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 2009 and is a native New Englander. 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. From 2005 to 2009, he 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 3 p.m. ET!
Mike (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Mike (3:01 PM)
This chat was subject to the flex schedule, so thanks for being flexible. I like to keep the chats at noon whenever possible, but the Patriots' schedule led to the change. We'll plan for noon next week. A little surprise today with Bill Belichick cancelling the final practice of minicamp.
Mike (3:01 PM)
Looking forward to hearing what you all have on your mind today. We'll go until 4 p.m. ET.
Matt (Bristol CT)
Mike, with all the praise heaped on Bobby Carpenter, do you think Jermaine Cunningham may be facing a more uphill battle?
Mike (3:03 PM)
Matt, two thoughts on this topic from here: 1) They play different positions; 2) The praise for Carpenter should be kept in context; it came as a result of a question in a news conference (and also, Bill Belichick praised Jermaine Cunningham as well). When I look at Carpenter's potential role on this team, I think it's as a sub linebacker, playing off the line of scrimmage, and on special teams. With Cunningham, I see him as more of an on-the-line player, either DE or OLB (in the 3-4).
ale (tustin, ca)
I'm confused about the general excitement that Jabar Gaffney is back. Is my memory correct that he dropped some crucial passes in the playoffs (hence, many "gaffe" jokes), and then Pats fans weren't disappointed when he left the team? Did he do enough on the other teams to eliminate evident concerns of being drop-prone during key drives?
Mike (3:04 PM)
Ale, I think part of the excitement is that the No. 3 receiver (Chad Ochocinco) really hurt the Patriots last season, and that the Patriots have dipped in that area since Gaffney signed with Denver in free agency in '09. A big part of Gaffney's value is his smarts and ability to play all the receiver spots. He is almost always in the right spot. For this offense, led by Tom Brady, that is especially valuable.
James (the office)
Hey Mike, fellow UMass Isenberg grad here.I've heard a lot of high praise for Alfonzo Dennard so far in OTAs/minicamp. Could you envision him beating out Dowling or McCourty for a starting spot on the outside? Or has he mostly been playing in the slot?Thanks!
Mike (3:06 PM)
James, always good to hear from a fellow UMass alum. I hope the degree has helped you achieve what you desired, or at least has you on the way. On Dennard, I'd be very surprised if he surpassed McCourty, Dowling or Arrington on the depth chart at this point. His ball skills have caught my eye, but I think it's important to step back at times like these, realize there are no pads, and that the real football starts in late July at training camp. Dennard can play outside or the slot, but my sense is that with his size, the Patriots would probably prefer him in the slot.
With all of the D playerws drafted in the last fewseason, who is most poised to break out: Cunningham, Jones, Hightower, Dowling etc
Mike (3:07 PM)
Will, I think they all have a chance, but just based on a hunch, I'll pick Hightower.
Hey Mike , nice to see you back from your vacation. I was thinking about our secondary how do you think players such as Will Allen and Steven Gregory (both who I have high hopes for) Devon McCourty, Patrick Chung and Rasi Dowling will be used and with the possibility of position changes being very high this season who could move their position from corner to safety or safety to corner.Thanks man,
Mike (3:09 PM)
Thanks Derek. I have to be honest, it wasn't really a vacation, but more a step-away to take care of some important family stuff. Everything worked out just fine. As for the secondary, I envision Gregory as a starter next to Patrick Chung in the base defense. Of the safeties, I think his skill set probably best complements Chung. As for Allen, I view him as a roster bubble guy who could flip between corner and safety. I see good things ahead for Dowling if he's healthy. His skill set is different from what the Patriots have at the position, and it's clear to me that the coaching staff is high on him. I also don't think it's unrealistic to think McCourty will have a bounceback year, with better safety play behind him.
