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 noon ET!
Mike (11:58 AM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Let's get it started. We'll go until 12:45 p.m. Patriots at Redskins in preseason opener tonight and the club plans to start Ryan Mallett and have Tom Brady remain on the sidelines throughout. The thinking is that Brady received such valuable reps in joint practices that it trumps what he'd get out of the preseason opener when also adding in the chance to get an extended look at Mallett.
Mike (11:59 AM)
What's on your mind today?
Tyler (New Hampshire)
How much should we read into Tom Brady not getting any reps in the first preseason game? Is Mallett getting extended reps for the benefit of other teams interested in a trade?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Tyler, I see it more as a reflection of the value of the joint practices. Brady said he got 80-90 reps on Monday. Then another 80-90 on Tuesday. Brady said he wouldn't come close to 80-90 reps in a single week of a more traditional practice, so this was a huge week for him. Take that, and couple it with the chance to get an extended look at Mallett, and it all adds up to smart quarterback management.
Hi Mike, are we ever going to see a return to the no-huddle offense? Thanks
Mike (12:01 PM)
We've seen a lot of it in practice, so if that is any indication, we sure will.
James (Derry, NH)
If TB12 really does not play tonight how do you envision the offensive reps being split up? One half each for Mallett and Garoppolo?
Mike (12:03 PM)
Would think Mallett plays into the second half, if not the entire game. Have to give him a chance to run this offense for a long time. To my layman eye, just don't think Garoppolo is ready to run it right now.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike. Given how raw Garopollo is, there is no way the Pats can think of trading Mallet now, is there? Pats actually need Mallet this year.
Mike (12:04 PM)
Agree, but discussion changes if a team all of a sudden unexpectedly is willing to part with a significant asset. I don't see that happening. I believe the best-case scenario for Patriots is Mallett performing well and maybe it's similar to 2009 with Matt Cassel, who along with Mike Vrabel returned a high second-round draft choice in a trade.
Why don't you think they ran the no huddle more last year?
Mike (12:05 PM)
From a general standpoint, the no-huddle takes such coordination from all 11 players. Hard to keep going to it when you've had such turnover and young players at WR.
Mike, how would you compare the physical condition of the Patriots as compared to the Redskins - it there any discernible difference?
Mike (12:07 PM)
For the most part, it looked to me like the Patriots were the better conditioned team. Washington coach Jay Gruden actually mentioned that he was disappointed in the conditioning of some of his players. My favorite visual from the three joint practices was Tuesday after a near 3-hour session in the heat and humidity, as Bill Belichick implored players to finish strong. "This is when we win! Fourth quarter!"
Dan (Manchester, NH)
Hi Mike, I've read on your blog and elsewhere that the Pats might try to scale back Chandler Jones' snaps a little this season, with a "less is more" line of thinking. My question is when would Jones come off the field? He's a solid and improving run defender, and the team's best pash rusher. What kind of packages do you see the team leaving him out of?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Maybe they could start with taking him off the FG protection unit :)
Mike (12:09 PM)
No, seriously, was just thinking that maybe it's a single series in a game that they rotate in Will Smith or Michael Buchanan. Maybe not realistic, but just a thought.
Tim (Washington State)
Hi Mike, I'm curious how Brandon Lafell is looking. I know he had some bad drops early on in camp, but do you see him making a significant contribution if Aaron Dobson doesn't pan out?
Mike (12:10 PM)
Tim, I thought LaFell, on Tuesday, had maybe his best practice of the 11 we've seen in training camp. Tom Brady mentioned him after practice that day as well. The main thing is the catch radius -- he's 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. A bit of a different look that they don't otherwise have if Dobson isn't there. Not a burner on the outside. But competitive against man coverage and can move around a bit.
alan (new hartford, ct)
might just be my computer but can you turn the auto update on?thanks
Mike (12:10 PM)
Alan, it says it is on. Apologies if it's not working.
Mike, the Pats' 3rd string QB- can we just give up on the spelling and call him 'Jimmy G' ?
Mike (12:10 PM)
They also call him "Goo-op" apparently.
Mike,I've heard a lot of high praise for Logan Ryan in OTA's, camp, and even during last season. If he doesn't snag a starting CB spot, any chance he might end up at Safety opposite McCourty?
Mike (12:11 PM)
I could see it, Zack. They've rotated a lot of players in there -- Harmon, Chung, Wilson, Ryan, Arrington. I think Ryan will find his way on the field in some form.
