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 noon ET!
Mike (11:59 AM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started momentarily.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Just turned on the auto update and will take a few minutes to get settled and then we'll roll through it.
Mike (12:01 PM)
Let's start this one out by saluting what we've seen from the Bruins to this point. Makes it a lot more fun when a team is playing deep into the playoffs. Fun team to root for as they seem to stand for a lot of the good things in sport.
Mike (12:02 PM)
As for the Patriots, they wrap up their organized team activities this week. We'll be there next week for mandatory minicamp (June 11-13) and that really wraps up the big part of the offseason program. The "quiet" time on the NFL calendar is mid-June to mid-July. We'll keep the discussion going over that time, but it's also a good stretch to downshift a bit before the real grind picks up in late July for the start of training camp. What's on everyone's mind today?
Tim (Washington State)
Hi Mike, thanks for the OTA updates from you and the gang. I understand it's still very early in the off-season, but at what point should Pats fans be concerned about the passing offense? Gronk's out and it seems apparent from media reports that the receiving corps is nowhere near coming together yet. When would you expect to see things gel in that area if it was going to happen?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Tim, I'd say if we see the struggles throughout training camp, and as the first regular-season game approaches, then it might be time for some concern. I'll admit it, when you look out on the field in practice and see a top pairing of Michael Jenkins, Kamar Aiken and Danny Amendola, it did lead me to ask the question, "If this is what it turns out to be when the games count, is that going to be good enough?" ...
Mike (12:05 PM)
Of course, so much can change between now and then. Maybe Aaron Dobson picks up momentum. Josh Boyce too. Julian Edelman's return could help.
Mike (12:06 PM)
Maybe they re-sign Deion Branch or Donte' Stallworth just to get some familiarity in there. Some might still ask the question, "Will that be good enough?" Fair. It's why it's one of the more compelling areas on the roster. I also think the return of Aaron Hernandez will have a residual effect on the WRs, taking some pressure off them. Naturally, Rob Gronkowski too, but that seems like less of a sure thing.
Jordan (New York)
Hey Mike, since TJ Moe went down does it seem like Donald Jones and Lavelle Hawkins will make the final roster? Thanks
Mike (12:07 PM)
Jordan, it looks to me like they're both getting their initial work on the inside, behind Danny Amendola. They can both line up outside too, so this isn't to pigeon-hole them, but when we consider Julian Edelman in that mix too it becomes a bit more crowded. I don't think anything is a given for either Jones or Hawkins, both of whom seem to be still finding their way.
You've said you think that there is not a need to add bodies to the defensive end grouping. The way I see it, you have 2 good starters, and lots of good depth guys, but I think you have 4 or 5 guys who are really ideally 4th or 5th options at DE. So while you have lots of depth options, I'm not sure you have someone who can shoulder the consistant load that might be asked of the 3rd DE on the depth chart. At a position where there are still a couple of quality veteran options, and knowing you have salary cap space, why take the risk and hope that one of your depth guys turns the corner this season when you can bring in someone with less risk?
Mike (12:10 PM)
I think it's a good point, Rakesh. I haven't studied John Abraham enough to say decisively, "He'd be this much better than someone like Jermaine Cunningham/Justin Francis/Jake Bequette etc." He certainly wins in the "name recognition" category, and if he were willing to accept the vetetan minimum salary or something close to it, it would probably be done. So it's probably multi-layered when considering a possible DE addition. If the money works, I could see the possibility. But I wouldn't overpay for a player who, despite the big name, might not be that much better than what is already on the roster. That player also has to accept the possibility of a lesser role, and is he on board with that? It can get complicated if goals between the team and player aren't aligned.
Jamal (Sacramento, CA)
With Wes Welker gone, do you think that Julian Edelman can step in and be the same kind of slot receiver? It seems like Belichick has been grooming Edelman for this very situation.
Mike (12:12 PM)
Jamal, I think we'll see Danny Amendola in that slot role more often that not. Edelman, if healthy, could also play a larger role in the passing game. I think Tom Brady trusts him and that can go a long way, especially in a situation where there has been so much turnover at the position. I don't think we can rule Edelman out in an outside type role either. Good speed. The health is the big question with him.
