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. We'll get started around 12:05.
Mike (12:05 PM)
Slight delay here. Need a few more minutes.
Mike (12:14 PM)
Apologies on the delay. Just reacting to Tom Brady not being present at practice today. A source tells me he will be ready to go Sunday, as one would expect. One thing to monitor will be if he is on the injury report today. Was not on it yesterday.
Mike, what do you take from the fact Easley is not listed on the injury report? Green light, full speed ahead?
Mike (12:17 PM)
John, I think that means it's full go for Easley in terms of his availability. I don't think it necessarily means he'll have a full workload. But he could be a key player in this game based on Miami's unstable situation on the interior. I think this is a key storyline.
Uncle Mark (not Dan Marino) (NJ)
I know you have to report all the player coming and goings, even for the practice squad, but for us fans it makes no sense to pay attention until Sunday afternoon at 12:59pm, right? BB does his player due diligence like nobody else I guess.
Mike (12:19 PM)
It just depends on how interested you are in BB's roster-building philosophy. That stuff fascinates me with all the comings and goings and there is a method to the madness. It involves the overall 63-player snapshot and using the leverage a team has with the waiver wire to help re-distribute assets on the roster/practice squad. They do it like no other team in the NFL.
Craig (Los Angeles)
Should we be worried that TB12 is not at practice today? I understand that the team is leaving a day early to go to Miami.
Mike (12:20 PM)
Craig, Tom Brady doesn't like to miss practices. It's notable. But I was told he'll be there Sunday, as one would expect. The next thing to watch is if he lands on the injury report to see if that is the reason for his absence. The team worked on the running game and third down in yesterday's practice and maybe something happened. There's also the possibility it's a scheduled day off, but that seems more like a longshot to me.
In your opinion is it worth it to cut a guy like White and separate him from the team just to give a look at some DLs who had a small chance to actually see the field in week 1? Does that reflect BB thinking that White has enough of a handle on the gameplan for him to absent from the facility for days leading up to gametime?
Mike (12:25 PM)
Nick, it's all part of that roster-building philosophy/strategy referenced above. Here's my view on it: They took a safe risk that White (and Aiken) would clear waivers and return, and it gave them two open spots to use their leverage of waiver claims to bring players aboard on the 53-man roster. Even though the Patriots ultimately probably want DLs Kelcy Quarles and Bruce Gaston on their practice squad, they probably feel like claiming them and keeping them on the roster for a few days gives them the best chance to make that happen. Think about it from those players' perspective: Why would those players sign to the Patriots practice squad when they spent the entire preseason with another team? But the waiver claim is a strong sales pitch to those players to let them know how strongly the Patriots feel about them. I'm curious to see if Quarles and Gaston clear waivers and if that ultimately was the Patriots' thinking, to bring them back on the practice squad.
Mike (12:26 PM)
It's all about using leverage as it relates to the overall 63-player snapshot (53 players on the roster, 10 on the practice squad) in re-distributing depth and developing talent. I don't see most other teams doing it that way.
JBird (Portland, Maine)
Mike - media members are only allowed for the early portion of practice right? Is it possible that TB just missed the early part of practice, not the whole thing, for whatever reason?
Mike (12:27 PM)
Yes, JBird. That is possible, but I think it's unlikely in this case.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
Mike, I have concerns with LB depth - sound familiar? My concerns lessen if there is a switch to 3-4 base, where CJones & Ninkovich become LBs now, but in a 4-3, there's not much behind Mayo, Hightower and Collins. Your thoughts on the positional depth, and its relative need, and potential options?
Mike (12:28 PM)
Earl, they are a little thin there. I think that basically reflects how it's hard to build depth in the NFL. That's part of the challenge. Ninkovich can play off the line and would be part of the depth in a 4-3 set up. He's done it before. So don't overlook him with this thought.
Raj (Morrisville, NC)
Hi Mike, I have question on the timing of Mallet trade? Do you think patriots would have gotten a higher draft pick (may be a 4th/5th rounder) had they traded Mallet during the draft rather than doing it now?
Mike (12:29 PM)
Raj, I don't think so. If anything, I believe they held out longer hoping the offer of a late-round pick would be sweetened. It wasn't.
Hi Mike,With all the talk recently about the Patriots returning to a 3-4 look, even though we know the snaps will be limited does that put Dont'a Hightower as the odd man out, do you see his snaps being reduced this year? So who would be your main players in the front 7(6 when they are in Sub defense)Thanks,John
Mike (12:30 PM)
John, Bill Belichick said on his pre-game radio interview last week that the team will play multiple fronts, so I'd hesitate to lock them into a 3-4. But let's go along with it, and I think you'll see Ninkovich as the player who might see a scaled-back workload. Look for Hightower and Chandler Jones on the edges, IMO.
