Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
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 (2:56 PM)
Good afternoon. We'll get started in about 10 minutes. Just finishing up a few things from practice.
Mike (3:06 PM)
Just had a good OTA session at Gillette Stadium. Consistent rain falling throughout. I always go into those practices hoping to learn a little more about the team and that goal was accomplished today.
Hardy (los angeles)
Mike, I'm interested in seeing which way the offense lines up this year. Any chance we'll see a lot of two back sets with Vereen and James White? Would love to see if we can create mismatches using those 2.
Mike (3:08 PM)
Hardy, we saw that today at practice, so you're on to something. They call that the "pony" grouping -- two backs. The Patriots have done that at times in the past, and with Vereen and White, you can put some stress on a defense. Are you sure you weren't watching practice today?
Tyler(Oklahoma) [via mobile]
How is Big Vince looking?? Is he practicing full time? Or at a reduced rate?
Mike (3:10 PM)
Tyler, Wilfork was out at the start of practice, and then stayed a bit longer before departing with the rest of the players who are rehabbing. I'd say that's among the top-5 storylines of the OTA period to me -- Wilfork looks like he's recovering nicely. Entering this offseason, I wouldn't have been surprised at any outcome with him -- that's a big man coming off a very serious injury and if you told me it wasn't going to work out and his career might be over, I wouldn't have said I was shocked. So what I've seen is very optimistic from a Vince Wilfork standpoint in OTAs. Still a ways to go, but clearly headed in the right direction.
Hi Reiss, I have tons of questions, but I feel most interested in Amendola today for some reason. How has he looked in the two practices open to the public, today in particular with the wet conditions? A lot of people dogged him after last season, and I wonder if they ever bothered to figure out it could be attributed to the fact that he played all of last season with the bad groin. Has he looked sharper? Has he looked quicker/faster? Overall, does he look like anything is holding him back at this point? He may or may not play a full season, but he must be better when he is out on the field.
Mike (3:11 PM)
John, I'd say he looks like one of the best WRs on the field in the two practices I've seen. I'm not surprised. He looked like that last year as well. The biggest issue is injuries and he appears healthy to me. Can he stay healthy? That is the question, as it was last year too.
Mike how did the rain affect Garappolo and his small hands? How'd he look to you?
Mike (3:12 PM)
Derek, I didn't see any problems with gripping the ball for Garoppolo, who I thought I saw wearing gloves on both hands during a run-game drill. Then I thought I saw him take off the glove on his right throwing hand for other drills.
Andy (Pittsfield) [via mobile]
What is up with Armstead? I was hoping for big things but my enthusiasm is quickly waning since he can't get on the field.
Mike (3:14 PM)
I didn't see him out there today, Andy. Not sure why, but perhaps an indication to bring down those expectations.
Michael (Queen Creek, Arizona)
With the latest reports on Josh Boyce standing out so far in OTAs, is it a stretch to say that he will be a big contributor for the receiving corps when the regular season starts?
Mike (3:15 PM)
Michael, I'm going to file this one in the "too early to tell" category. I respect other's viewpoints and I think Boyce has great upside, but I'd hesitate to say that what we saw over the last two weeks was a "standout" type performance.
Eugene Espartero (Philippines)
I haven't heard anything about Easley signing his contract. He's the only rookie the Pats drafted who remains unsigned. Is there a potential problem here?
Mike (3:16 PM)
Eugene, Easley is the lone Patriots draft pick to not have signed a contract. Shouldn't be a big isssue and if he's not signed by the start of training camp, I'd be shocked.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike. I love what the Pats have done to the secondary and the OL this offseason. However, what still concerns me greatly is the passing game. I respectfully disagree with your characterization over the past few months in chats and mail that if the rookie WRs don't significantly improve that it will be a "big disappointment". I believe it would be a disaster ruining their chances of ultimate success; and yet for all that, we have no concrete evidence that those 3 will become good players. As Belichick says, a player makes his most significant leap between the first year and second. Dobson is spending his in a boot! In a passing league the Pats need more pass receivers!
Mike (3:20 PM)
Tman, if you were to tell me that Dobson won't play this year, I'd be more inclined to lean in that direction that WR could be more of an issue. But he should be out there and I expect big things of him. Pick almost any big-time receiver and look at the difference between their first and second year, and there is often a big spike. I'll use Brandon Marshall as an example. 20 catches as a rookie. 102 in his second year. Sometimes the best way to get a top receiver is to draft and develop him. That's why Dobson is the key to me.