WhatUpMikey (Spokane, WA)
Hi Mike! Who benefits most if Gronk and Dennard start the year on the PUP list? I'm thinking Sudfield/Fells and Dowling/Cole. I'm also thinking we need an ESPN BOSTON INSIDER, just for us.
Mike (12:16 PM)
On Gronkowski, I was thinking Michael Hoomanawanui, because he'd collect a nice payday of $1.3 million. That's probably more than what the Patriots would want to pay a third/fourth TE on the depth chart but he has shown the ability to step in and be competitive (though far from Gronk levels). If I recall, he received a game ball for his emergency performance in the AFC Divisional Round win over the Texans after Gronk went down. Fells remains a mystery to me in terms of how the team views him. I think he's a good player, but something is going on there that isn't by design. In Tuesday's practice, for example, Fells made a couple of nice catches in 11 on 11 work, but it seemed like the only reason he received the opportunity was because Ballard went down. Weird. On Dowling, I don't think he's going anywhere regardless. Just a hunch they aren't ready to give up on him. Cole is a good choice. I like that one.
Mike (12:18 PM)
On Sudfeld, I wonder if the club's experience with rookie tight ends Will Yeatman and Lee Smith -- both of whom were claimed on waivers by other teams at the end of 2011 training camp -- might affect their decision-making. If they don't want to subject Sudfeld to waivers, they might keep him on the 53 with a "red-shirt" year in mind.
How in the world can an offense with the best QB in the NFL, an elite offensive line, two elite TEs and a 1200 yard running back be graded out to a C because of the WR position?
Mike (12:19 PM)
T, I assume you're referencing Matt Williamson's piece on ESPN Insider. I didn't read it yet. Apologies. I like the Patriots' moves this offseason. Continuity and retention generally won't receive much buzz, but I think it will serve them well. Big question at WR remains, though.
Mike, would you be surprised if Ryan Allen beat out Zoltan for the starting job? Most importantly, he seems to have a strong leg. If you also consider contracts, where you could get 3 years out of Allen for the cost of Mesko for one season, I think they'd have to consider it.
Mike (12:21 PM)
Tibbs, I still think Mesko is the heavy favorite to win the job, but the economic part is a consideration. I think the key part when evaluating a punter is looking beyond the single trait of a strong leg and measuring consistency. This is going to be something to watch over time, not in a one- or two-day snapshot. Also, Mesko is the holder on field goals and do they want to tweak that operation? For what it's worth, Allen didn't hold at Louisiana Tech. Maybe a practice squad spot for Allen?
James (Your UMASS buddy!) (the cube)
Hey Mike,Will you guys have access to Mini Camp practices next week? Also, are they putting pads on next week?Thanks!
Mike (12:21 PM)
James, we will have access. No pads until training camp.
Pop Elias [via mobile]
I have a feeling the sun is setting in NE. Brady getting old enough for mid life crisis ETC. Not willing to get hit ala playoffs. Is it over? Or just really close?
Mike (12:23 PM)
I don't think it's over, Pop. I look at the AFC and feel as if the Patriots should contend again. Then let's see how it looks come late December and January. As we've seen from the Bruins in this Stanley Cup run, your season can be on the brink of being over (Game 7 vs. Maple Leafs), and then all of a sudden you turn it around and can be playing your best hockey. It's crazy. This team is going to be good again. I have little doubt. Will it be good enough to win a championship? I have questions, but I certainly wouldn't count them out.
Jon (Tuscaloosa, AL) [via mobile]
Hey Mike! I wanted to see how you felt about the defense so far. I hoping that we finally will see some contributions from Dowling this season and from the sounds of it he's been doing good so far. I also think we should extend Spikes contract. I know he is a liability in pass defense but time and time again he seemed to reenergize the D with a big hit or play. Losing him I feel like we would lose an intimidation factor on opposing offenses as well.
