FOXBORO -- The Cowboys believe that the Patriots may have a leg up on them heading into their Week 4 clash in Dallas, thanks to a pair of former Cowboys players on the New England roster.
The Patriots, however, find that pretty laughable.
There are two former Cowboys on the New England offense in running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Will Grier. Elliott signed with the Patriots in the offseason after spending his first seven NFL seasons in Dallas, while Grier was signed just last week after spending parts of the last three years with the Cowboys. Grier never played in a game for Dallas and bounced from the the practice squad to the active roster before being released after Trey Lance was acquired in late August.
But according to Dallas offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, those ex-Cowboys will be invaluable to the Patriots as they learn as much as they can about Dallas' offensive attack ahead of Sunday's game. He envisions a scene out of a television cop drama playing out in the basement of Gillette Stadium, with New England coaches grilling Grier and Elliott for every morsel they can share about the Cowboys' operation.
"Those are things that we monitor every week, but certainly, Will knows where a lot of the bones are buried. Zeke obviously does as well," Schottenheimer said Tuesday. "Those are things that you talk about and you think about. 'OK, let's adjust this one.' We certainly have more than one hand signal for most of our core concepts, and sometimes you can use it to your advantage because they think they know what's coming and they hear something and they think, 'Oh, hey, it's this,' and we're smart enough to adjust those things.
"Again, everybody does it. You get a player that's been somewhere, you bring him in, you talk to him about different things, and then you're very selective about how much you put into it," added Schottenheimer. "So, again, excited to see Will. It'll be great to see him, but I'm sure he's definitely being interrogated and probably spending a lot of late nights with their defensive coaching staff."
That certainly paints a humorous picture: Jerod Mayo and Stephen Belichick playing "good cop, bad cop" with Grier and Elliott with a lamp aimed at their faces as they're asked question after question about the Dallas offense. Bill Belichick would be behind the two-way mirror in this scenario, of course.
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had a good laugh Tuesday morning when a reporter relayed Schottenheimer's comments to him during his weekly conference call.
"Interrogating! Schotty is a good guy; I've known Schotty for a long time," O'Brien said while working through laughter. "I think that's the way it is every week in this league, every year in this league. There's going to be guys that come into your organization off of teams that you're about to play and it goes both ways. It's always going to happen.
"At the end of the day, you got to study the film. Everybody's got to be on the same page with what we're doing. I've never thought in my years in the league that any of that was a real overriding factor in a win or a loss," O'Brien continued. "It comes down to the players on the field, and the coaches putting the players in the right positions to make plays and that's what we're trying to do. I don't think we're trying to pull a light over anybody and, you know, 'Tell me what you did on July 20 of 2023!' We're not doing that.
"We're not interrogating anybody. We're just trying to try to put together the best game plan we possibly can," said O'Brien.
That's not to say the Patriots won't be asking Zeke and Grier for some pointers about going against the Cowboys offense. But it likely won't be as dramatic as Schottenheimer's portrayal.
And on the flip side, the Cowboys have a former Patriots player on each side of the ball in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, so Dallas will be doing some of its own interrogating ahead of Sunday's matchup.
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