Mike,Can you offer any guesses as to why the Patriots never ran any 2 RB looks last year? Do you think it had more to do with personnel or just offensive philosophy? I ask because if White turns out to be the real deal it seems like there's some interesting possibilities having him and Vereen out there together.
Mike (12:12 PM)
Sam, my feeling is that to run those 2 RB packages, you want to have a threatening pass-catching element with at least one of them. When they lost Vereen for such an extended stretch of time, it took that off the table a bit.
Jack (Bedford, NH)
Hi Mike, is Edelman going to play a bigger role now that he's proven himself? We don't really have any other suitable option to be Brady's best target, with the exception of Gronk.
Mike (12:14 PM)
Jack, he has been terrific in training camp. Really, really impressive, to the point that I asked Brady on Tuesday if he now feels he's at a point with Edelman that was similar to what he had with Wes Welker. Brady basically gushed.
What will you be watching on the running back front tonight?
Mike (12:14 PM)
First look at James White, the rookie who has impressed everyone. Will also be curious if Jonas Gray or Stephen Houston -- two bigger backs -- show anything.
I am very concerned about the 1st game of the regular season. The weather is going to be the ally of the Dolphins vs. the Patriots. What are your thoughts?
Mike (12:16 PM)
Interesting, because I thought the same thing until talking to one player who told me his belief is that it's harder to go from cold-to-heat in December than it is heat-to-searing-heat in September. Food for thought.
Josh Boyce (Landover, MD)
Mike, how would you judge my training camp so far?
Mike (12:17 PM)
Would say that it hasn't popped, to use a Mike Mayock term. With Dobson not yet practicing, it's clear that Edelman and Amendola are 1 and 2. Then it's a cluster with Thompkins/LaFell/Boyce and Boyce is clearly behind Thompkins and LaFell in that cluster.
nathan (northampton, ma.)
A few weeks ago I wrote in and said that if Aaron Dobson missed significant time in training camp recovering from his injury that it would severely stunt his growth as a receiver in this league. The second year is a vital growth time for these young players. I think my perception is becoming a reality. What are the chances this becomes a major road block for his improvement going forward now that the first game is upon us and he isn't even seen on the field? Remember this guy was supposed to be your number one passing option this year and beyond.
Mike (12:18 PM)
Nathan, this has surprised me. Not ideal. If he's not back by the start of the week by the third preseason game, my level of "concern" would reach yours. I still think he can make up the time and be a key contributor at this point.
Hi Mike, who's that one guy who will look great in the preseason and generate a lot of buzz only to get cut before the start of the regular season? (This year's Sudfield)
Mike (12:18 PM)
TE Justin Jones could be that guy. At 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds, he's a nice big target in the red zone.
Mike,Do the QBs still do the "bucket" drill? I always enjoyed that one between TB, Hoyer and Mallet.
Mike (12:19 PM)
We haven't seen that yet this training camp, Joseph.
Ben(FL via CT) [via mobile]
Hey mike i have heard some reports suggesting the patriots may use revis similar to richard sherman in covering one side of the field no matter what. How do you think the pats will deploy him?
Mike (12:20 PM)
Ben, I think that is quite premature at this point. One thing I've learned over the years is to never make a declaration on Patriots defensive intentions based on what we see in the preseason. It almost seldom comes to fruition. They are a game-plan defense.
Ben(Fl via CT) [via mobile]
Hey mike how do teams decide on how much or if it all the "1s" play during the preseason? Last year the pats also had joint practices with the eagles before the first preseason game and brady played, but this year he wont. It seems like an inexact science to me.
Mike (12:21 PM)
Ben, seldom in football is black and white. With 90 players on the roster, there are so many moving parts. In this case, it could simply be giving Mallett his chance.
Mike, do you think that having Mallet playing the bulk of the game tonight is any indication of them showcasing him for a preseason trade?
Mike (12:22 PM)
I don't think so, Tony. But if he performs well, like Matt Schaub did in 2005 in Tokyo, it could spark something down the line. This is really the only time a backup can manage the team in a game setting and you can gauge the progress of the player -- play clock, ever-evolving situations etc.
Mike, how is the defense shaping up? With all the hype surrounding Revis and Co., we haven't really heard much.
Mike (12:24 PM)
Looks strong to me, Teddy, but here is the main thing I want to watch tonight. With Jeff Triplette and the officiating crew focusing on a point of emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact this year, I'm curious to see how that impacts Brandon Browner.
I am the biggest homer as the next dude for the Patriots. I am amazed at how many people believe this is a super bowl winning team. Do we not remember the WR woes last year? What has changed?