Mike (12:25 PM)
Jon, I would say cautious optimism on the defense from this perspective. It starts with the return of every player in the secondary, which has been a trouble spot for the team in recent years. I think that continuity will help. Then I see a lot of talent in the front seven. I think this should be a better unit. As for Spikes, I feel fairly certain an extension isn't in the cards now. The Patriots are selective in which players they "reward" nad I'd be shocked if they do so with the one player who didn't show up for voluntary workouts, in part because of the message that would send to other players.
Fred Flintstone (Bedrock)
Mike, do you think the Pats offense is going to be as bad as the Penguins offense has been this series? Go B's!
Mike (12:26 PM)
Fred, they added a little Bam Bam with LeGarrette Blount. I think that could help.
Mike (12:26 PM)
See what I did there?
Jake (Birmingham AL)
Which of the running backs on the patriots roster is most likely to get cut? I got my money on Brandon Bolden, I just don't see us carrying 5 backs come week 1. Thoughts?
Mike (12:27 PM)
Jake, Bolden's special teams contributions increase his value. If every player is healhy, I think all top 5 backs make it -- Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, Blount and Washington.
Just a thought: like most around here I believe Belichick should be higher on "that" list than #7, BUT Belichick would be the first to put at least half a dozen other greats ahead of himself. That is the level of the respect he has for the legacy of his predecessors. That being said I still hope he gets his due recognition once he finally hangs the whistle.
Mike (12:27 PM)
I thought seven was a little low for BB as well.
Ike (Rochester NY/Bills Country)
Hey Mike, me and my cousin (Giants fan) are visiting the Pats and Giants training camp this summer. I was wondering if you had the dates of camp that are open to the public?
Mike (12:28 PM)
Ike, we should learn the dates for training camp within a week or so. I am guessing the start will be Thursday, July 25, or right around there.
Hi Mike, based on what you've seen of Dobson, has he been lining up solely as that perimeter (X) receiver, or has he also seen time as the flanker (Z)? Could it be that Aiken took the 1st-team reps in the 3-WR sets because Aiken projects to the Z, whereas Dobson was being solely used at the X?
Mike (12:32 PM)
Matt, I think the work that Dobson is getting/isn't getting is less about X and Z (he's lined up at both in practice) and more about a little bit of a challenging entry into the team's program. I don't want to sound any alarms because I really don't think that would be fair to Dobson and also could create an inaccurate perception that it isn't going to work out. I think it just needs more time. But I also think that if Dobson was being honest, and coaches were too, they'd probably acknowledge that there have been some initial hiccups here in the early going. That doesn't mean they can't work themselves out and Dobson can't be a big-time contributor. So let's give it a little space to breathe, while also being straight-forward and honest with what we see. One area that has surprised me -- for a player who was lauded for having reliable hands, there have been some noticeable drops.
Dudley Dawson (Castle Rock, CO)
Ras-I Dowling is (from reports) actually starting to look like the high draft pick CB the Pats picked him as/at. I expect Dowling and Talib to be the two starting CBs, day one. Hopefully Dennard is healthy to start training camp and be in on a lot of plays. He is definelty one of the top three CBs, along with those two I mentioned.
Mike (12:34 PM)
Dudley, the one thing that stands out to me with Dowling from my amateur scouting perspective is his movement skills. He looks to be more fluid on the field this year than last year. Let's see how it looks when the pads come on, but it looks to me like he's had a solid spring. He's put himself in position to succeed and that's all you can ask for at this point.
Arnold Poindexter (Allen, TX)
It is past June 2nd, Brandon Lloyd is still without a contract, and the Patriots receiving core is all new. Is he yet another case of a veteran wide receiver that cannot grasp the Pats' O? He seemed to want to play for Josh McDaniels which would imply that he understood a variant. Is he a negative influence? If not, why not bring him in at least as a camp body?
Mike (12:35 PM)
Arnold, I think Lloyd knew the system. At this point, it looks to me like the Patriots just wanted to go in another direction. I don't have all the facts as to why that's the case, but what other conclusion can be drawn at this point? He's available, they have big questions at receiver, and they're not bringing him back. That speaks loudly.
