Before we get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes down when the Patriots coaching staff gets some time with a blue-chip prospect at the Combine, let’s get this out of the way: we can all agree it’s not fair to hold a player’s alma mater against him just because someone else from that school burned the Patriots before. It’s not like New England is sore at Virginia just because Ras-I Dowling didn’t work out, or they won’t draft Florida Gators because of Brandon Spikes, or Chad Jackson, or Jermaine Cunningham, or Dominique Easley, or Tim Tebow, or Jon Bostic, or...
Well, um...ahem, about that...let’s move on.
Earlier this week, before the Patriots apparently whiffed on acquiring defensive end Michael Bennett from the Seahawks yard sale, our man Bernd floated the idea that New England could target Stanford safety Justin Reid in the early rounds of the draft - which, before anyone gets mad again, is where he’s supposed to get picked. And we already know that the Patriots are impressed enough with the man’s game to request a private interview with Reid at the combine last weekend.
Now, thanks to CBS Sports’ John Breech, we have some details on how Reid’s interview with Bill Belichick himself went last weekend:
“It’s like, you walk into the room, and it’s like, ‘Ah, Coach Belichick is here.’ It’s an awesome feeling to have the head coach,”
On the interview itself, which, as a mere mortal, seems like it would be slightly stressful:
“It was cool. I know they heard about kind of how intelligent of a player I am, so they wanted to quiz me to see what I knew,” Reid said. “They brought up some film and asked me what I was doing in this coverage, what were some of the linebackers doing in the coverage. What I was thinking, what I saw, some formation alerts, some formation tendencies, things like that. Just to get a feel for how I saw the defense, and I feel like I left an impression.”
”He’s a totally different guy than he is (in front of the media),” Reid said. “He’s actually a really, really good guy.”
When the subject of Stanford’s defensive game plans came up with the media later on, Reid was happy to oblige there as well:
“Well we game plan teams heavily,” Reid said. “So, first and foremost, we do personnels and matchups. We see what type of formations they have. ‘What are their favorite plays?’ Because first and foremost, we’re going to take their favorite plays first and we want to match our favorite defenses to their favorite plays and get that out of the way right away.”
”Then we start getting into their personnel grouping and the personality of that,” Reid said. “‘What was the quarterback reading? Who does he like to throw the ball to? Who’s his favorite receiver? What do they typically do on first-and-10? What do they do on third-and-3? What’s their run-down formation? Is it third-and-2? Is it third-and-3?’ Then we get into these formations and tendencies. That way you have an idea of what offense is going to be playing what defense.’”
Nobody likes - no, loves - no, LURVES situational football more than Bill Belichick, and for a defense that occasionally looked like they were taking an exam after staying out all night, adding some brainy high-draft pedigree to the back-end of the defense doesn’t sound like a half bad idea.
Here’s a bit more on Justin Reid’s game from NFL.com’s draft notes:
Reid is what teams are looking for at the safety position in 2018. He’s a plus size/speed prospect who has the athletic ability to help with man coverage and the instincts and ball skills for ball-hawking duties on the back end. Reid can get himself into some trouble when he’s overly aggressive, but his positive plays far outweigh the negative. He has the talent to become an early starter and a good one. Reid’s instincts and play traits should make him a safe selection with Pro Bowl potential down the road.
And if you need a bit more convincing on how a mentally tough and physically gifted safety can make or break a defense, well, you can ask Seattle about that too.