Hi, Mike. A bit has been made about the Pats violating an unwritten rule by claiming Ballard. The Pats did pretty much the same thing a couple of years ago with Barrett. But I see Ballard as a different situation than Barrett because Ballard was already a fairly proven young player. If you are put in the situation where you can claim a player like that, I believe you do so. It would be like if Kyle Love was out for the year and the Pats tried to sneak him on IR right now. I'd expect that a team like the Chiefs would claim him in a second. What do you think?
Mike (3:10 PM)
I agree with you, Nate. Business is business.
Mike (Washington, DC)
Hey Mike, just read the article about Steven Gregory and it got me thinking about the safety position (which is the weakest link in my opinion). Can you elaborate a little on how Gregory's looked throughout practices? And what about Tavon Wilson? Thanks, keep up the good work and GO PATS!
Mike (3:12 PM)
Mike, one play from Wednesday's practice stood out to me with Gregory. Tom Brady was looking for Wes Welker on one of those quick passes toward the sideline and Gregory showed nice anticipation and broke toward the ball to bat it away. I think that coverage aspect could really help the Patriots at the safety spot. I'll be honest, I haven't seen a lot of Wilson, but have noted he's played a little bit of a linebacker-type role in sub packages, similar to what we saw a few years ago when the Patriots brought Tank Williams in as a free agent.
I know many will ask but please explain why the Giants would put Ballard on waivers if they wanted to keep him? There is PUP and several other ways to keep him. Why are they mad we picked him up??
Mike (3:14 PM)
Tommy, some in the NFL believe that claiming injured players is "unethical" because every team is in the same boat in terms of managing rosters. It's sort of similar to when a team poaches players off a team's practice squad continually (it's within the rules, but some believe it's bad form). My sense is that Giants coach Tom Coughlin isn't upset at the Patriots. His disappointment might be more internal at his organization for a misstep.
Mike in the past you have mentioned the OL as a concern? All reports indicate Vollmer will be ready for TC and while reports on Mankins are a bit more vague he is expected at some point as well. As far as Waters is concerned he is excused from mini-camp which tells me he is coming back as we get closer to the season. If he were to leave the Pats would know by now. All indications are he is coming back. With a line of Solder-Mankins-Connolly-Waters-Vollmer and backups Cannon,Koppen,Gallery,Wendell,Mcdonald etc I would say the pats have depth. The question marks were Mankins return, Vollmer, Waters and so far all indications are they will return.Do you have any info that they will not?
Mike (3:15 PM)
Good topic here, and glad you brought it up, original. I'm not definitively saying it's a concern, but here is how I break it down:
Mike (3:16 PM)
Left tackle -- Nate Solder. Banking on him to make the jump from Year 1 to Year 2. Some unknown there. It's easy to forget, he was replaced at right tackle at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI.
Mike (3:17 PM)
Left guard -- Logan Mankins. Coming back from ACL. I wouldn't bet against him. Looks like he's coming along. But still something to monitor.
Mike (3:17 PM)
Center -- Connolly/Koppen. Should be OK there. Good depth.
Mike (3:18 PM)
Right guard -- Brian Waters. Still played at a high level in 2011, but at 35, does he have another year left in him? I think Bill Belichick even said it, at that point of a player's career, you evaluate it on a year to year basis and they haven't been able to evaluate anything at this point because he hasn't been there.
Mike (3:19 PM)
Right tackle -- Sebastian Vollmer. The back and ankle injuries from 2011 have to lead to some concern, especially given Vollmer's past history with a back injury. While he's expected back, this health question doesn't just go away.
Mike (3:20 PM)
As for Gallery, there is some question from NFL evaluators how much he has left. I'm not going to doubt the Patriots -- they seem to do well in these situations more often than not -- but I think it's a point that just can't be swept under the rug.
Mike (3:21 PM)
So overall, I agree with you that they have depth and different parts to fill in. I just see some questions to be answered there, and maybe it's the experience from Super Bowl XLII that has had a lasting impact on my view of the game -- when the line crumbles, nothing else matters.
