Ahead of the Patriots' Week 3 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, head coach Bill Belichick said he’s impressed with how the Raiders have evolved as a team under head coach Jon Gruden.
“I think that coach [Jon] Gruden has done an outstanding job, really of putting this team together in a pretty short amount of time,” Belichick said before practice on Wednesday. “Both from a personnel standpoint, coaching staff and just the way that he’s been able to get the players to do the things that I know he believes in and what he wants them to do. He’s rebuilt the offensive line, the skill players on offense, and the running back position.”
Belichick highlighted the Raiders' offense and their ability to move the ball downfield. He also noted that the team features a talented roster and coaching staff, from Gruden to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
The Raiders (2-0) are currently ranked second in the AFC West. They defeated the Panthers in Week 1 (34-30) and the Saints on Monday (34-24).
Here’s what Belichick had to say about his opponent:
The Raiders defense and who sticks out to him:
“I think Jon has the offensive group playing a very high level,” Belichick said. “Young specialists, but guys that are obviously good and have a great future in front of them. Good return game, good coverage units. I think [safety Jeff] Heath’s really helped them, [cornerback Keisean] Nixon. So, they’ve got a good group of guys there and then defensively, the players that they’ve added, the pass rushers the last couple years there with [Maxx] Crosby, [Clellin] Ferrell and then the guys in the secondary there with [Johnathan] Abram, [Trayvon] Mullen and [Damon] Arnette to go with [Lamarcus] Joyner and [Erik] Harris, very experienced players back there. They’ve got a lot of experience at linebacker with [Corey] Littleton and [Nicholas] Morrow and those guys, [Nick] Kwiatkoski, if he plays. [Johnathan] Hankins inside is a tough guy to block.”
So, [general manager Mike] Mayock and Gruden have done a really good job of collecting the talent they want to run the things that they’re running. That’s what showed up last year but you can see there’s been a big jump this year as well. So, good opportunity for us here, good test. It’ll be a big challenge for us to compete with these guys, but we’re getting ready for it and looking forward to it."
How the Raiders use their receivers:
“Certainly, the Raiders mix them in there, like they do everything,” Belichick said on Tuesday. “They give you a lot of different looks. Coach Gruden does a great job of using multiple personnel groups, multiple formations, different looks, different play concepts, but all within the framework of doing things that are fundamental and have principles embedded in their system. So, the execution is at a high level. The quarterback’s reads are the same, but the play looks different to the defense. He does a great job of doing that – of game planning, of changing up the looks – but at the same time, having a higher level of execution on the offensive side of the ball because of the continuity of the techniques, fundamentals, and quarterback reads in the passing game and in the running game as well. It’s a lot of the same plays, but the looks are different, the formations are different, the plays appear to be different, but fundamentally, they’re really the same, but it’s very hard on the defense to recognize what they’re doing until a lot of times it’s too late and it slows you down by half a step.”
How Paul Guenther runs the defense:
"Well, coach Guenther and coach [Mike] Zimmer developed that style of defense in Minnesota. Then he carried that with them out to Oakland last year. It looks like they’ve maybe made some modifications to it, but I would just say through the years, in competing against him and watching him and his teams play, that they do a very good job fundamentally. They create a lot of problems in their schematics. They’re a hard team to deal with. They’re very good on third down, in the red area, and in two-minute situations. I think those are the most critical situations in the game. Now, again, he’s taken new players out there and I don’t think they’re where they’re going to be. But you can see what they’re doing. You can see them making progress and you can see that the players are well-coached and they are put in good positions.
Statistically and all that – it’s a long season, we’ll see how things go but I can see what he’s doing and I can see the players doing it, improving it, and I can see him pulling it all together and making some adjustments that I’m sure he feels like he needs to make. And he gives the offense problems with the way they play, and what they do and the way he utilizes the players to create favorable matchups. So, I think he does a good job."