Harold Wormser (Centreville, VA)
What are the chances a undrafted free agent defensive lineman makes the team. Like a Cory Grissom or a Dewayne Cherrington? Love to hear your opinion.
Mike (12:37 PM)
Harold, I was looking closer at that group this morning as part of a "roster re-set" on ESPNBoston.com and that's one position that is tough to judge in these OTAs unless you have insight coming to you from the coaches. I can't tell from 200 yards away how those young DTs are playing their techniques, and their physical condition is at this point, so I think we'll have to wait until the pads come on to really get a better feel for that position and those players.
Lewis Skolnick (Allen, TX)
Once, in Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Seymour, Patriots had arguably the best front-3 in football. Then they dumped Seymour still in his prime, lost Warren to injury, and never were able to regain the dominance up front. As Wilfork ages, I wonder what would the team do?
Mike (12:38 PM)
It's a different game now, and a different scheme, but losing Wilfork would obviously really hurt. Can Chandler Jones emerge into the type of contributor that Wilfork, Seymour, Warren are/were? That's what you have to hope for. He was a first-round pick, just like the others.
Lewis Skolnick (Fishers,IN)
I was wondering if you could give your opinion on the Blount/Bolden situation. From what I read, only one of them is going to make the roster. Care to share who you think is?
Mike (12:39 PM)
Lewis, I don't buy the "one or the other" because Bolden is pretty much a core special teams player when healthy. I think they can both make it but they'll have to earn it.
Derrrick (Bristol) [via mobile]
Is the Dennard injury serious? If it is, do you see guys like Dowling and Ryan stepping up to fill the void?
Mike (12:40 PM)
Still digging to find out reliable, credible information on Dennard. Dowling and Ryan would certainly be in line for more time if Dennard is sidelined for any period of time. Kyle Arrington would probably get first crack at the starting role from this viewpoint.
corky (Destin Fl.)
Mike: I know you are getting lots of Spikes questions, but can you answer one more related. Ho does the LB core look without him? In the 3/4 and 4/3 who are the starters with Spikes riding pine( Bill will plant him there)? And did you watch he Bruins last night!!!
Mike (12:41 PM)
Corky, if Spikes isn't on the field, Dane Fletcher looks like his replacement. I had thought Fletcher was coming on prior to his knee injury last preseason, but that's also a big jump to potentially become a starter.
Eliot ( Norfolk, Va ) [via mobile]
Do you see Shane vereen making a major leap this season? Not just in the fact if taking over the third down duties vacated by Danny woodhead, but proving to be more effective on all downs. As in, if Stevan Ridley goes down...he would be the every down back to step up. Thoughts
Mike (12:42 PM)
Eliot, I don't think they'd turn to Vereen for the type of workload that Ridley had last season (45 percent of the offensive snaps), in part because of how the physical pounding could add up and affect his durability. Vereen is not as big. I could see him being sprinkled in more, but not a 1-for-1 change in that scenario.
Mike Could the lack of names and numbers on the jerseys be in part some of the trouble with the passing game.
Mike (12:44 PM)
I don't think that's it, Clark. More than anything, it's about the trust between QB and WR that they are on the same page. Whether the player has an "83" on his jersey or not shouldn't impact if the player can run the right route and be in synch with what Brady is expecting.
Mike, regarding your answer on BB, being low at #7, how much of it has to do with the panel - who, just don't like BB, the person and can't separate work from personal
Mike (12:46 PM)
That could be part of it, Mark. Sometimes it can be hard to just judge the record for what it is, because people have feelings/emotions as well. In a sense, maybe you almost have to do what BB does with his roster decisions -- take the emotion out of it and make the decision based on what you truly feel is right (not what you feel).
Theo (Belfast, Ireland)
Hi Mike: Remember when we were nervous that Brady and Moss did not get enough reps in the pre-season before their record breaking year?
