Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPNBoston.com New England Patriots blogger Mike Reiss stops by to chat.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September and is a native New Englander who has stayed close to his roots. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. Since 2005 he has covered the Patriots for the Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at noon ET!
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium.
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
I was down here for media access with CB Shawn Springs, but that has been postponed. Center Dan Koppen is now scheduled to talk to reporters at 12:30. My plan is to be within earshot, but let's chat until 1 p.m.
Mike Reiss (12:01 PM)
I'm interested to hear what is on the mind of Patriots fans. This is a bit of a quiet time for the team.
Mike, if things go as we expected, will the Patriots carry 3 TEs on the 53 men roster? Does this mean one less WR?
Mike Reiss (12:03 PM)
If all three tight ends are healthy -- Crumpler, Gronkowski, Hernandez -- I think they're all on the roster. Three is the standard number for most teams. I don't think you can look at one position and say "That's the one that will have one less number." I still think six receivers is a strong possibility.
Garin V. (Foxboro)
Hi Mike, Aren't we over-reacting to the Pats WR issues? I think Moss has another very good year or two. I think we've seen enough of Edelman to feel alright with him in the slot while Welker heals. Holt seems perfect for Brady....great hands, perfect routes. And I think they are expecting a healthy Tate to make some plays. Brady has done wonders with FAR less talent in the past, no? Throw in Hernandez, and it seems there are plenty of guys to throw to.
Mike Reiss (12:05 PM)
I think the WR spot will be OK as long as Moss is playing at a high level. Every team needs to introduce some young talent into the mix at each position, and with that comes some uncertainty and questions. But I think Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price could all be promising long-term options. I like the mix overall at the position.
Clay D (NY)
Will the Patriots use more 4-3 looks to hide their talent at linebacker and to better stop the run?
Mike Reiss (12:07 PM)
At this point, Clay, I don't think they even have the answer for that. They will build that flexibility into their defense, as they always do, and then see how it looks in training camp and preseason. Another factor to consider is opponents' strengths and weaknesses, as the Patriots are a game-plan team in terms of strategy.
Mike, This question is about ILB and how they are used in our system. Most of the elite ILB are tackling machines, as well as ball hawks, which is evident from their INT. Patrick Willis had three int and four sacks along with 130 odd tackles. Same thing with Brian Cushing, although disgraced, had similar stats. Ray lewis also frequently intercepts QBs. Why do you think our ILB do not have any? Is it because of the scheme, or is their ball hawking skills in question? In my opinion, Mayo is just above average in run support, and has not merit in passing game, which is clear from lack of any INT, or barely any pass deflection. Your thoughts?
Mike Reiss (12:08 PM)
I have a higher opinion of Mayo in those areas, Maddy. This is a tough question to answer in a rapid-paced chat. My initial thought is that I'd like to see the INT numbers on Willis and Cushing in terms of when they had those picks (third down?) to have better context on them. I'd also need to know more about how they are being used in that scheme.
Mike, how many of these reporters who voted for Brian Cushing were killing the Patriots over Spaygate? Is there a double standard for cheating, people wanting to give Cushing a chance because he's likable while criticizing BB because he's BB?
Mike Reiss (12:10 PM)
I find this story compelling Sean, because of the different layers to it. This is another one. I think there are obviously differences between what happened with Cushing and Belichick, but I get your point. One thing that I've noticed about some of the people who still voted for Cushing, they did so because of the process, not because of Cushing himself.
Mike, Our offense has been very inconsistent last season. Nothing to take away from coaching staff or players, but opposing defenses seemed to predict every play we run. Is it because our playbook is too simple?? If it is the personnel, what changes must pats make to get back on track?? I am not expecting a run like in 2007, but we should definitely get better with the players we have given the defensive toughness in AFC east..
Mike Reiss (12:12 PM)
I thought there were times when things became too predictable, Rao, and it's probably a little bit of both -- play-calling and personnel. If I had to pick one, it would be the personnel. Not enough playmakers last year. That's why I think a player like Brandon Tate could be very important to this club.
fuad (brooklyn, new york)
Mike, how do you rank the teams in the AFC East? Thanks
Mike Reiss (12:12 PM)
I'd go Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Bills at this time.
