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 1 p.m. ET!
Mike Reiss (12:59 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Just getting set up here and we'll get it started.
Mike Reiss (1:01 PM)
Here at Gillette Stadium. Had player interviews this morning (11:15-noon) and Vince Wilfork, Kellen Winslow, Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones were a few players drawing big crowds. Winslow the natural story -- first time he's spoken with reporters since signing.
Mike Reiss (1:01 PM)
What's on your mind?
Craig (Braintree, MA)
If there is a purpose to Welker's reduction in playing time other than management sending him/the team a message, what do you think it is?
Mike Reiss (1:04 PM)
Craig, my belief -- and this comes after the standard tape study and the everyday reporting -- is that this comes down to a few factors: 1. Evolution of the offense with TE growth (they are working the areas of the field that Welker has done his most damage over the years) and how it calls for WRs who are more of a presence on the outside; 2. Edelman's strong offseason and earning more time; 3. Welker not having his best camp.
Mike Reiss (1:05 PM)
The one point I'd make is that Welker has still played more than Edelman when accounting for the two-game total. Also, I think this is more of a media issue than a football issue. I understand it. It's interesting. But let's not lose sight of the real important stuff.
Mike Reiss (1:06 PM)
Welker was targeted 11 times in the game against the Cardinals. Had some big third-down opportunities.
Jack Slater (Los Angeles,CA)
My biggest concern about our promising Patriots is depth at O Line. Why not trade Wes Welker while he is at the pinnacle of his value for a Pro Bowl offensive lineman proven performer and a punter? I love Wes but Julian Edelman is a clone. Tom Brady needs shored up protection. No?
Mike Reiss (1:09 PM)
Jack, let's say the Patriots were willing to trade Welker (which I'm not buying), I don't think they'd get a Pro Bowler OL in return. I'm not sure there would be a huge market for Welker. At the same time, I disagree that Edelman is a clone of Welker. They are different players. I also think Welker should get a little more credit than that. As for Brady needing shored-up protection, no disagreement here.
John Matrix (Brady,TX)
The loss to Arizona does not concern me. It's early in the season, and the Patriots need to work on some things. The defense is also playing well. Great. But what I am most confused about is the WR position. Before the season started, we had 11 talented or potential stars in training camp. It looked like we would have the deepest WR core in the league. Now Hernandez goes down and our offense sputters. Why was Julian Edelman a better option than Deion Branch? Thank goodness Deion is back. Why, with one injury, does our offense all of a sudden look lost? I understand Belichick is a good coach, but every year these poor personnel decisions seem to creep up.
Mike Reiss (1:11 PM)
Edelman caught the coaching staff's eyes throughout the offseason. He's had a very strong six months in their view. Physically has really grown. More explosive with the ball in his hands after the catch. I don't think Branch is back because of Edelman. I think his return is more a result of the Hernandez injury.
GT (No VA)
Is Daniel Fells just not who they thought he was?
Mike Reiss (1:11 PM)
GT, I think Fells is on his way back. More of a medical situation than a performance deal. Just needed more time with the shin issue which caught the team by surprise.
Bill (Portsmouth NH)
mike what is going on with winslow, where do you see him fitting into the system, specifically in the shotgun, where do you see him as a receiver or tight end?
Mike Reiss (1:12 PM)
Bill, I think they'll use him similar to Hernandez. Winslow said it today, that his game is somewhat similar to Hernandez.
why can't it simply be that Edlman has earned playing time? We all know that a balanced team is what we need.
Mike Reiss (1:13 PM)
Right on, Jason. I think part of this is framed off last year when Welker played 89.2 percent of the snaps. Why was that the case? Because Chad Ochocinco bombed. If Ochocinco was what they thought he'd be, Welker probably would be sharing time with him and Deion Branch and we wouldn't have made a big deal of that.
Reiss, what is your prediction for the Pats offensive gameplan this week? More 3-wide sets, and dink and dunk them with a heavy dose of Welker/Branch/Edelman? More run/pass balance, with Ridley setting up some playaction/ Force Winslow into the mix right away and run their 2TE stuff? Also, on a related note, are Vereen and Fells ready to contribute this week?