Mike, the contract that Fells recieved should of went towards Hernandez. What they should of done was sign a vet. and 2/3 undrafted Tight Ends for camp because i dont see Fells contributing that much. I know its for insurance but Fells is making more than Hernandez is and hes not even a star on this team. Hernandez has outprefomed his contract by far.
Mike (3:22 PM)
Dun, I wouldn't read too much into the contract comparison between Fells and Hernandez. The Patriots would give Hernandez that type of deal tomorrow if he'd sign it. Hernandez is still in his rookie contract and he has to understand this is the way it works. His big pay day is ahead and he'll be making a lot more than Fells.
Joe (Wayne NJ)
Outside of Brandon Lloyd, Brady, and Welker (who have been heavily covered by the media throughout minicamp and OTAs), who has stood out on offense? I've read that Hernandez looks great so far (no surprise) but what about guys like gaffney, branch, stallworth, and edelman who seem to be fighting for the last few receiver spots. Outside of edelman, all three have great chemistry with brady (moreso branch and gaffney but stallworth is no stranger) and edelman projects as a solid special teams contributor once again who does know the offensive system well and provides a security blanket for welker. Basically what Im asking is this: who seems to be separating from the pack in OTAs and minicamp (try to put any previous opinions out of the picture and just based off what you've seen during practice) Anything stand out so far about any of them?
Mike (3:23 PM)
Joe, I don't think there is someone who has separated from the pack, but Edelman has caught my eye as a receiver who has made plays at all three levels of the field. Britt Davis, a bigger first-year receiver, has also shown up at times.
Jim (Boca Raton, FL)
What are your early opinions on Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower?
Mike (3:25 PM)
Jim, from a non-football perspective, I have been really impressed. I think Bill Belichick didn't just pick two good football players, he seems to have landed two fine young men. But I think you mostly meant football and I think both are going to help ... and fast. Fun to watch the youth out there.
Raj (Morrisville, NC)
Hi Mike love your articles, Can you think of any street players (like Andre Carter/Mark Anderson) who could surprise us and provide value contributions to the team in the upcoming season??
Mike (3:27 PM)
Raj, one possibility that comes to mind is linebacker Bobby Carpenter. He played a lot in these organized team activities and minicamps. In a defense that was in sub packages 65-70 percent of the time last season (according to director of player personnel Nick Caserio), he could be one of those athletic linebackers in the Gary Guyton mold (different style of play, but thinking of the role he played at one time) who could earn some real time as an off-the-line player in sub.
Ramin (San Marcos, TX)
Solder/Vollmer/Cannon is a solid Tackle rotation. But if worst comes to worst on the inside couldn't we just kick Connoly out to Guard and let Koppen start at Center? No health concerns with those two guys, and I'm sure either Mankins, Waters, or Gallery could man the other Guard spot until we're back to full health.
Mike (3:30 PM)
Ramin, I understand you had the chance to meet Papa Reiss recently at the Patriots Hall of Fame. That was fun for me to hear, and thanks for passing along the kind words to him. Great point on Connolly/Koppen. No argument there, although I'd just point out that Koppen hasn't played since '10 and it's no guarantee he'll still be at that high level. But I'd take that gamble. As for Cannon, I still think there is some question there. I'm looking forward to seeing more.
Peter (Springfield, MA)
Mike, whom do you view as the most underappreciated offseason signing? Someone that will pay great dividends, but was not talked about as much as a Lloyd.
Mike (3:30 PM)
Peter, I'll pick Joseph Addai. Seems like a class guy. That type of veteran presence could be exactly what young rushers Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen need in that room.
Mark (Dublin, Ireland) [via mobile]
Mike - early days I know and difficult out of pads, but any major disappointments thus far in your eyes? I remember you calling out concern with cunningham early last season when the players came back. Wondering of anything stands out even at this early stage - e.g. Is any high draft pick not with core positional counterparts in practices? Wilson? P.s. Out of curiousity, are you and the 'boys', mike and field, all be over at wembley for the rams game this year as well?