Is this the year we finally see Shawn Crable?
Mike Reiss (12:13 PM)
I think so, Eric. I see it as make or break for him.
Hold on Mike. You said 6 receivers make the 53. I say more because you have Moss, Welker, Tate, Edelman, Holt, Price
Mike Reiss (12:13 PM)
Welker, I assume, will be PUP (physically unable to perform list), and thus would not count against the 53.
Mike Reiss (12:14 PM)
So I'm projecting Moss, Edelman, Tate and Price as locks. You figure Holt will be on there as a 5. Aiken, your special teams captain is probably 6. That puts players like Slater, Stanback and Patten on the bubble.
Do you think Price and Tate will make solid contributions?
Mike Reiss (12:14 PM)
I'd lean more toward Tate at this point, simply because he's been in the system for a year.
Jim (Portland, ME)
Hi Mike! Thanks for the chat today. Do you see any of the new arrivals at TE and WR providing a red zone threat?
Mike Reiss (12:15 PM)
I don't see any arrivals on the horizon, Jim. I think they're pretty well stocked there.
Hi Mike, did you have a vote on the DROY? If not would you have revoted for Cushing based on positive test?
Mike Reiss (12:15 PM)
I did not have a vote, Steve. I would have voted for Cushing the first time. I would not have voted for him this time.
Justin O. (Dorchester)
I look at this year as the last year of the running backs we have Next year draft one of the 2 top first round picks needs to be a RB. If Lawrence maroney has an injury or not producing i dont see him back at all. Sammy morris I think his age will catch up to him. Also fred taylor we have one more year on his contract. what do you think??
Mike Reiss (12:17 PM)
That sounds right to me, Justin, as Morris, Faulk and Taylor are in the final year of their contracts.
Mike, Tom Brady has been in the news regarding his comments on the 2009 Patriots team not being tough enough, not having the leadership it need and having to listen to Belichich more.This offseason the Patriots seem to address the locker room issue with the players they drafted and whom they let go (Thomas, Baker). They hoper to return to being mentally tough. My question is can they trust the guy calling the offensive plays (O'Brien) to put them in a position to be successful. O'Brien was one of the worst (if not the worst) play callers in football last year and I can't see him making a drastic improvement. Will the players trust him when he is a failure waiting to happen?
Mike Reiss (12:19 PM)
I'm a Bill O'Brien believer, LJ. I think he's still growing on the job -- like Josh McDaniels was in 2005 -- and obviously last year included some hiccups. But I think we'll see a better O'Brien this year as he has more dynamic options to integrate into the offense. I'd also be careful putting Chris Baker in the "locker room issue" category. I don't think Baker hurt team chemistry. He might not have been as fiery or mentally tough as the team had projected, but he was not a cancer in that room.
Matt G. (Boston)
Hi Mike - lots has been made of who will start at OLB in the coming season, and rightfully so. But I'd also like to know what your thoughts are, as to possible starters on special teams - it seems like a lot of focus has been on bringing on playmakers in that aspect. McCoury's history at Rutgers was that of many blocked punts - will he be given the opportunity to continue in that role here? Do you think Gronkowski could have an impact in ST blocking schemes? What about punt- and kick-returners this season? It's my opinion that Pats could use a spark in that area, and Price/Tate/Butler might be able to help. Thanks.
Mike Reiss (12:21 PM)
The first thought that came to mind was Tate. That kickoff return unit was not good enough last season. Tate was probably the best they had, even in the limited sample we saw (4 returns). I think he can be dynamic with the ball in his hands. He's the guy I'd look for first in that area. McCourty should be an immediate contributor on special teams. Not sure on Gronkowski.
Mike,The next time you see Tom Brady, can you please knock that TB12 hat off his head. Seems very un-Patriotlike for him to be marketing his own brand every time he's on camera.