Mike Reiss (1:15 PM)
Great questions. I think we're going to see everything you mentioned, but I'd lean toward the 3 WR stuff. Can't overload Winslow and go into that type of environment without having the top comfort level between QB and pass-catcher. I do think we'll see Winslow, but I'd guess 20-25 percent of the snaps. Just a guess, but I do think this could be the week we see Vereen and Fells.
Derek Young (Des Moines IA)
What do you think are the chances of Chandler Jones getting this years Rookie of the Year award. Or are Luck or RG3 gonna take it.
Mike Reiss (1:16 PM)
Derek, it's going to be tough for any non-quarterback in my view. But if Chandler Jones plays the way he has in the first two weeks of the season, he's going to be in the discussion.
Is Josh McDaniels a help or a hindrance to this team? I think the latter. His track record was terrible in Both Denver and St Louis. He has brought Salas (since released) and Lloyd into the system which doesnt appear to have helped much atall. There is major disorder on offence right now. What does he bring to us.....its not credentials for sure!
Mike Reiss (1:17 PM)
George, can I call a timeout? I didn't think McDaniels had his best day Sunday. But wasn't it around this time last week that everyone was praising him for his work in the season-opener at Tennessee? McDaniels, in my view, is a solid coach. The Patriots are fortunate to have him.
Dr. Paulie (Medford)
Does the commitment to the 2TE formation, evidenced by the contract commitments and the quick winslow signing, mean that the Pats might actually look for a big-time outside wr in the offseason to fit the role in that scheme...... welker and edelman are not outside wrs
Mike Reiss (1:18 PM)
Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't rule Edelman out from being a presence on the outside. He's not as tall as you might like but watch him run. He's faster than you might expect.
Can you shed any more light on Ras I Dowling...will he play this weekend and why do you think he was shut out last weekend?
Mike Reiss (1:19 PM)
Dave, he just fell right off the depth chart last week. The only conclusion I can draw: Combination of season-opener (PI penalty) and practice last week didn't look good. This Patriots coaching staff makes you earn it every week.
Mike, do you think the Salas out, Branch back in move is any indication of McDaniels's leash being pulled back a bit? They seemed to be stacking the team with Josh's guys a bit, and it hasn't really panned out.
Mike Reiss (1:20 PM)
Matt, I thought that at first, but I think it was more of a numbers thing. Just needed a ready-now WR. Salas still has intrigiung potential that they are high on.
Wes Welker (Baltimore)
Mike, why won't everyone just chill out about my playing time? Personally, I'm not worried at all, in Bill I trust!
Mike Reiss (1:22 PM)
Wes, seems to me you understand what's going on. Is it ideal? No, especially when your playing time is tied to the contract you hope to earn next year, but when you sign up to be a part of a team there are things that are out of your control. This is one of them.
Mike, what is the biggest weakness right now of the Ravens D? Has to be their secondary, right? Is this the week Lloyd breaks out? It's not like Brady hasn't been looking his way the last two games.
Mike Reiss (1:23 PM)
Rick, they are having trouble rushing the passer and safety Bernard Pollard is banged up. Paul Kruger is hurting too. I see a lot of favorable matchups for the Patriots.
Mike - Fantasyland [via mobile]
Why did Bill stop trying to move the ball cloaer at the end of the game? It kills mw that he was content to have the Pats kick a 42 yard field goal rather than trying to move rhe ball closer.....
Mike Reiss (1:25 PM)
Mike, I thought Tedy Bruschi made a great point on our weekly podcast. Basically it was this: The Patriots had a holding penalty and then a false start penalty -- they were going backwards, not forwards -- and sometimes Belichick coaches on instinct. At that point, he was probably thinking, "Before we miss the opportunity to kick at all, let's just take our shot based on what has unfolded over the last few plays, which have been ugly."
David (North Attleborough, Ma)
OK Mike, The Patriots are a game plan team. Is the game plan on defense for the Patriots to take away Ray Rice running with the ball and receiving it and make other players beat you? I think Flacco and Torrey Smith have improved but can they beat the Patriots or is Ray Rice still the man?
