FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s rare for Bill Belichick to shower effusive praise on players during his press conferences. But the Patriots’ head coach had some kind words for two of his own players and one Bengals All-Pro.
Belichick said Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins is “probably as dynamic a player at that position as we’ve seen in the league in quite awhile.” He went on to compare Atkins to a Hall of Famer.
“Like a John Randle type, but I’d say more powerful,” Belichick said. “This guy has some power rushes where he just takes linemen back, those guards back and it just looks like they’re on roller skates. He just walks them, literally, right back into the quarterback. He’s very quick. He can get the edge and work up or up-and-under on the guards. Then when they try to set deep or take those quick moves away from him, he can turn those into power moves and collapse the pocket. He can ruin a game, there’s no question the guy can ruin a game by himself. Every play, you can’t get away from him either. There aren’t many plays you can run where you can say, ‘We don’t really have to block the three-technique.’ You have to block him and he’s a factor in the running game, he’s a factor in the passing game. You try to throw screens and stuff like that, he’s quick and fast, he’ll run those plays down. The guy is a really good player.”
Belichick heaped praise on the Patriots’ starting left tackle, as well. Nate Solder probably won’t have to block Atkins much, but he will have his own battles with Michael Johnson.
“I think there were some things that Nate, like any college player, had to adjust to in this league,” Belichick said. “He made that adjustment very quickly. Colorado was a spread offense. They were usually in a two-point stance, did a lot of pass blocking and that type of thing. But he made those conversions pretty quickly. Nate is a very, very smart kid. You tell him something once and he has it. He also can do it, he’s very athletic. He has the physical ability to do what you ask him to do and change techniques and that type of thing. Physically I don’t think it’s hard for him. He’s very conscientious, he works extremely hard. I think he transitioned into this league like every other rookie has to transition to it, but I’d say he made the transitions very quickly. He played well as a rookie. We had [Matt] Light playing left tackle and he played plenty of tackle. He played more on the right side, which was another new thing for him because he really hadn’t played much over there, when Sebastian [Vollmer] missed a few games but he played well there. He played tight end and he also played left tackle. He’s played left tackle very well over the last two years since Matt retired. I think he’s come in and played as well as any rookie could come in and play. I think the circumstances were he just didn’t start at left tackle because Light played left tackle that year but I’m sure he could have if we hadn’t had Matt.”
Belichick said LeGarrette Blount may have had one of the best runs the Patriots have had all season, and it may not be the one that easily comes to mind. Blount had a 47-yard touchdown, but Belichick wanted to talk about a carry that Blount got zero yards out of on 3rd-and-1.
“I mean really I thought the run that he had on the 3rd-and-1 in Atlanta was about as good a run as we’ve had all year,” Belichick said. “I don’t know about the spot on that one. He did everything he could to get that first down. It was a very close play. Nobody will every talk about that one, but I think that’s as good a run as we’ve had. I don’t know if it gained any yards, but it was a good run.
“I mean the fact that he even got as close as he did — again, we could talk about whether he did or didn’t have the first done, but whatever he got on that was more than on his own.”
Belichick made sure to note the spot on the ball multiple times. It looked from television like Blount had gotten the first down.