Mike Reiss (12:21 PM)
I can't reach up there, Jack.
Ian (Hamden, CT)
Hi Mike. There seems to be a lot of criticism from fans recently that Tom Brady is not spending enough time working out with his new teammates and too much time living a 'West-Coast' glamorous life and not being a true leader. Do you feel this criticism is valid? I personally feel fans who claim these things are out of line. Brady has been the most consistent hard-working winner this past decade. He has two young sons, is originally from California, and family should have some precedence during the off-season. The criticism seems to be coming from spoiled fans who need a Super Bowl asap. Pats fans need to realize how fortunate we are to have witnessed what we have this past decade (although another couple Super Bowls would be pretty nice!).
Mike Reiss (12:24 PM)
Probably a bit similar to Brady himself, I am a bit conflicted on this one, Ian. I was certainly among the group who was lauding him back in the day when he was winning the parking spot. So now that he's not competing, I ask myself 'Can that simply be swept under the rug?' I think it's fair to point out he's not here and ask what type of impact that could have on his season, as well as a missed opportunity to build more team chemistry. At the same time, as a new father myself over the last 14 months, I understand the importance of family time -- for both parents and the kids. You can't get that back, and it's hard for me to argue with his reasoning for being in California. I think the one thing most can agree on: It's not like Brady is out there partying. He's still putting in the work. Just not here.
I might be in the minority but last year I saw good things from Maroney. Although he did dance at the start of the season behind the hole, once other rbs got injured he hit the hole hard and then fought for tough yards. But the perception was that he is a dancer so he didn't get credit for running hard. Then like a lot of hard runners (see: Adrian Peterson) will fighting for tougher yards he fumbled. I think after the experience from last year (his best season in my opinion), he will fight for the tough yard, know when to secure the ball and become a 1000 yard back.
Mike Reiss (12:28 PM)
Evan, it's easy to forget that Maroney really stepped up for this team when it had a run of injuries at running back. The fumbles were unfortunate, but they were also out of character. I see what you are saying about Peterson and fumbles, although it's hard for me to put Maroney and Peterson in the same sentence when looking at overall production. One other point: I didn't think the end-of-season "he's in the lineup, he's out of the lineup" coaching decisions helped his confidence. I view Maroney as a player who produces better when he feels he is the man.
Kyle ((New Hampshire))
How important is it that the Pats resign Logan Mankins? I mean, I can deal with Matt Light leaving after this year because we have Vollmer to replace him, but Mankins is still an All-Pro lineman with several more years left in him in my mind, I think the Pats need to lock him up soon. Your thoughts?
Mike Reiss (12:29 PM)
He's the best offensive lineman on the team in my view. I don't think anyone would argue that it would be a tough blow if he is not here. I'd make every effort possible to re-sign him, while understanding that negotiations are a two-way street.
Spaulding Smails (Bushwood)
Any chance Brady doesn't re-sign w/the Pats
Mike Reiss (12:29 PM)
Always a chance, but I'd be shocked if it came to that.
Rick (Finland )
What week do you forecast Welker returning to the starting position?
Mike Reiss (12:30 PM)
I'd estimate that he starts on the PUP, which means Week 7 at the earliest. Whether it actually is Week 7 will be easier to forecast once the season begins because he still has a ways to go in his recovery.
Charles (Vero Beach,Fl)
Of the UDFA's signed by the Patriots,who do you think will have the best chance of staying with the team from this group: Farnham,Fletcher,Paschall,or Anderson? Thnx Mike
Mike Reiss (12:32 PM)
One thing I'd keep in mind is that the team had 12 draft picks, three of which were at the end of the seventh round (Brandon Deaderick at 247, Kade Weston at 248 and Zac Robinson at 250). So to me, those are almost like UDFAs. But if I had to pick one UDFA, it would be Paschall based on the position and future need.
Louis Shumpert (New Britain, CT)
Do you believe that during this offseason, the pats have improved the front 7 from last year?