Mike (12:25 PM)
Dan, you have another year of development from the young WRs, so you're hoping for some improvement there. James White is going to be a factor as a pass-catcher. A healthy Danny Amendola. Will those things sustain? Is it enough? I don't think anyone has those answers right now for an team that ranked third in the NFL in points scored last year.
Tim (Washington State)
At what point would you be concerned that Jimmy G just isn't going to pan out? Would it be if we see little improvement this pre-season, or do you think we basically need to wait and see how he shows up in camp next year?
Mike (12:26 PM)
I give him this entire year as a red-shirt. If we see some of the same mistakes we've seen this year in 2015, then would file it away as minor concern. I go back to Matt Cassel in 2008. Looked AWFUL in preseason that year, if I recall. That was his fourth year. But when he got his chance when the games counted, the team tailored its attack to his strengths and he succeeded. Why I would caution anyone from rushing to judgment on Garoppolo.
Hi Mike, if you could pick three surprise cuts, who would they be? Thanks.
Mike (12:28 PM)
Matt, just thinking out loud -- Tommy Kelly, Will Smith and Josh Boyce. Not saying they will get cut, but those were a few who came to mind.
Mike,My concern is the offensive line. Nothing has changed from last year - what will make it better this year? I think that is the team's biggest weakness - hopefully, it's not fatal . . .
Mike (12:29 PM)
Very fair concern, and something very big has changed -- a new coach (Dave DeGuglielmo for Dante Scarnecchia). Keep an eye on it. I have throughout camp and I'm specifically interested in the center and right guard spots.
Does it seem like Dan Connolly has the edge on Wendell for a roster spot due to his versatility?
Mike (12:30 PM)
I think they both have versatility, Nick, but Connolly's $3 million salary is a factor too. That could be too rich for the team's liking. Right now, I'd put them both on the club because of uncertainty surrounding rookie center Bryan Stork, who left the fifth practice of camp with what looked to be a lower leg injury and hasn't practiced since.
Mike, I heard that Robert Kraft is already talking to Revis about an extension. This would be awesome, when is the earliest you could see this happening?
Mike (12:31 PM)
After the season sounds right to me. My sense on that one, from a context perspective, is that Kraft was just building the relationship with the future in mind. I don't think they're exchanging contract numbers or anything like that.
Joe Cabral (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
Can you see the value in Danny Woodhead? Brady rarely threw to him and McDaniels was NOT a big fan of his. He led backs last year with 65 catches! Go pats & good luck in 2014. I hate the Dolphins (Tuna Fish).\
Mike (12:31 PM)
Joe, are you trying to get me in trouble?
Mike [via mobile]
Mike: Yesterday you mentioned the pass rush was blah against Washington. I don't know why people thought it would get better. Wilfork doesn't improve it. So my question is will it be a fatal flaw? Seattle beat manning bc their front 4 got great pressure. We have not touched a qb in the afc champ game over the past three years. Any chance it changes? Hope I'm wrong but it's a major issue
Mike (12:32 PM)
Mike, we always talk about how the pass rush and coverage are linked. Better coverage, in theory, should help the rush. Also not as convinced as you that the rush won't be upgraded -- linebackers looking strong.
Leigh (New York)
Mike, tell us more about Justin Jones - he sounds like a beast physically, is making some plays - yet you still seem skeptical that he's more than just practice squad. Why the hesitance? Doesn't sound like we have too many other options right now.
Mike (12:33 PM)
Leigh, the hesitation is that he's very, very raw. Doesn't always line up in right spot and, for example, had a costly false start in Tuesday's practice at the goal-line. Trying to learn from last year's lessons with Zach Sudfeld as well, to maybe be a bit more cautious on that stuff. Sudfeld really did perform well, but when the words "Baby Gronk" were thrown around, I think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves.
Riders of Rohan Davey (Work)
Mike,I love Hard Knocks. And though I know it will not happen in the BB reign, I would love to see the Pats on Hard Knocks. That being said, when I watch some of these teams, I can't help but think that some of that stuff doesn't happen with the Pats. Specifically the rookies singing at team meetings and stuff. I just don't see BB wasting time with that. Do you have any insight?
Mike (12:34 PM)
A lot of the same stuff here. Rookie haircuts, for example. They had the rookies in the slip-and-slide early in camp at one practice. But it's done in a team-building fun way, not as much from a hazing perspective.
Is Justin Jones holding up in the blocking game? I'm having fantasies of him and Gronk around the goal line.