Mike (12:48 PM)
Absolutely Theo. Moss had tweaked the hamstring and there were all these questions ... and Boom! First game, at the Jets, and he's splitting triple coverage. TRIPLE COVERAGE! A great memory. Moss was a freak athlete. They were on the same page from Day 1. Very, very, very unique.
grandjordanian (San Diego)
Mike, offering a little perspective as a Pats fan in SD, where the Chargers are primed to stink this year. I think everyone needs to take a deep breath in New England. We have Brady, a stacked OL, a great stable of RBs, injured-yet-deep-and-dominating TEs, and some exciting young WRs. The DL is improved on paper, we have a few top LBs, and a lot of talent in the secondary. Look at the calendar. It is JUNE. Relax and enjoy the show, everyone.
Mike (12:49 PM)
Grandjordanian delivering some big-picture perspective from the opposite coast today.
Peter [via mobile]
Hey mike! Which outside receiver has been gaining the most separation in OTA's?
Mike (12:50 PM)
They've all had flashes Peter, but nothing that truly stands out from the rest. For example, I like how Aaron Dobson competes for the ball. I thought Kamar Aiken showed up with a few nice grabs across the middle. Michael Jenkins created some separation a few times. But for each time you see something you like, quite honestly, there is something that isn't so good.
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, will all of next week's team activities be open to the media? I would think that observing three consecutive days of practice would provide a more meaningful insight than a random one in three. Way too early to be putting our hearts on our collective sleeves in regards to the offense.
Mike (12:51 PM)
Indeed, munchkin, and one of the things that will be good to see is how the players retain information. Because if this year is like the others, the mandatory minicamp is essentially a review of what took place in the OTAs.
Mike, I am still concerned with the thin depth of DT. To lessen the work load of Vince Wilfork, who is Pats' best defense player, Pats should sign one or two veteran DT who can be a starter. Is there any DT still on the market? (at reasonable price, I mean)
Mike (12:52 PM)
You might have seen it, MarkJ, but they had Sedrick Ellis and Spencer Johnson in for visits/tryouts recently. Those would be two candidates.
Sans [via mobile]
Hi Mike, The practice fields are quite far from the facilities. Curious, did they have to pull the cart onto the middle of the field to get Dennard? Or was it a case were he walked off to the sideline then was carted into the facility from there. To me, that is telling. With the facility being so far, being carted off can sound worse then it is, could simply be a ride. However , pulling the cart over to Dennard Etc is not a good sign. Overall, thoughts on injury?
Mike (12:52 PM)
They brought the cart right out to where he was on the field, Sans.
Watson (not Ben) [via mobile]
Mike, not much news on OTA's concerning the Patriots draft picks. How do Collins, Ryan, Harmon and Buchanan look? Does anything stand out? Is Collins signed? Thanks for the great work.
Mike (12:54 PM)
Watson, the only draft pick not signed at this time is Aaron Dobson. The rookies have been nondescript to me, but part of that is that it's tough to keep tabs on all 90 players. The other part is that it's naturally a lot easier to watch Dobson catching passes on the near field than Collins on the far field when he's more lining up and going through what appear to be more mental reps.
Lamar Latrell (Troy,MI)
With TJ Moe clearing waivers what does that allow him to do? Will he have access to the coaches, film room to study film, player meetings or does he just have access to rehab facility and trainers?
Mike (12:54 PM)
Lamar, he can do it all except practice.
Damian (Birr, Ireland)
Hi Mike, I picked up on a piece by Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column earlier in the week. It was to do with the 49ers getting Colin Kapernick ahead of the Raiders. He wrote that the Patriots were offered two third-round picks (one in '11, one in '12) to swap the first pick of the second round for the 13th pick of the second round but didn't take up the offer. They wanted one of the thirds to be a second according to King. I thought it was very un-Patriot like to turn down an offer like that. They took Ras-I-Dowling with the pick and given his injuries at the time, he still could have been there at 45. Wondering what your thoughts are on not taking the trade?
Mike (12:58 PM)
I know at least one other team that liked Dowling as a second-rounder in 2011, Damian, so I don't think it's a certainty he would have been there at 45. In retrospect, we could make a strong case they should have made the trade because Dowling hasn't emerged in his first two years. So if we knew then what we know now, it's obviously a lot easier. I was high on Jabaal Sheard that year and thought he would have been a good pick. They also could have taken Brooks Reed. Or Torrey Smith. It's always easier to look at it with the benefit of time.