Mike Reiss (1:28 PM)
David, I feel like this one is a little tougher than the first two weeks, when the "what-do-you-take-away" question was clear -- Chris Johnson (Titans) and Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals). I'd still start with Rice, but I think the Ravens have a better chance of beating you with others than the Titans/Cardinals did.
Tom Brady's knee and Gronk's Ankle (Rehab room)
Mike, What are the odds Pollard doesnt see the field this week? Even if he doesnt play we'll stay far away from the Ravens' sideline just in case. Cant be too safe....
Mike Reiss (1:28 PM)
Pollard said today he is planning to play Sunday.
GT (No VA)
Hey Mike, since I'm in the DC area, I did not get to see the game last week. Welker was targeted 11 times, had 5 catches, led the team in yards and played a majority of the snaps. Was he out of sync for the 6 misses because he did not start the game? Not sure what all the fuss is about. Still, I sense a Belichick plan to try to move other teams from focusing too much on Welker.
Mike Reiss (1:30 PM)
I'd have to go back and watch the other six targets, but three come to mind off the top: 1) Sideline through his arms; 2) Over the middle, couldn't corral it (borderline PI); 3) Tightly covered down the field and throw sails over him toward the sideline. The first one was the one he's probably kicking himself on =-- it was third down and a makeable catch.
Matt (Elon NC)
We still have a full practice squad, right? So who'll get dropped in order to give Salas a spot?
Mike Reiss (1:30 PM)
Matt, the guess is WR Kerry Taylor. He wasn't at practice today.
Ken (Long Island)
Mike, I've said before, the "Welker" situation is all media driven...Take away the 99 yard Miami catch (that won't happen again) and his numbers this yera are the same!
Mike Reiss (1:34 PM)
Ken, I think it's interesting so I don't think it should just be avoided. We're not talking about production as much as playing time. Welker's is down. The question "Why?" is interesting to me. That said, I rank it low on the list of football issues facing this team. He's still playing a lot and is getting plenty of chances.
Damian (Birr, Ireland)
Hi Mike. It always amuses me how one poor performance suddenly has fans running and pressing the panic button. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't something similar happen last year after the defeat to Buffalo. However in saying that I do have concerns (not quite a panic yet) over the offensive line. It looks to me as if all the high profile defeats (see two Superbowls against the Giants) stem from struggles up front. Could you see a scenario when everyone is available where Connolly could start at centre with Cannon beside him and Vollmer at tackle. The right side in particular has looked very shaky at times.
Mike Reiss (1:35 PM)
Damian, I could envision that scenario, although I wouldn't really put Ryan Wendell, at center, as a major issue for the team through 2 games. I like Cannon at RG over RT. Been saying that previously as well.
Mike, by my count the Pats brought in 372 WRs over the offseason, yet kept none of them, then traded for another, and then cut him. Are we to believe none of those WRs would have helped this team have a better outside threat?
Mike Reiss (1:37 PM)
Glen, I think Branch could have helped them last week. But when they traded for Greg Salas and cut Salas, they were probably balancing the present vs. the future. Salas has intriguing upside and just need a little more time. Branch can help now, but as a NO. 4 option. So the Patriots didn't think they needed a No. 4, but when Hernandez went down, and it altered their offensive approach (more 3 WR/1 TE over 2 WR/2 TE). Now comes the need for a ready-now WR.
Losing sucks but I am very excited about how the defense played. They gave up 10 points on a short field after turnovers and made the big play that put the team in a position to win at the end. This Sunday will be a better barometer of what this team is. I predict a 24-17 Patriots win.
Mike Reiss (1:41 PM)
Rick, this is one of those games that I think will tell us a lot about the character of this team. All they have is themselves and that can sharpen focus and bring players together. It's going to be an electric environment. I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots won, because I think highly of the collective "football character" of the players in that room to rise up in that type of environment. I also think this coaching staff is one of the best around. But I had to pick the Ravens in a close one. ...