Mike Reiss (12:34 PM)
I do, Louis, but I'm not sure if it's enough. The RDE spot, which was a concern last year with Jarvis Green proving he wasn't a full-time option, remains a question mark to me. Is it Brace? Gerard Warren? Damione Lewis? Mike Wright? And are those players good enough? And like everyone else, I am curious how it will unfold at OLB. But based on where they were last year at those spots, and what they have now, I think it's fair to say there is a good chance for improvement. Not to mention the added personnel at ILB.
I know it's way early, but curious who you see playing on running downs and passing downs at ILB and OLB this year? Also wondering if you think the Pats will go with more 2-TE sets to combat aggressive defenses such as the Jets.
Mike Reiss (12:36 PM)
At ILB, let's put Mayo and Spikes out there on early downs, with Guyton the sub LB. I'm also not sleeping on Tyrone McKenzie, the 2009 third-round pick who missed last year with a knee injury. At OLB, if the season started today, I'd project Banta-Cain and Ninkovich as the starters, with Crable, Cunningham, Ninkovich and Banta-Cain all having some kind of rush role in passing situations. As for the 2-TE packages, the Patriots ran a lot of them last year. I think the key is "Will the personnel be better?" That question can't be answered now -- as two of the TEs are rookies -- but I think there is some promise there.
Jason (Denver, CO)
Mike, you've been putting out some columns for the Red Sox recently, how about some love for the Celtics?
Mike Reiss (12:37 PM)
It's been sort of fun, Jason, and I appreciate you noticing some of my other work. Football is where it's at for me, but if the editors ask me to assist the capable Chris Forsberg on the Celtics beat, I'd be happy to. Chris does a great job.
Hi Mike,Wondering if you see any June 1 cuts by the patriots, and if they will be looking at any certain positions with the june 1 cuts
Mike Reiss (12:39 PM)
I don't see any June 1 cuts, Chris, but it is a key date in terms of a possible signing. That is the date that teams can sign free agents and not have them count against the formula that awards compensatory draft picks. The Patriots value those compensatory picks, so it wouldn't surprise me to see a fringe, depth-type addition after that date. Teams used to cut players after June 1 to lessen the salary cap hit, but with no salary cap, the date has less significance now.
At the conclusion of the 2009 season it was discussed on this site the Patriots needed to add, A) The right mix of players and B) Playmakers. With free agency and the draft, have we meet those goals?
Mike Reiss (12:40 PM)
I think it's a fair question, Clark, but the answers won't be known until later in the year. I'd say it looks promising.
Hello Mike,Youve made your position clear in the past that you dont feel Gary Guyton is a good fit at Outside Linebacker. Some of your readers have seemed to feel differently. Can you explain why the Patriots Depth Chart now has Gary Guyton at Outside Linebacker on the first string opposite Tully Banta Cain? Is it possible that the Patriots, if not projecting him as an "every" down OLB may alteast be considering him as a pass rusher from the outside? Ive found the Depth Charts to be very telling in the past. The fact that GG is the starting outside linebacker on the Chart, atleast at the moment, is no small point of fact in my opinion.
Mike Reiss (12:43 PM)
Mark, I don't believe the Patriots put out an official depth chart. I could be wrong on that, but if it's on Patriots.com, it might be the capable writers from Patriots Football Weekly making a projection.
Considering the high turnover rate at the CB position over the past few years, how do you see the Pats secondary matching up against the AFC East's revamped receiving corps?
Mike Reiss (12:45 PM)
I like the secondary, Alan, and think it could be one of the strongest parts of the team. If Darius Butler's athleticism translates onto the field consistently, I think he could be a 1a corner. Bodden is solid on the right side, with McCourty stepping in immediately as a No. 3. The safeties are deep as well. I like this group all-around. One question that I think we all have: Will the pass rush be improved to help them?
Anthony (North Andover, MA)
What type of numbers do you see Torry Holt producing this year? Any way we can get 70 catches 850 yards and lets say 7 TD's?
