“We’ll see how it goes.” “We’ll see how it goes.” “We’ll see how it goes.”
That five-word refrain was a favorite of Bill Belichick’s on Tuesday morning as the New England Patriots addressed reporters at the coaches breakfast — a staple of the NFL Annual Meeting.
During his 27-minute chat with media members in Orlando, Fla., Belichick fielded questions about all six of the players the Patriots have either signed or traded for since the league year opened two weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, his responses were light on specifics.
“All the guys that we got, obviously, we’re happy to have,” Belichick told reporters. “I’m glad that it worked out with all of them. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll put them into the program and give them an opportunity to compete like everybody else. We’ll see how it works out.”
Though characteristically tight-lipped, Belichick did offer a few interesting tidbits on the team’s recent additions. Here’s what he had to say about each Patriots newcomer:
Jason McCourty, cornerback
Following their trade for McCourty, the Patriots now own the rare distinction of having two sets of twins on their roster: Jason and Devin McCourty and Jacob and Cody Hollister.
“I’ll be fooled more than anybody,” Belichick joked when asked about telling the identical McCourty brothers apart. “I’ve been hit on that one before. Two sets of twins — I think we’re an elite on that in the league. … We lead the league in that.”
Danny Shelton, defensive tackle
Belichick said the Patriots took a close look at Shelton ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft despite knowing he’d be off the board long before their first selection. He wound up going 12th overall to the Cleveland Browns. New England picked another D-tackle, Malcom Brown, at No. 32.
“He wasn’t, obviously, really in our range at that point, but we still did quite a bit of background on him, all the way back to high school, and it’s all pretty positive,” Belichick said.
After trading for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett last offseason and Shelton earlier this month, the Patriots now have three 2015 first-round draft picks on their roster. The team must decide by May 3 whether to exercise fifth-year options on Shelton, Brown and Dorsett. Doing so guarantees the player’s salary for the 2019 season.
In Shelton’s case, Belichick must make that decision before seeing him take the field in a Patriots uniform. The coach didn’t give any indication of which way he’s leaning.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Matt Tobin, offensive tackle
The Patriots need a new left tackle after losing Nate Solder in free agency. Tobin, who spent last season as a backup with the Seattle Seahawks, will be part of that competition this summer.
“I haven’t coached Tobin, so we’ll see how it goes with him,” Belichick said. “But I’m glad we have him, glad we’re working with him. He has some experience. We’ll see how it works out.”
Belichick added it “seems like” Tobin, who’s played both tackle and guard in the NFL, has some positional versatility.
“I can’t really comment on what a player will do until we put him out there and see how he does it, but we?ll give him an opportunity,” the coach said. “He?s a smart kid. He works hard. He?ll get a chance.”
Adrian Clayborn, defensive end
The Patriots gave their pass rush a boost by signing Clayborn, who led the Atlanta Falcons in sacks and quarterback hits last season.
“He’s had a good career,” Belichick said. “He’s been a very productive player at multiple positions. I look forward to working with him. He’s a solid person, works hard, tough kid. I think he’ll be a good addition to our program. We’ll see how it all goes.”
Clayborn suffers from Erb’s palsy, a nerve condition that weakens his right arm. Because of this, he plays the vast majority of his snaps on the right side of the defensive line. Belichick noted the 29-year-old did play some on the left earlier in his career, however.
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver
In need of a new kick returner following Dion Lewis’ departure, the Patriots swung a trade for Patterson, a two-time All-Pro return man who also provides intriguing potential as an offensive weapon.
“He’s been a productive player,” Belichick said. “Kind of a situational player. Get him in our offense and special teams and see how it goes.”
Patterson’s specialty is kick returns, but it sounds like the Patriots also will try him out as a punt returner. He’s returned just one punt in his five-year NFL career.
“He’s returned kicks primarily,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it goes with punts. He’s played receiver, running back, slot back. We’ll see.”
Asked whether he’s ever coached a return man as dynamic as Patterson, Belichick mentioned Bethel Johnson, who played for the Patriots from 2003 to 2005 and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
“Nobody faster than Bethel Johnson,” Belichick said. “Nobody.”
Jeremy Hill, running back
The Patriots accounted for the loss of Lewis by re-signing Rex Burkhead and adding Hill, who is coming off an underwhelming and injury-shortened season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Hill was a solid back early in his career, though, amassing 1,124 rushing yards as a rookie in 2014 and scoring 30 total touchdowns over his first three seasons.
“He was productive, especially his first two years,” Belichick said. “This past year, not so much, and he had that ankle injury. A good kid, smart, he’s been productive. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll give him an opportunity and see how it goes.”
Hill and Mike Gillislee could be fighting for one roster spot this summer.