Hardy (los angeles)
In response to Tman, I think that this is the best wide receiver depth we've had in years. I understand that there may not be a true #1 type but I think that every one of the wideouts will be able to contribute. Can't say that every year.
Mike (3:20 PM)
Hardy, are you taking over my chat? LOL.
Tom B. (Encinitas, CA)
How'd Anderson look today (given he was out there)?
Mike (3:21 PM)
First day on the job, Tom, so not much to report. Just figuring out how the team operates. Thought LB Chris White actually had one of the plays of the day -- leading the huddle, then following a RB down the left sideline and intercepting an underthrown Jimmy Garoppolo pass. If he makes plays like that consistently, we might be talking more about him in that reserve LB mix.
Mike - eyeball test at TE - how would you compare Justin Jones to Sudfeld?
Mike (3:23 PM)
Mike, Jones is a traits guy. You watch a practice and he jumps out at you because of his size -- 6-foot-8 and 277 pounds. He catches the ball well too; I saw a TD in red-zone drills over the middle to him today. So compared to Sudfeld, I'd say he's much bigger, doesn't run as well, but probably has more potential as an in-line blocker if he works at it based on his size advantage. Intriguing prospect.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Hi Mike, I don't think people should sleep on Thompkins! In a league where separation is the key, he seemed to get plenty of it when he was healthy. Does he show any limitations in OTAs?
Mike (3:26 PM)
Gary, Thompkins looks a little bigger to me this year (not sure if there is evidence to back up that eye test), and he is a full participant in OTAs. Had one play in red-zone drills today where he couldn't get his feet down in the back of the end zone, and he took a little heat from a position coach for maybe a little bit of a lack of awareness in where he was on the field. But that one play shouldn't overshadow the overall player and I agree -- don't sleep on Thompkins. You look out on the field in these practices and he's often the one out there with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. That reflects how he's viewed by the coaching staff.
Alexander (Portsmouth NH) [via mobile]
Mike, Any news on Brandon LaFell? Has he arrived at OTAs? LaFell in my mind was one of the Patriots more underrated FA signings. I like him lining up outside with Dobson/Thompkins. LaFell can also block and help out our running game; needless to say Mike, I like what he brings to New England. Thoughts?
Mike (3:29 PM)
Yes, LaFell has been at OTAs, Alexander. The only reason he wasn't at last Friday's practice was because he was back home for a ceremony for his high school coach being inducted into a local Hall of Fame. LaFell is 6-2, 210 and he ran a flag route to the left back corner of the end zone today and Tom Brady arced a beautiful pass to him for the score. One of the plays of the day. I spoke to LaFell after practice about possibly being a red-zone threat for the team and he said, "If you're a big receiver, you have to become even bigger in the red zone. Hopefully I can do that here."
Would you consider James Develin to be on the bubble? Given the depth at QB, OL, and WR, we may not be able to carry 4 RBs plus a FB. Could Hoomanawanui and/or Bolden be the primary options at FB?
Mike (3:30 PM)
Matt, that's possible, but I think Develin probably sticks in the end as long as there is no regression in skills. I think they like what he brought to the running game/special teams units last year.
Jeffrey [via mobile]
Hi Mike, how excited are you with coach Belichick being finally able to play with his personal groupings on defense given the tremendous depth he acquired this off-season. Are we finally having back the shutdown defenses of old, considering the monster start the unit had before Mayo and Wilfork's injury ? Thoughts !!
Mike (3:33 PM)
Jeffrey, the defense should be better, no doubt about it. I think we've seen a shift to some more athletic defenders -- the Collins', Easleys' etc -- and it's a reflection/acknowledgment of how more of the game is played in sub packages (67 percent last year). That's a bit different than we've seen from BB in terms of player acquisitions in the past (think two-down LB Brandon Spikes in the 2010 second round) and it makes sense. This defense could be fun to watch if everyone's healthy.
Hi Mike, I'm curious how people viewed James Anderson's play last year (beyond just the games started and tackles numbers). Why wasn't Chicago interested in retaining him, given his likely low cost? Thanks!
Mike (3:36 PM)
Matt, from what I've gathered, I think Anderson was viewed as a finesse-type coverage LB who was thrust into a tough spot when injuries hit an already overmatched defense in 2013. He was a newcomer and they probably asked him to do too much. Not considered overly tough/physical, but a smart guy. Wore down a bit late in the last few seasons, perhaps due to workload. As for why the Bears didn't attempt to re-sign him, my educated guess is that they've drafted a few players pretty high the last few years and they want to turn it over to the youth. They also re-signed D.J. Williams and probably liked him a bit more than Anderson.