Mike Reiss (12:46 PM)
I think that's a bit rich, Anthony. If he shows he can play all the receiver spots and can produce 35-40 receptions, I think they'll be very happy. I'm thinking Gaffney-like numbers.
Can you imagine - even in your wildest imaginings - BB bringing Jamarcus Russell to New England? He has great talent, after all, just no motivation. Being in Foxborough might give him some.
Mike Reiss (12:47 PM)
I can imagine it, but I think it would be with the No. 3 spot in mind if it was a consideration. This coaching staff is very high on backup Brian Hoyer.
Apparently there are a few teams interested in signing Westbrook. Do you think he would be a fit for the Pats and worth pursuing?
Mike Reiss (12:48 PM)
Don't see the Patriots going that route, John, in part because of the age they already have at that position. Morris, Faulk and Taylor are all over 30.
What did you take away from Brady's recent comments about the team last year? I felt it was uncharacteristic of the QB. He is usually more...reserved in his commentary, saying a lot while not saying much at all. It's been reminding me of what he said after the Saints game last year, kind of calling out the team publicly for their deficiencies. Don't get me wrong, I agree with every word he has said. But do you think there could be a locker room backlash against him coming down hard on the team publicly, especially since he hasn't been around the offseason program much this year?
Mike Reiss (12:49 PM)
I don't think there will be a backlash, Kristen, because Brady called himself out too. It's one thing if he was pointing the finger at others and not accepting responsibility. But he did that.
Mike, in response to Maddy's comments about our ILBs earlier, one thing to be considered in talking about tackle numbers is that this statistic is unofficial, and kept by each individual team as opposed to the league. I remember an analysis a few years back (I think from ESPN.com) that showed that the Patriots were the "stingiest" in the league when it came to counting tackles, and the 49ers were the most generous. That helps explain the discrepancy in, for example, Mayo's tackle numbers and Willis's.
Mike Reiss (12:49 PM)
Thanks AM. I was focusing on the INT numbers in my answer.
Ryan (Boston, MA)
God I hope they don't pick up Russel. My bigger concern is with running back. I really like what I've seen out of BenJarvis. He seems to always move forward and doesn't dance like Maroney behind the line. He appears like he could be a great asset to the offense that is underused. My worry is that he won't even make the cut. What are your thoughts?
Mike Reiss (12:50 PM)
I see Green-Ellis on the bubble, Ryan, leaning toward him making the roster.
Mike, I've long felt that the turning point of last season came in the Indy game where Belichick's correct decision to go for it on 4th down was savaged by the press. It seemed to me like the team itself bought into the anti-Belichick hype and tuned him out after that point. In light of Tom Brady's comments over the past few days, do you agree with this perspective?
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
I don't Steve. I think they had other issues (like the four players being sent home) that trumped anything from the Colts game.
When it says on your blog that things are posted at like 5:30 a.m., are you actually up and posting them at that hour? Cause damn Mike. Love the commitment.
Mike Reiss (12:52 PM)
Often times, the answer is no. I might schedule that blog update for the morning, just hoping to have something fresh up there for when people wake up. Sometimes I am up because I am trying to get some work done before spending some dad time in the morning.
Mike (@mdmorrison82) (Boston/Twitter)
Hey Mike, Any chance we could see a detailed blog posting on what it's like to join an NFL team from college? Specifically all the non-football related tasks: orientations? meetings? forms? I may be the only one who finds this interesting though.
Mike Reiss (12:52 PM)
Love the idea, Mike. Jotting it into the notebook and hope to hit it on a slow day.
Hi Mikey, one more thing, do you think drafting McCourty had anything to do with the Dolphins aquiring Marshall and the Jets acquiring Holmes? I think Bill does what he wants, but it must have been a consideration, even if only in the slightest sense...
Mike Reiss (12:54 PM)
I'd say minor impact, Shaun. More than that was that other higher-rated players had already been drafted. But I do think the presence of Marshall and Holmes -- as well as the strong running games of the Jets and Dolphins -- contributed a little bit to the McCourty pick (he was the best run-support corner in the draft).