Mike Reiss (1:43 PM)
... Like you, I'm impressed with the defense. Here is a stat that I dug up: Patriots have played 129 defensive snaps through two games. Last year, through two games, it was 148. Translation: Better performance on third down gets you off the field, keeps players fresher, aids the defense as a whole.
Christopher (Las Vegas)
Mike, as much as I love Teddy, I disagree with him. Brady and the Offense finally starting clicking on their last drive going no huddle. The WR's got hot and strongly feel as though they should have gone for the kill instead of playing conservative Marty ball. We had 2 good plays, the Woody-Head touchdown that was called back and the catch and run from welher for about 15+ yrds. The play calling was terribly bad as well as the communication. I see there being many issues with this Patriots offense this year even though it's early.
Mike Reiss (1:44 PM)
Totally fair, Christopher. This is what makes football great. Different opinions. I think we can have a great debate on the late-game strategy.
Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)
Mike M&T Bank Stadium is a very tough place to go into and win I remember that game in 2007 and it came down to the very last play I to Predict a New England Win but I think it is going to be very close
Mike Reiss (1:45 PM)
Ravens have been money at M&T Bank Stadium (see what I did there?). Eleven straight victories. That's the NFL's longest active win streak at home.
Dan (Leominster, MA)
Mike, Do you think that Flacco has turned the page and now become a premier QB in the NFL and will we have a better gauge where our defense is headed after this game, or will we remain untested by a first class QB?
Mike Reiss (1:46 PM)
Dan, honestly haven't seen enough of him to say decisively. But what stands out to me, from the little bit I've studied, is that they are letting him do more (e.g. no-huddle). He's grown up a bit in the process.
There is some talk down this way that Brady can't really throw the long ball anymore - accuracy and strength wise - what is your feeling on this point? Does this have any direct impact in moving towards a 2 TE scheme?
Mike Reiss (1:47 PM)
Todd, I don't think that's why the Patriots have moved to the two-TE scheme, but Brady has not had success with the long ball. I might be off on this, but my feeling is that if you put the 2007 version of Randy Moss on this team and we wouldn't see too many long-ball struggles.
Rob Goz (Boston, MA)
Mike,Stop taking all the fluff questions and answer a challenging one. Like the one I submitted on Waters...
Mike Reiss (1:47 PM)
Rob, give it to me again. I can't find it.
An All-Pro WR gets benched and people think the hype is media driven? Welker hasn't been as dedicated to the team as has been in prior years. Case in point, he took off a key preseason game to attend a funeral on the day after the game and several practices. Pretty sure this is a longer absence that is standard under Belichick. Welker's play has clearly suffered as he's already dropped several passes this year.
Mike Reiss (1:49 PM)
Todd, I don't think this is fair to Welker. It was just a few weeks ago that BB was calling him one of the team's hardest workers. Let's judge the performance -- and yes, he didn't have his best camp and hads had a few drops -- but not the approach. Wes Welker is as committed as ever.
Tron (Waltham, MA)
Hey Mike, Regarding Winslow's knee: Is it affecting his agility, speed or both? What are some positives about his play that should help the Pats (asides from his past productivity)?
Mike Reiss (1:50 PM)
Tron, media members only get to see agility drills in practice. Can't tell much from that.
jax (Norwell, MA)
When looking back over the game last Sunday, did you see any evidence of the cardinals reacting to Brady "tipping off" the play calling?
Mike Reiss (1:53 PM)
Watched every snap. Studied it closely. Ridiculous comment from the Cardinals' defensive coordinator. After the third quarter, Brady was under center 28 times (17 runs, 11 passes). Does that seem like tipping plays? Not at all to me. I don't know Ray Horton, but it sounded like a coach who was puffing his chest out a bit, almost like saying "Give me some credit here." Didn't come across well in my view.
Why should we assume that Salas has the talent or skills to grow and make it in the NFL. The Rams have nothing to lose right now, and they let him walk for a 7th round pick rather than trying to let him develop. Then, every team in the NFL passed on him when he went through waivers (including the Rams). Are the Pats not admitting a personnel misfire - similar to Chad Ochocinco last year.....when they probably should have just cut him?