Mike (3:32 PM)
Mark, not sure the travel plans for London in terms of the entire ESPNBoston.com team, but I'll be there for sure. Looking forward to it. As for a disappointment in this camp, I really don't have one. It's hard to tell much without the pads on.
Andrew (Riverview, NB)
Good afternoon Mike, just a simple prediction from you. Will Bobby Carpenter make the final 53, barring injuries to him and the other LB's competing?
Mike (3:33 PM)
Andrew, prior to the OTAs and minicamp, I would have said no. But after seeing him on the field as much as I did, I'm thinking yes. This could be a case where training camp, and the hitting that goes there, could alter the picture. Carpenter looks like a solid athlete who would shine in this setting. But how does it look with pads?
Without pads, how does the team improve on it's defensive tackling? Missed tackles have been a team weakness for the past 6 or 7 years. With even less contact allowed during the offseason, how can we expect any improvement?
Mike (3:34 PM)
Clark, that's a real tough one in this setting. But one of the things we see in training camp, even when there isn't live hitting, is a "box" drill where players work on fundamentals and technique of squaring up on the ball-carrier within a "box" created by orange cones.
Kevin (Kingsport, TN)
Is Logan Mankins going to be ready for the start of the season. I know he had surgery late and played through a lot of pain in the playoffs which could have done more damage. Also, How's Gronk's progress going? We see him at Celtic games and doing charity events so he seems to be in good spirits; so my assumption is that everything's going well, but haven't heard definite yet. I know both of these guys are present at camp, but no participating fully. Thanks for your input Mike.
Mike (3:35 PM)
Kevin, I'm not betting against Logan Mankins. I'll guess yes on being ready for the season. Watching him on the sideline, as he rehabs, it looks like he is making significant progress. Ditto for Gronkowski.
Mike, thanks for all that you do! What role do you see Hernandez playing in the future for the Pats? DO you think he could be Welkers replacement? Do you see a long term deal out there for him to keep the Gronk/Hernandez dynamic duo intact?
Mike (3:37 PM)
On Hernandez, I see him as a different player than Welker, so I don't view it as apples to apples. I do think, however, that some of the slot responsibilities could be taken up by him or the TE position in general. In terms of a long-term deal, just a hunch, but I think the Patriots will wait that one out a little bit more to keep him chasing that carrot. In the end, I think it will get done.
Frank (New Orleans)
Based on OTA's who gets the nod if the unthinkable happens to Brady....Hoyer or Mallet?
Mike (3:37 PM)
Frank, while Hoyer had a few passes intercepted the last two days, I'm sticking with him. But really, the preseason will be the true test because that's the chance for them to really shine and show how they can lead the offense against a live defense.
I am surprised we haven't heard more about Eric Kettani. It seems like Belichick went to the Navy himself to get him released from his commitment. Why would he do that if Kettani wasn't in the teams long term plans? I have him making the final 53 man roster. I don't think Belichick would put himself out there if he just planned to cut him or put him on the practice squad. Am I wrong here?
Mike (3:40 PM)
DJ, Kettani was mentioned today when Bill Belichick was asked about the fullback position. I would be careful going as far as to say Belichick wouldn't have extended himself to help Kettani if he didn't think he'd make the roster. I think, more than anything, Belichick believes in competition and also likes what Kettani stands for (on and off the field). But I don't think anything is a given in terms of a roster spot.
Hi, Mike. I really like the Ballard pick up. He probably won't be around this year. Though they could put him on PUP and re-evaluate him week 12 or 13. He was probably one of the toughest players for us to game plan against last year. Put with Gronk and Hernandez, and the Pats could put some 3 TE sets that will be very difficult to cover the pass while also being extremely big. He has some nice complementary skills to Gronk and Hernandez. My understanding is that he'll be an ERFA for next year. Would he be a RFA the year after? What do you think about the pickup?