Joshua (NYC, NY )
Talk a little bit about the continued optimism from the Patriots' camp about Brandon Tate. I want to love the guy, but there really hasn't been much to evaluate in the public domain. What role do you see for him? Outside receiver? What about his middling performance as a WR at UNC gives the Patriots such ebullience?
Mike Reiss (12:56 PM)
This was a topic in this week's Patriots mailbag as well. I think No. 3-4 receiver and return man. I believe Bill Belichick felt that he had first-round caliber skills, and so when evaluating a player like Tate, the college production is only part of the equation. It's sort of similar to Taylor Price in a sense, as you can't just look at stats. We'll see if he can put it together.
Dave R. (Providence, RI)
Mike, at the risk of hanging you out to dry, please look into your somewhat cloudy crystal ball and tell me what you think the Pats will get out of Brandon Spikes over the next four or five years. I have visions of him being an impact player and running wild with Mayo in a "bash brothers" type fashion, maybe even making some t-shirts to go along with it, who knows? Am I being too optimistic here?
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
I have thought something similar, Dave, but it's important to note he has a long road to travel to get to that point. But I am intrigued by the possibilities.
Does the Pats staff feel Hoyer could be an effective starter in the league?
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
I don't know if they're that bullish on Hoyer, but I think they'd feel comfortable saying that he's exceeded their expectations.
Mike Reiss (12:59 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
Mike, dont you think the Pats run is coming to an end? It was great while it lasted, but I don't see them being able to keep up with the Jets now. What's your take?
Mike Reiss (1:00 PM)
Lot of hype for the Jets. Lot of people underestimating the Patriots. I wouldn't count out New England. The road to the AFC East title still goes through New England in my book.
Will David Patten make this team? Yes or no.
Mike Reiss (1:00 PM)
If everyone is healthy, I'll say no.
Tom (Winchester, MA)
What is your take on BB future? does he seem tired? how long will he coach for?
Mike Reiss (1:02 PM)
I see Belichick coaching until the end of Tom Brady's career. So maybe another 6-8 years? Just a hunch. He seems energized to me. You watch him at a rookie minicamp, coaching fundamentals in a Football 101 type of setting, and you see a guy who seems to love what he's doing.
Pats ranked over Jets, Mike? I think this is a bit of a leap based on the fact that a good margin of the roster is projected to have large contributions from first and 2nd year players who we don't know much about. The Jets on the other hand return a defense and maybe their most important player their dominant nose (Kris Jenkins). Although I don't see the teams being far apart talent-wise...the edge HAS to go to the Jets based on the team being a lot less of a mystery! Agree with my MIKE!
Mike Reiss (1:03 PM)
While the Patriots do have a lot of youth in some areas, they also have crucial experience at key spots (Brady, Moss etc.). I'd lean toward Brady over Sanchez as the main reason I put the Patriots over the Jets.
Dennis (West Palm Beach, FL)
Mike, can you post on your BlOG later today the players who have been at off season work outs? Or the no shows?
Mike Reiss (1:04 PM)
There is not an official list and media members are not allowed in that area of the facility Dennis. Heard one player say he estimated about 90 percent participation.
In a 43 who is the Pats front 7?
Mike Reiss (1:06 PM)
Let's put Ty Warren at LDE, Vince Wilfork at NT, Mike Wright at DT, Tully Banta-Cain at RDE and then Jerod Mayo at MLB, flanked by Gary Guyton and Shawn Crable.
Lowercaseg (Atlanta, GA)
Mike who is your favorite pick-up this off season, including free agent signings and the draft selections? Who will suprise us all.
Mike Reiss (1:07 PM)
Let's end on this one. Favorite pickup: Gronkowski. Loved the trade up to secure him and think a tight end with his size and big hands could be a huge asset, especially in the red zone. The big risk is the back injury and if that crops up again.
Mike Reiss (1:07 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Even though the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins are still in season, it's always Patriots season here. Almost 300 questions today. I appreciate it. Let's do it again next week.