Q: Because of Jimmy Graham’s skill set and size, do you almost have to treat him like a big wide receiver?
BB: Treat him like whatever you want, but he is what he is. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s very athletic; excellent ball skills, especially down the field. He can go up and rebound the ball away from pretty much anybody. They throw him a lot of jump ball type plays. He’s quick, he’s a big target, he’s a hard guy to cover, no question.
Q: What have you seen from opponents as far as how they’ve tried to match up with him?
BB: Everybody has tried everything: tried to jam him at the line, at times he’s had linebackers on him, safeties on him, double cover him. Each team’s kind of got some of their own matchups. But he’s seen a lot of different coverages – man, zone, in-and-out, short-and-deep, jam at the line of scrimmage – he’s seen all of it.
Q: Has anyone just matched a corner up with him?
BB: He’s been matched up differently on different plays. A lot of times, he’s split out, he’s not always in the normal tight end position. Sometimes he’s extended in a receiver type of look, so yeah, he’s had corners on him.
Q: What kind of improvement have you seen from
BB: I think Brandon’s been pretty steady for us. He’s had some plays in the passing game every year: interceptions against the Jets, Baltimore, last week. He’s a pretty instinctive player, does a good job of reading the quarterback, breaking on the ball. He’s big – he’s tall for an inside linebacker, taller than most. His range and his radius there is bigger than a lot of guys. He’s able to get some balls that might go over some 6-0, 6-1 linebackers that he can make plays on. I think it’s been pretty consistent through his career.
Q: Is he a guy that you might lean a little more on going forward without
BB: It takes 11 guys to stop the run; you can’t stop the run with one guy. Everybody is going to have to do a good job. I don’t think one guy can stop the running game.
Q: The “Frontline” investigation paints the NFL’s handling of concussions in a negative light. Can you talk about what you and the Patriots are doing right now to make sure that your players’ brains are protected?
BB: First of all, I’m not really familiar with whatever it is you’re referring to, whatever this thing is. But it doesn’t make any difference whether there is or isn’t one going on. We have our protocol with all medical situations, including that one and that’s followed by our medical department, which I’m not a doctor and I don’t think we want me treating patients. What we do in the medical department, that’s medical procedures that honestly I don’t know enough to talk about. But I can say this, there’s nothing more important to a coach than the health of his team. Without a healthy team, you don’t have a team. We try to do everything we can to have our players healthy, to prepare them, to prevent injuries and then to treat injuries and to have them play as close to 100 percent as we can because without them, you have no team.
Q: What have you seen from Rob Ryan over the years in his development as a defensive coordinator?
BB: I think Rob is, when he was here, he wasn’t a coordinator. He coached the linebackers then he went to Oakland as the coordinator. He was the coordinator in Oakland and Dallas and now obviously New Orleans. But I would say that the characteristics of his defense have remained pretty much the same throughout the years that I’ve seen him and when we’ve played him, which hasn’t been every year but it’s been a few times. He’s sound fundamentally and he does game plan things from week to week that try to attack the opponent’s weaknesses. Depending on what you do and how you do it and what he has available, what resources he has, then he’s going to come up with some type of individual game plan for you that may or may not look like something that he’s run in previous weeks. That’s specifically based toward what the offensive opponent is doing and what the personnel matchups are that week. I think that’s a pretty common thread so what’s different is what happens with those matchups and those schemes because they change from week to week. That part of it is different but the common part of it is that he will change to create what he feels like is an advantage for his personnel and his scheme.
Q: Do a lot of coaches change like that?
Q: Do you find it to be a trait of success to be able to change from week to week?
BB: Ultimately, whatever you do, you have to be able to do well, whatever that is. If it’s running the same thing, if you do that well, then that’s good. If you can change up and do that well, that’s good. It depends on what you’re able to execute. Anything can look good on paper or look good in a meeting room, but it’s what you can actually get down on the field. If you can do it well, then it’s successful and if you can’t do it well, then it’s not successful. There are plenty of examples of both, there are tons of examples of both.
Q: Four years ago, you said that Sean Payton had one of the more complicated installs in terms of preparing for him. Has it developed even more so over the last four years?
BB: I think they’re definitely a hard team to prepare for. He does a good job. He doesn’t have a million plays, he’s got a lot of very aggressive concepts and he does them a lot differently with a lot of different personnel groups, different formations so it doesn’t look the same but it’s the same concept, same type of attack but it shows in a lot of different ways. You have a lot of different things to defend. He runs the ball inside, he runs it outside a lot, they attack the width of the field and they certainly attack the depth of the field. They run vertical routes, they run deep seam routes, they run check-downs and screens and those types of patterns too. You have to defend from sideline to sideline; you have to defend from the line of scrimmage really to pretty much the back end line. That’s a lot of space defensively to account for but that’s basically their attack. They can throw one over your head or they can throw a check down to [Darren] Sproles and he can run for 30 yards or a screen to [Pierre] Thomas and he can run for 30 yards. It’s not all posts and bombs, it’s everything. They do a good job of spacing the field, [Drew] Brees does a good job of getting it to those playmakers and those guys do a good job of making plays. You have to defend everything. That’s hard. You have to defend each guy and each part of the field and it’s a lot to defend.
Q: Is that unique?
BB: They do a good job of it, yeah, they do a real good job of it.
Q: How much closer do you sense we are getting to seeing
Q: Safe to say he’s making progress?
BB: He’s day to day.
Q: As you get more information as to his availability toward the end of the week, how much do you envision that potentially changing any plans or can you just tweak a few things later in the week?
BB: I don’t know. I guess that’s a question to discuss at the end of the week, depending on whatever information is or isn’t available, I don’t know.
Q: Do you feel like he’s closer now than he was last week?
BB: He’s day-to-day.
Q: How did he look in practice last week?
BB: He practiced.
Q: Did he look like –
BB: He practiced.
Q: What are your thoughts on Cameron Jordan?
BB: He’s been a productive player; he’s had a productive year. Versatile guy, they use him in a bunch of different spots. He’s very athletic, plays on his feet well, runs well, has good quickness. He’s a little bit of a in-between type of guy but that also gives him some versatility and it creates some matchup problems too. I think Rob [Ryan] has used him well. He’s very good in the passing game with his athleticism, ability to rush the passer, pursue, occasionally drop into coverage, that type of thing.
Q: How closely did you look at him in the draft?
BB: We looked at all the players, yeah. I think that’s what we saw coming out, was an athletic guy that had some versatility that you’d have to fit into the different roles depending on the situation or the scheme that you were in.
Q: How much have Dont’a Hightower and
BB: They’ve improved a lot. It started in the offseason. I think both of them had good offseasons. They both came into the OTAs and training camp a lot more confident, a lot better understanding of what they were dong, what the offense was doing, just in general how to prepare and play in NFL games. They did a good job last year but having that year under your belt, that experience, there’s just no substitute for it. You can talk about it all you want, but to actually go through it and do it and have that experience, like we’ve all had, when we’ve done something the second time, they’re just a different comfort level. You know what the expectations are and it’s easier to meet those expectations because you have a much better idea of what it is you’re going into. I think that was true of both those players. They’re much better in a lot of ways than they were last year. They did a good job last year but they’ve just grown as players.