Mike (12:58 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
Ivy (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Do the Pats watch tape and say, we should adapt some of the Ravens schemes or let's run screens like the Broncos? It seems BB listens to college coaches but its been a while since he brought in an older assistant coach from another franchise
Mike (12:59 PM)
Absolutely, Ivy. It is often said that the NFL is a copycat league and teams watch others to see what works. This is the time to do it.
Mattsky (Cape Cod)
The Patriots blog has a very active community in the comments. Do you ever read the comments in the blog? If so how about chiming in every once in a while. Also what do you think the chances of Nate Ebner making the team this year?
Mike (1:00 PM)
Mattsky, I do chime in on the comments from time to time. Sometimes it's hard to keep up because it fills up so fast. But if you look closely, I'm in there from time to time, often immediately after an entry is posted. ... I think Ebner is on the club. Second on the team in special teams tackles last year.
Stephen S (Marathon Florida)
With OTA's winding up this week and minicamp approaching what 5 players have stood out so far? Thanks
Mike (1:03 PM)
Stephen, five that have caught my eye, for various reasons, besides the obvious: WR Danny Amendola, QB Ryan Mallett, DE Jake Bequette, CB Ras-I Dowling, TE Zach Sudfeld
Mike (1:03 PM)
Seems like those either came as advertised (Amendola) or have some good momentum going for them right now.
Skinny Rex (Rutherford, NJ)
Hi Mike,Getting busted for taking a nap in the center lane of I-80W with a loaded piece, a bag of weed, and some hollow points wasn't enough for Goodson to get axed from the Jets, but what do you think the Pats would have done? Also, what were any comparable player "indiscretions" that the Pats may have overlooked, if any?Thanks in advance, from Jersey.
Mike (1:05 PM)
For one, never would have signed him, Skinny Rex. It's always tough to say, but I would think they would have released him had they made the mistake of signing him.
ALAN (NEW HARTFORD, CT)
hey mike, i'm kinda getting the feeling that blount could have a corey dillon type career reviving performance this year as it seems that he's buying into the system. i'm curious on how corey dillon performed in 2003 prior to coming to the pats, and whats your opinion on blount?
Mike (1:07 PM)
Alan, the concerns I'd have with Blount based on what we've seen are blitz pickup and executing the play call. It's practice, so this is the place to make mistakes, and we've seen some in both areas with him. Dillon, prior to coming to the Patriots, had grown frustrated from a competitive standpoint. He was ready to break out. Ditto for Moss. I think Blount's case is a little different, but I like the idea of taking a flier on him for a seventh-round pick.
Mike, which scenario would be more surprising to you:Pats 15-1Pats 9-7Thanks
Mike (1:07 PM)
I think 15-1 is asking a lot.
How is Armond Armstead doing? I know you're high on him.
Mike (1:08 PM)
More importantly, Alex, I think they are high on him. Similar to the question earlier in the chat about Grissom and Cherrington, it's tough to get a read on those DTs without pads in this setting. It's not really a camp designed for the big men, per se.
What's up with Ryan Mallett? I have heard conflicting reports...
Mike (1:09 PM)
Jason, to the layman, it looks like he's tightened up on the mechanics a bit, and in the practices I've seen him, he threw a couple of lasers into tight windows that made me stop and take note. What does it all mean? Not sure, but based on the limited snapshot I saw, it was impressive.
Marvin (BOSTON, MA)
great game last night! does sudfeld become the backup te if gronk and a-hern don't play the first few games?
Mike (1:11 PM)
Let's end on this one. I'd be surprised if that happened, only because he has more experienced players in front of him who have played in this league. I feel like the Patriots view Sudfeld as being more of a year away, but perhaps he closes the gap quicker than they anticipated. I don't sense they're planning on it, but it's always possible. Still a long way to go.
Mike (1:11 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. I'll go through the chat and pick some of the submissions I didn't get to and add them to the blog tomorrow morning. Have a great day and go Bruins.