Hank weeding the garden (Canada)
Some questions:Tom Brady was avoiding Darrelle Revis' side at last Friday's practice. It also has been mentioned recently TB's accuracy on throws to the left side have regularly been off by 6 inches to a foot. Is it reasonable to say TB has had a lingering injury affecting his throwing accuracy to the left side of the field? Will TB improve so that by opening day he is making things interesting on Revis Island? Might we see Ryan Mallett as a changeup during the season to rest TB mentally and physically for the playoffs as well as challenge TB to do more urgently with less playing time? Did TB have any breaks during the SuperBowl seasons?
Mike (3:40 PM)
Hank, I wouldn't read too much into Brady not throwing in Revis' direction in practice. It's very early here, and we're just getting a limited snapshot of what is unfolding on the field. I don't think there's an injury in play here. Also, unless the game is well in hand (and even that is no guarantee), I wouldn't expect to see Mallett this year.
Mike, Finley or Keller as a depth signing and this has been a pretty perfect offseason. Any news on either since their visit?
Mike (3:40 PM)
I don't think they're going Finley. Not sure on Keller.
Mike! Will Browner be in Training camp even though he's suspended? An does he count against the 90 men roster? He won't count against the 53 when he's suspended right?
Mike (3:42 PM)
Yes, Browner can be part of training camp and meetings. He counts against the 90 but won't count against the 53. Almost like an advantage to the team in that regard.
Mike what was your professional and journalistic opinion on Sam Monsons article? Seemed more like a writer trying to make a name for himself than a thought out football analysis and I haven't seen another sports journalist/analyst agree with his argument.
Mike (3:50 PM)
My professional and journalistic opinion on Sam Monson's article about Tom Brady no longer being a top-5 quarterback is that it is the writer's opinion, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. As the consumer, some questions that I ask on most any topic are, "Why should I value this person's opinion? What is their background that qualifies them to opine?" This always takes me back to something former Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, and I know I've repeated it here in past, "Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes work to have an informed opinion."
Mike (3:52 PM)
So, trying to answer this diplomatically but also honestly, there are only a few people whose opinions I personally would value when it comes to Tom Brady and if he's slipping below elite.
First timer. Excited I finally got to ask you a question. First, I am glad we picked a coverage LB (where depth was thin) in exchange of a WR (where it is loaded). However as much as I've felt Mark Harrison hype train was really getting out of hand and being late to a OTA while on the bubble is inexcusable, it makes me wonder why he was cut over likes of Reese Wiggins or Wilson Van Hooser (or other low profile UDFAs) since Harrison at least has knowledge of the playbook while the rookies don't. Do you think this is more of an indictment of the fact Harrison was a "repeated offender" or BB has "seen enough" of him from skill set standpoint? Or something else?Thanks!
Mike (3:53 PM)
Thanks TN. I think there is more to the Harrison story than we know. Working to get to the bottom of it.
Mike, what are your thoughts on Finley visiting here last week? Seems like a fit with the lack of depth at the TE position.
Mike (3:54 PM)
Dave, I think Finley's health makes it unlikely he lands here.
max (my cube)
Mike, I have not read the article on Brady. I believe he is one of the best QBs in the league today, but clearly he has not come up big in the biggest stages for a few years now. I can't recall a memorable game from Brady in the AFC championship game or the superbowl starting with the 2007 season. That is quite a sample that is becoming hard to ignore.
Mike (3:59 PM)
Max, it is the truth. The missed throw to Edelman in last year's AFC title game is just a clear-cut miss. Nothing else to it. You expect Brady to come through in that situation and he didn't. The safety to start off the Super Bowl -- terrible mistake as well. I'm not making excuses for him. No QB is making all the throws, including Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. But those mistakes in the big games are there for everyone to see.
Is Armstead healthy? I think he gets cut if he can't make it on the field for any sort of practice. I'm tired of waiting on potential here.
Mike (4:00 PM)
Something is going on there, Ash. Not sure what is holding him back. Wish I had more info.
Mike,When it comes to the TE position why do you think knowing this was a weak draft class the Pats were so quiet in the initial phase of Free Agency? It seems there were some viable options available versus now where they are more backed into a corner with more flawed options.
Mike (4:02 PM)
Eric, I don't think they liked the free-agent options. Didn't seem to pursue Scott Chandler with any aggressiveness. Looked at Owen Daniels and declined. Brandon Pettigrew was too rich for them, I assume. Who else did you have in mind?
Would you rule out Mark Harrison being signed again and returning to the team?
Mike (4:02 PM)
I'd say that is unlikely, T.
