

Patriots fans will, of course, recall another player – Willie McGinest – who played a very similar role with a very similar body type (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) on the dominant Patriots defenses of the early 2000s.

“There’€™s an awful lot of people in the NFL that do those things, obviously some better than others,” Belichick said. “Some players are better going forward than going backward in coverage. Some guys are probably better in coverage than they are going forward rushing the passer and playing the run.”

Why has Belichick shown confidence this season in switching Jones back and forth between an edge rusher and an outside linebacker? Part of it has to do with disguising 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and some of it has to do with Jones’ ability to transition well.

“Some guys are pretty good at both and I would put Chandler in that category,” Belichick said. “We’€™re seeing two good guys this week from Kansas City, same type players that can set the edge, that are strong run players, athletic, can play in coverage, great pass rushers. It will be several of those guys on the field this week.”

After being asked about Jones, Belichick was asked point blank if he is seeing significant improvement over the first three weeks.

“As a team yeah, definitely,” Belichick said. “I don’€™t think there’€™s any question about it. Yup, there are a lot of things that we’€™re doing better. I think each week the competition gets better too. There are teams that are where they were in September and where they are now at the end of the month and heading into October, they’€™ve improved, too.

“We just have to keep grinding it out but I think we are doing things a lot better than we did them a month ago. Hopefully we’€™ll continue on that same trend. But I think we’€™re seeing the same thing from our opponents around the league too. Everybody around the league is getting better.”

Here are more takeaways from Belichick’s conference call on Tuesday:

Q: Do you get a sense that complementary football on offense is beginning to click in beyond what we see?

BB: Sure. There have definitely been a lot of good examples of that in the last couple weeks. Every week you have to go out there and re-establish it and do it. I don’€™t think it’€™s a question of really understanding it, it’€™s a question of being able to go out there and actually get it done. But I thought last week after we scored to make it 7-3 and then we had the three-and-out, forced the punt, played that situation well, got good field position offensively, drove it down to the two-yard line. That was a good example of our offense, defense, special teams with the touchback and forcing the short punt, it put our offense in good field potion, they took advantage of it. We scored 10 points. That’€™s the kind of complementary football that we need.

Q: You said Bryan Stork was improving every day but still had some catching up to do given the time he lost in training camp. With the work he’€™s done to this point, do you feel like he’€™s made up some of that lost time?

BB: Yeah, I think Bryan has definitely gotten better. He’€™s improved. He’€™s had an opportunity to string a few weeks of practice together here and get a little better playing time the last couple weeks. I definitely think he’€™s moving in the right direction.

Q: How would you assess his play in the playing time he has gotten? Do you feel like he could take on a larger workload?

BB: His playing time and workload is functional of his performance ‘€“ same as it is for every player. The better a player plays, the more opportunities they get. If they don’€™t do as well, those opportunities go to somebody else. If that somebody else performs well with their opportunities then they’€™re going to get more. That’€™s really the way it is for all the players at all the positions.

Q: Stephen Gostkowski has been here for nine years. He’€™s playing one of the most tenuous positions in professional sports. What has that made to the franchise with the stability he’€™s brought?

BB: Oh yeah, it’€™s meant a lot. The one year that we didn’€™t have him, we were fortunate probably to have it go as well as it did. But I’€™ve been very fortunate being here basically having two kickers with Adam [Vinatieri] and Steve that are among the best in the league. Over that period of time I think we’€™d be hard pressed to find another franchise that’€™s had the kind of success and production that those guys have given us in not the easiest conditions to kick in, as we all know. Steve’€™s great. He not only does a good job for us in the roles that he’€™s asked to perform on the field ‘€“ kickoffs and field goals and extra points and all that, but off the field he works hard.

He’€™s an athlete, he’€™s not that kind of stereotype kicker who just comes in and kicks. He works out; he trains with the rest of the team. I think he’€™s very well respected on this football team for, again, not just what he does for us on the field but the way he has matured, the way he prepares, the way he goes about his job. His unflappable demeanor, he’€™s had to deal with a number of different snappers and holders over the course of his career. There’€™s been transition at those two positions and I think he’€™s handled all those things very well, as well as, as I said, the conditions that he’€™s had to kick in ‘€“ cold, rain, snow, usually some type of wind here on this field and in this whole division. So, I feel very fortunate to have had him and Adam as the two kickers since I’€™ve been here.

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