Mike (3:42 PM)
Nate, my thought on the pickup is that Bill Belichick will never turn away talent, and he -- seemingly unlike others -- is willing to pay a reasonable price now ($540,000, I believe) -- to see if he can help in 2013. Why not? That said, Ballard isn't known for his speed and now he's coming off a torn ACL and microfracture surgery. How will this affect his speed? Fair question. So I view it very much as an unknown right now, but the idea of accumulating assets is never a bad thing.
do you envision a senario of Britt Davis making the 53 man roster over Stallworth or Branch. I would be in favor of adding some youth and speed to the WR Corps however I know very littel about Davis.
Mike (3:43 PM)
Eric, I think it's early on Davis. I view Stallworth as a roster bubble guy, and I do think Branch will be on the 53. So, to me, Davis faces long odds. But you know, sometimes an injury clears all that up.
Mike, I can't help but notice the differing opinions on Ras-I. You're telling us that the staff is high on him, yet James Walker seemed disappointed when he visited Pats mini-camp. Is this a case of amateur scouting perhaps missing something, or should we be worried? Thanks.
Mike (3:46 PM)
Tom, I think this is the essence of "scouting." You're going to have different opinions. If I was in your shoes, I'd ask myself, "What are these people's qualifications to make these determinations on a player?" I'm coming right out and telling you, I'm not a scout. I do take pride in watching players and trying to determine some strengths and weaknesses -- I was pumped to pick out Kyle Love as a UDFA to watch in 2010 and Mark Anderson as a free-agent keeper last year -- but overall, that's not an area I feel comfortable diving into and writing decisively. What I do believe, as much as possible, is being fair. And there is nothing I've seen over the last three weeks that would lead to concern over the player suddenly having lost something.
Mike (3:47 PM)
P.S. -- I hope that doesn't come across as a shot at anyone. I don't mean it too at all, and in this case, James and I work closely with each other and are good friends. It's just a personal belief on this aspect of reporting and the business.
Hi Mike. Assuming 6 WR's are kept, who do you see as the final 6? Right now I have Welker, Branch, Edelman, Gaffney, Stallworth, and Slater. Your thoughts?
Mike (3:48 PM)
Jack, can't forget the biggie in Brandon Lloyd. I think he's going to help them. I'd put him in, and move Stallworth out.
Mike (Los Angeles) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, best to you and your family, glad to have you back. I may be in the minority on this, but I'd rather the Pats let Weller walk in the off season. I don't want a 31 year old receiver eating up 8-10 million in cap space even its only for the next 2 years. We must not forget that he's had TB throwing to him which would make most talented receivers even better. However, I believe there are a whole host of receivers in the NFL at the X & Y that would provide equal or greater value. Maybe not in terms of receptions, but certainly in terms of average, yardage, speed and touchdowns. I don't think locker room fit, can be overlooked either, but couldn't a Victor Cruz, a Marques Colston, a Percy Garvin be the type of guys who'd fit? Maybe that guy gets less receptions, but potentially those receptions are distributed to Gronk, Hernandez, Lloyd and our young backs.
Mike (3:49 PM)
Mike, I believe that's the Patriots' mindset as well. I think $11.4m is just too much for them, in terms of placing another franchise tag on Welker.
Neil (South Boston)
Mike, looking down the road, is Kevin Faulk a viable Patriots HOF candidate in your eyes?
Mike (3:49 PM)
Yes, Neil, I believe he is.
chris gittings (Helena MT)
Mike - great stuff. How has Danny Woodhead looked this off-season? Thanks for your hard work!
Mike (3:50 PM)
Chris, I think Woodhead has picked up where he left off in Super Bowl XLVI. I thought he was one of the team's best offensive players in that game, and is in position to once again be a big part of the offensive backfield.