Context [via mobile]
Who was Brady to throw to last year afc champ game? Edelman was his best who would not have been on the field if he played for Denver. When are people going to get that these qb's need playmakers. Gronk has been hurt and we don't have any others
Mike (4:05 PM)
I think there's some truth to that, too, Mr. Context (one of my favorite words). But I think that only goes so far in this case. The throw to Edelman is one I'd still expect him to make. There was significant separation and a clean pocket. The safety was extremely uncharacteristic as well.
Mike -- After Ridley's serious fumble problems last year, do you see him leading the RB pack coming into this year? Though there is talent there, I see the position being murkier than in recent years past.
Mike (4:05 PM)
I see that one as wide open, Joe. Nothing would surprise me at RB.
John (Manchester, NH)
Mike, might the Anderson signing, and the talent he brings as a nickel LB, mean that we might see Jamie Collins in more of a role of a pass rusher in sub packages?
Mike (4:07 PM)
John, it could give them that flexibility. I don't think that's necessarily the reason they did it, but something we can watch for.
Context [via mobile]
Mike: terrible throw. No doubt but the pressure he is under to win with little talent I think overwhelms. You switch wr in the afc champ game and pats win by 21. It's context guys. Love the work
Mike (4:11 PM)
Good discussion. I'll spin it forward: How did the Broncos get those WRs? Demaryius Thomas (1st round), Eric Decker (3rd round), and Wes Welker (free agency), with Julius Thomas (4th round). Three of the four were drafted and developed. Thomas and Decker took a while to get started in their careers and that's why the development of Dobson (2nd round) and Boyce (4th round) is so important from my viewpoint.
Mike (4:12 PM)
I think sometimes we just want to snap our fingers and have the answers appear. That's seldom the way it works, as the Broncos' development with those pass-catchers reflects.
Mike, i dont understand your response to the Brady questions. On one hand you are saying there is truth to the opinion he dosent have enough weapons but on the other you defend the rookie receivers and say they have the chance to be explosive. I argue that if you are drafting WRs in the 2nd, 4th and RFA then this is not surrounding him with talent. it was embarrassing, i repeat that embarrasing, last year during the first few games - you dont treat a HOF QB like that
Mike (4:15 PM)
Liam, their model was to build through the TEs with Gronkowski and Hernandez, and that would lessen the burden on the "re-do" at WR. They thought the TEs would be the focal points. How can that opinion be shared without acknowledging that things changed unexpectedly with those TEs? They never thought they'd be going into the 2013 season without those two, and to not acknowledge that is lacking the key context IMO.
Mike (4:16 PM)
So, did I think Brady had enough weapons last year the way it turned out? No. Did I think it was negligent on the team's behalf because of that? No.
Corky (NPR Florida)
Hey Mike: I was wondering how Mallet has looked, with all the press the rookie is getting, the only talk is about trading the guy. You would think a major fire would have been started and he'd come out slinging, like well a young Tom...
Mike (4:20 PM)
Corky, Mallett's arm strength always impresses me. He airmailed one throw to the right sideline today (maybe the ball slipped) and was picked off a couple times. I'm not reading too much into things at this point. Probably a better one for training camp.
Good stuff as always mike. Projection from my side, and only time will tell, but i think we will look back at the last few years of Brady's career and say he didnt have enough weapons. Just dont see it with what they have. Thanks!
Mike (4:20 PM)
Fair enough, Mike. I know that opinion is shared by others as well.
A Raiders Fan (Bay Area, CA)
Must be nice for all the Pats fans to be moaning about 10+ years of relative dominance... #FirstWorldNFLProblems
Mike (4:21 PM)
The bar is set high here, no doubt. I also think it's the feeling that with a once-in-a-lifetime QB, you want to make sure you're maximizing the opportunity.
Mike (4:21 PM)
Let's take one more here...went a little overtime.
right, 1st round, 3rd and 4th......not 2nd, 4th and RFA - big difference
Mike (4:24 PM)
Liam, you're talking about 1st (22nd), 3rd (87th) and 4th (129th) for the Broncos' tandem of Thomas-Decker-Thomas versus the Patriots' combination of 2nd (42nd), 2nd (59th) and 4th (102nd) for the tandem of Gronkowski-Dobson-Boyce. Are you sure you want to go down this road?
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Too bad Peyton Manning didn't have any weapons in the Super Bowl, right?
Mike (4:26 PM)
Let's end it there, Brian. Good discussion points, all around. Certainly was a lively one today. Good stuff.
Mike (4:27 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week, probably at the same time after another OTA.