Mike Reiss (1:54 PM)
Lou, he had 27 catches in 6 games last year playing in McDaniels' system, so that is the reason for some of the promise in this system. He's on the practice squad, so no reason to not give it a shot.
Phil (10th Floor, 2nd Cube on the Right)
Fantasy question Mike: Patriots D or Packers D vs. Seahwawks?
Mike Reiss (1:56 PM)
Not a big fantasy guy, but I'd go Packers. Seahawks offense doesn't strike much fear into me.
Mike Reiss (1:56 PM)
Let's go for another 5.
Mike, do you see Stevan Ridley having a big impact in this weeks matchup againtst the ravens? Also, will we be seeing Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow on the field sunday night?
Mike Reiss (1:57 PM)
Joe, I'd go with a yes, yes and yes. I'd expect all three players to be a factor in the game-plan.
David (North Attleborough, Ma)
How much of Vollmers rotating the time he is playing do to his bad back or his conditioning not being up to par yet?
Mike Reiss (2:00 PM)
David, I'd guess that Vollmer is ready to go the whole way. It was Vollmer 33/Cannon 34 in the season opener and Vollmer 62/Cannon 20 in the Cardinals game. It's trending toward Vollmer.
Matt (Elon NC)
Mike: I'm curious as to your thoughts on Brandon Lloyd's performance so far. He's been a solid receiver, but hasn't really emerged as any sort of deep threat, which is why we signed him. What do you think about this?
Mike Reiss (2:06 PM)
Matt, Lloyd has been up and down. It seems like they're really grinding it. Lloyd was never a burner, but a solid route-runner who wins with his footwork and technique. I thought his 27-yard sideline catch in the openr was a good example of that. That's a big play that doesn't look the same as one in which he'd run by a defender, but the result is the same.
Mitch (Back Bay)
Did you catch the Broncos last game? Is it just me or does Manning look like he lost some zip on the ball? His passes seem to float to his receivers. Hopefully we'll take advantage of this in week 5.
Mike Reiss (2:06 PM)
Mitch, I did watch it, and yes, didn't seem like Manning had the same velocity on his throws, especially those down the field.
Mike, please make this is the last question. Bernard Pollard was responsible for Brady's, Welker's, and Gronk's debilitating injuries over the last few years. Do you think it's just a coincicdence?
Mike Reiss (2:08 PM)
Coincidence. Welker's, for example, came really more on his cut than a hit.
Rob Goz (Boston, MA)
Unfortunately I didn't save it but it relates to the Shalize Manza Young report citing that the Patriots have all but bent over backwards to appease Waters and even put up an offer of $4 million for the season. Seems that someone at Foxboro was intent on blowing up the notion that the Pats were playing hardball with Waters. Do you think this is true or was this PR spin from the Patriots to put that notion to rest? More importantly, the article didn't elaborate but to me the important aspect of the $4 million was the guaranteed portion. Was there any?? Or was it just a veteran minimum base with lots of incentive based bonuses that could earn up to that amount? Important distinction that should have been made in the article in my opinion. Brady needs O Line help desperately and it seems the Pats went out of their way this week to pin this on Waters.
Mike Reiss (2:11 PM)
Rob, my take on the Waters situation is this: The Patriots had him under contract for $1.4 million. Waters wanted more. The Patriots aren't just going to give him more, because that sets a dangerous precedent. So the player has to give something back in return to earn more. What Waters would have given up is that he wouldn't have received all the money guaranteed, but on a per-game basis via bonuses, perhaps up to $4 million (that protects the team if the 35-year-old Waters just decided to check out). Seems like a fair compromise to me. In the end, my feeling is that Waters just decided he didn't have it in him to come back here.
mike - spikes has made huge strides in my eyes, the most of any player on the defense. and i never thougth i would hear myself say this - but this team needs brandon spikes..
Mike Reiss (2:12 PM)
Charles, I'd agree with that. The defense has a different look when Spikes is in there. This is his type of game Sunday night.
Mike Reiss (2:12 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. Always enjoyable. Have a great day and we'll do it again next week.
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