Rob (Borough of Manhattan)
Hi Mike - I thought it was interesting that Patrick Chung has been getting reps as a kick/punt returner. It seems like Julian Edelman has the punt return spot locked up, but perhaps Chung could step into the kick return spot an be an upgrade at the position. How fast is he relative to some of the other players on the team that might be competing for that spot? Do you think he has a good shot of being back there when the regular season begins?
Mike (3:51 PM)
Rob, that caught my eye as well. I think it's an option, but don't believe anything is set in stone at this point. To be honest, given his past injuries, I'm not sure I like the idea for the team.
adrian (london uk)
Hey Mike, welcome back. I have a question for you on one of the UFA's - Brandon Bolden. What do you know of him, and what chance of him making the roster? Given that there were a few interested in him when he signed, is he unlikely to clear waivers to get on the practise squad?
Mike (3:53 PM)
Adrian, Bolden has some good things going for him. I had one scout tell me his team stayed away because of non-football reasons, whatever that means. In terms of a practice squad possibility, a lot will probably depend on what he does in the preseason. Too tough to tell right now.
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, I think it is safe to say that had the Patriots exposed a player the caliber of Dan Koppen or Marcus Cannon as the Giants did with Ballard the "unwritten" rule would have been broken by one of the other 31 NFL teams. In the link posted regarding likes and dislikes at Patriots' and Jets' camps the Dowling dislike stuck out like a sore thumb. The optimist in me tells me it's early but the pessimist sees images of Butler, Wheatley and a faded McCourty. I imagine that all eyes are on our defense given their shortcomings last season so let's hope for improvement across the board in out secondary!!!
Mike (3:54 PM)
Munchkin, I'm not sure what type of career Dowling is going to have, but I think it is reading way too much into things to write the story based on May/June organized team activities/OTAs. I'd keep an open mind and let it all unfold in training camp. I wouldn't be surprised if we look back after the 2012 season and laugh at this topic.
Mike (3:55 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
Hi Mike,This is a tough time of year for me as the NFL goes quiet for a month or so before training camp begins. My thoughts/questions are:1. Who gives you a feeling that they are ready for a big/breakout year? Having seen the minicamp did anyone jump out at you?2. I am still giddy about our LB corp and can't wait to see how they line-up. I think Spikes showed some amazing potential last year and Mayo is solid. Add in Hightower and I think we can have something special.3. My gut feeling is Branch may be the odd man out. If you figure Gaffney, Branch, and Stallworth all know the system and TB has been comfortable with them in the past it is going to come down to athleticism and play making ability and I think Gaffney and Stallworth have the edge over Branch.4. Addai is going to have a big impact on the offense.5. Solder and Cannon are going to be bookend tackles for the O-line for a long time with Vollmer as a backup this year till he proves he can stay healthy.Thanks
Mike (3:57 PM)
Rick, what can we do to make the next month better? We'll have to think of some creative football coverage on ESPNBoston.com. On the breakout/big year, RB Shane Vereen is someone I'll be watching closely. If he stays healthy, I like the possibility of what he could bring to the offense. On Deion Branch, my feeling is "not so fast." I think he still has something to offer this offense, more so than Stallworth because he's more versatile within the offense.
Graham (Austin, TX (NH Transplant))
Hey Mike, can you give us your thoughts on how the secondary has looked so far? I feel like they have so much potential this year if they can put it all together! Sterling Moore came on strong at the end of last season, McCourty was a Pro Bowler as a rookie and then regressed, Dowling was a STARTER as a rookie before he got injured, Steve Gregory is an upgrade over Ighedibo and was played in the wrong position in San Diego, Chung is finally healthy, and Tavon Wilson has great measurables and experience all over the field. Tell me i'm not drunk on the BB koolaid.