Mike (12:34 PM)
Competitive but long way to go, IMO. Do I sound too much like BB? LOL.
Bob (Holden, MA)
Mike, do you know if next week's joint practices with the Eagles will be the final practices open to the public? I'm trying to plan a trip to training camp while on vacation next week and want to make sure I don't wait too long.
Mike (12:35 PM)
They could be, Bob. So I'd proceed with the belief that will be the case so you don't miss out. Nothing finalized, though, from what I understand.
Peter (Amherst, MA)
Mike, count me as one not excited to hear of Gronk's ambition to play all 16 games. His absence during the postseason has been the biggest cause of failure in two major playoff runs. I would exercise extreme caution with his playing time, holding him out at any sniff of injury. I would rather the Pats be the wild card with Gronk available and 100% healthy, then get a bye with him injured or unavailable. Thoughts?
Mike (12:36 PM)
Peter, we've received a little glimpse of the caution the Patriots are taking with him as he's not even on this trip. They're not going to rush it.
The Patriots drafted James White out of Wisconsin as a pro-ready, well-rounded player who didn't stand out in any one area. Do you think his rise to the point where it's probable he sees significant snaps is even a surprise to the Patriots?
Mike (12:37 PM)
No, Will, I think they had him as their top-rated back in the draft because of how well he fit their system -- both pass-catcher and rusher. You never know for sure until the prospect gets into the program, but that was one they felt good about from the get-go.
Josh (Radford, VA)
There are a lot of Mallett trade talks going around, presumably based on his upcoming PRESEASON performance (obviously the ultimate barometer). Barring an injury, are there really teams who want to introduce a new quarterback into their system a month before the season starts? Trading for mallet includes either a steep learning curve and a bad or mediocre year or (if mallet goes somewhere and does well) a big paycheck next year. If there are teams interested in Mallett, is there any benefit to trading for him this year instead of waiting this year out and signing him as a free agent? In what situation do you see Mallett being traded? And finally, what's your take on the Brady Quinn workout?
Mike (12:39 PM)
All good points, Josh. I think the Mallett showcase is more for down the road (after the season), but there's also an aspect of wanting to gauge his progress internally because the No. 2 job is also important. We saw the value that the Patriots place on the No. 2 job with what they did in the draft this year -- selecting Jimmy Garoppolo 62nd overall with the idea he could seize that role in 2015.
Mike (12:39 PM)
Brady Quinn -- due diligence.
Mike (12:40 PM)
Let's do a few more here...
Spencer (Maryland) [via mobile]
Hey mike, I often see a lot of talk about how the patriots can't develop WRs. But can we take a moment to acknowledge a huge success they have here in Julian Edelman? The man has absolutely blossomed and it's a testament to the coaching staff.
Mike (12:40 PM)
Acknowledged. Never will forget the day he was booed in one of his first training camp practices because he was struggling to field punts.
Akiva (titletown) [via mobile]
Mike, I haven't been this excited for the start of a season since the reloaded 2011 Celtics. Should I taper off my excitement? Which aspect of this ball club should I be most concerned with? Thanks again for all of your good work!
Mike (12:42 PM)
Keep an eye on that interior offensive line. Last time we saw the unit, it was getting sliced up the middle by the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. But overall, I think this is a very good team, Akiva. I felt like they outclassed the Redskins, although I'm not sure that means much right now.
Matt (Boston, MA)
Ryan Mallett to the Cardinals for Rob Housler? What say you?
Mike (12:43 PM)
I've thought about Arizona for Mallett because I connect head coach Bruce Arians with the big strong-armed QB from his time in Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger. My issue there for the Patriots is that I don't think Garoppolo is ready for the No. 2 spot.
Mike (12:44 PM)
So I think Mallett has more value to the Patriots right now than Housler does in that scenario.
Based on what I've read about the Monday and Tuesday practice Patriots have been getting dominated in pass rush drills. Is this a major concern, or do you think the OL/DL will be able to mitigate these apparent shortfalls on a game by game basis with their schemes?
Mike (12:46 PM)
Let's end on this one, Joe. I think it's good to note, but at the same time, I wouldn't read too much into it, in part because I think the Patriots have some veterans on the D-line who know when and how to turn it on. Also, there is an aspect of this that we need to remember is practice and fine-tuning techniques. It shouldn't look perfect right now. Let's keep an eye on it and acknowledge it, but keep it in its proper context.
Mike (12:47 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Fun stuff. Let's do it again next week. Enjoy the game tonight.