Mike (3:57 PM)
Graham, the big thing they've been working on back there is communication. It hasn't been perfect, but if it was at this time, that would be rare. I think they look deeper and more talented than last year back there.
xpatcan (Savigno, Italy)
Hello Mr. Reiss,With all this emphasis, on the defensive side, on flexibility and 'playing in space', when playing against 'pound and ground' teams are they going to be stout enough? Not to rehash last season too much, but the Giants were a team that appeared to overpower them with an aggressive running attack which in turn set up their passing game. I wonder if other teams will game plan accordingly. Your sage comments?
Mike (3:58 PM)
Nothing too sage about me, but I like it. Yes, I think however Bill Belichick constructs the final roster, it will have enough bulk and power. You can't totally get away from that.
Adam S (Cranston)
Just wondering, could the Pats put Mallett on the practice squad and save a spot on the 53 roster? Or does he have to clear waivers first and that's the concern? If they could just put him on the practice squad and pay him his same salary, seems to be win-win.
Mike (3:58 PM)
Adam, he would have to clear waivers and I don't see that happening.
Chad (New York)
You probably get asked this a lot, but which young player has impressed you the most so far in mini camp and OTAs?
Mike (3:59 PM)
Chad, I'm going with Hightower for now, but tough to really judge it without pads.
slackfarmer (Sierra Madre, CA)
Now that Ochocinco and Gonzales are gone, isn't there some part of you that would like to have given Moss another shot?
Mike (3:59 PM)
Not really, slack, after the way it ended in 2010. Too unpredictable.
Milo (Sudbury, MA)
Hi Mike: Thanks for the year long coverage and analysis. Is the stocking of FBs and TEs an adjustment by the Pats that their medium passing offense was not built to advance in the playoffs - the drop-off in regular season to playoff points per game has been dramatic
Mike (4:00 PM)
Milo, I asked Bill Belichick about this today, and that's not necessarily the reason for the FBs. It's more a result of opening the possibility of bringing back the FB, but only if those players show enough in other areas (mainly special teams) to stick. I'm going to write more about this in our blog, so if you have time, check it out.
hey mike, i asked this question a little while ago but it might be better suited now... Jermaine Cunningham looks set to make the team, do you see him making the jump to 3-4 end? It would seem that's where his skill-set could be best utilized
Mike (4:01 PM)
In the 3-4, I think he'd play OLB, which is an end-of-the-line position. But in the four-man line, my feeling is that his best position is DE. He played some SLB there last year, if I recall, and I'm not sure that's a great fit.
Patrick (Keene, NH)
I'm excited about the makeup the Pats defensive backfield. I know it's very early but can you make a stab at who'll be "starting"? Thank you
Mike (4:02 PM)
Patrick, I'd put Dowling/McCourty/Arrington (slot) as the top three CBs, with Chung/Gregory at safety.
Nick (Columbia, MO)
How likely is it that we see a contract extension for Welker, Hernandez or both of them before Week 1?
Mike (4:02 PM)
Nick, barring a shift, my hunch is no.
Jesse Holley. The guy from 4th and long. Any chance this guy makes the roster?
Mike (4:02 PM)
Dustin, I think he's a longshot. I don't see it right now, but an injury could alter the picture.
Doug (Brooklyn, NY)
Mike, what are the options behind Wilfork if he goes down with any type of injury? Clearly...let's hope that doesn't happen.
Mike (4:03 PM)
Kyle Love would have to step up and probably do more. Also, Wilfork is the type of player where you probably need 2-3 guys to step up to even begin covering what he does.
David (Wilmington NC)
Will Hightower play OLB with Mayo in the middle or visa versa?
Mike (4:04 PM)
David, I saw almost exclusively sub packages in this camp, so hard to tell.
Matt (Bristol CT)
How has Nate Ebner looked on kickoff team, and do you think he'll make the club?
Mike (4:05 PM)
Matt, Ebner is more of a coverage guy/blocker at this point, and hasn't had the ball in his hands as a returner. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien talked about this a bit. Blog entry here: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4723868/talking-special-teams-with-obrien
Doug (Brooklyn, NY)
how does one have an encounter with Papa Reiss at the museum?
Mike (4:08 PM)
Doug, my dad works at the Patriots Hall of Fame, usually early in the week. He's a fun guy to talk to. Some of the sports/Patriots discussions we have are talk-radio-esque. For example, today he was telling me that Bobby Carpenter is a guy he wanted to learn more about. He's asking me questions, "Could this be another Andre Carter/Mark Anderson type situation?" I like the discussions, because when there are those akward moments at Bill Belichick's news conferences when no one is asking a question, I think to those discussions and it often leads to a question. That's what happened today, and you might notice some Bobby Carpenter pieces out there around the Web. Credit: Papa Reiss.
Jorge (Madrid, Spain)
Hey Mike! All the way from Spain, a huge Pats fan since forever. Really appreciate about your hard work. My question is about the front 7. How do you think it would look like? Which player will give us a surprise and stand out being an important player? Thanks!
Mike (4:09 PM)
Jorge, on the front seven, it's tough to project. At this point, I think all we've really seen is sub packages. We'll have a better idea in training camp.
Behn (Kitchener, Ontario)
Hey Mike! What are your thoughts on the RB position for this year in terms of who's the starting RB? Do you think the Pats will still rotate offten like they have done in previous years or stick with a primary back this season? Would it be Ridley if they did?
Mike (4:09 PM)
Behn, if all goes according to plan, I think we'll see a time share, with Vereen, Ridley and Woodhead the top guys, with Addai sprinkled in.
DJ (Ann Arbor)
Mike, the NEP offense is stacked. Defense is everybody's question mark -- even those of us who thought they were mediocre rather than terrible, at least by the end of last year. What do you see as the most important area for possible improvement? Here are some options: (1) Finding a solid 1-2-3 CB line up. (2) Getting even decent play at S consistently. (3) Generating a pass rush (again). (4) Not so much positional but somebody, somewhere emerging as a difference maker (Spikes? a rookie? McCourty bounce-back?). What's your top key to the Pats getting back to having a strong defense to go with the top-flight offense?
Mike (4:11 PM)
DJ, it's hard to make this a zero-sum game and just pick one. But I'll play along and pick No. 3. I didn't think the rush was that bad last year, but I think it has potential to be more dynamic this year.
Ferdie (Pinehurst, NC)
Any update on Fanene?
Mike (4:11 PM)
Ferdie, last I heard he was going to get it checked out, but never received any word on the results. Will try to get on that after the chat.
Do you believe that Waters is excused from minicamp because it's his typical summer plan? That he doesn't like to start right away with the team at this point. Or do you think there's something else to it like determining whether he will retire?
Mike (4:12 PM)
Nate, it's a guess, but since he's annually spent his time in Texas with his family, I'd lean in that direction. I think he wants to play again. Can't think of too many veterans in Bill Belichick's tenure that have had an excused absence like this.
Ramin (San Marcos, TX)
Hey Mike, I'm really interested in what you think Sterling Moore's role could be going forward. Field Yates had great praise for his fundamentals and he performed well for us down the stretch last year. However, with McCourty, Dowling and Arrington (and possibly Dennard) ahead of him on the depth chart, it seems like he won't have many opportunities this year. A switch to Safety makes sense, but a group of Chung/Gregory/Wilson/Allen doesn't seem like it needs a boost. Thoughts?
Mike (4:14 PM)
Ramin, I look at Moore as a fourth/fifth CB type option who will have to do some work in the kicking game to break through more. He's proven he can do it, and even play safety a bit, but there are other players in front of him right now.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Do you think the window is closing on Andre Carter winding up on the team?
Mike (4:14 PM)
Gary, I think it's still a possibility. Wouldn't rule it out. No. 93 has yet to be issued.
Mike (4:15 PM)
That was a great chat. Thanks to everyone for participating. Have a great weekend. I'll circle back and answer a few more on the blog tomorrow.
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