Steve (Greenfield, MA)
Its great that undrafted players emerged, but isn't it a concerning sign of bad scouting and/or draft day decision-making that so many drafted players got dropped this year?In particular, I was scratching may head on draft day when they drafted a cornerback and especially a small receiver (Gallon). It seemed like Gallon in particular never had a chance to make the team, so why didn't they spend the draft choice on a position with greater need?
Mike (12:32 PM)
Steve, that is the type of stuff you see with every team in the league. The difference between a late-rounder and free agent is not great. So I don't read too much into it. That said, a miss on a player like guard Jon Halapio (179th overall, sixth round) should have the team going back over its notes to see where the breakdown was. As for Gallon, they viewed him in the "good football player" category and that trumped any specific position at that point for them. Sort of like Julian Edelman in 2009. Some of them work out. Some of them don't.
Adnan Dervisevic (Sweden)
Is the weather in Miami really that big a deal for the Patriots vis-a-vis the Dolphins? I've been checking a few times lately and the weather seems similar, even identical at times, in Boston and Miami. Seems like it's been really warm in NE, which must surely give the players the practice environment they need to prepare themselves very adequately for the conditions they will face down in Florida?
Mike (12:33 PM)
Humidity is probably the biggest difference, Adnan. Tough to simulate here in New England, but the Patriots will go down a day early (Friday) just to get a feel for it. I think it comes down to conditioning and I believe this team is in good condition. Bill Belichick made sure of it this preseason.
Mess (Hartford, CT)
Great to see Connolly named Captain. I was nervous he might get cut or released. I assume he is safe now?
Mike (12:37 PM)
Yes, Mess, he is safe. That's a great story and I'll just share how this is one of my favorite parts of the job. I remember when Dan Connolly first came to New England as a practice squad player in 2007 after spending two years in Jacksonville. He worked his way up the ranks, soft-spoken guy, and now he's a captain. I really appreciate stories like that, and seeing him holding his baby at training camp after a practice, you sort of see the growth of a player/person over time. ...
Mike (12:38 PM)
... Now, from a pure football perspective, that was probably the most interesting thing to come out of Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. We all want to see how the offensive line is configured without Logan Mankins and if the leadership void is filled. Naming Connolly a captain is almost like saying, 'This is the guy we need to fill that role.'
Thomas (Dublin) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, just wanted to hear your thoughts on how much Tim Wright is going to be on the field during the early part of the season. If Gronk is going to be limited at all, wouldn't that translate into more time for him? Maybe a good chance for him to develop in this offense. Thanks!
Mike (12:39 PM)
Thomas, if the Patriots play 70-90 snaps in a game, as Tom Brady hopes they will, I'd expect Wright for about half of them. A big part of it is going to be how defenses match up against him and if the Patriots feel it creates the best matchup. I think they are high on Wright right now.
James W. (Northampton, MA)
I was disappointed in your dismissive comment to a question about the Patriots' signing of Don Jones. It's true that every team will have players "who have different beliefs." But I find it hard to believe the Patriots would even have considered a player of Jones' ability who had tweets reflecting racist or anti-Semitic "different beliefs," as opposed to anti-gay "different beliefs."This all comes after a summer where the league's only openly gay player, after a good college career and training camp, almost didn't make a practice squad roster, amidst blind quotes from various NFL execs referencing his sexual orientation ... I'm sure most gay fans get the message loud and clear: we don't matter to the NFL. But I expected a little more of you.
Mike (12:45 PM)
James, I apologize if my comments came across as dismissive. That certainly wasn't my intention. The point I was trying to make is that I don't think the player should be prohibited from playing football based on his remarks, even though I don't condone them. Many of us make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are made because we aren't educated about certain issues.
Mike (12:45 PM)
Here is the link to the mailbag that included the original thoughts on Don Jones for those seeking more context: http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/page/reissmailbagweek0826/new-england-patriots-mailbag-questions-surround-team-debut-miami
Is Shane Vereen setup to have a Sproles-esque season?
Mike (12:47 PM)
I think Vereen will be the running back who plays more snaps for the Patriots this season than anyone else, assuming good health. Comparing him to Sproles is a little aggressive IMO, but I think he's the Patriots' best all-around back.
Mike, who do you think is going to return kicks on this team? Bill always talks about being good in all 3 phases of the game but I feel like the return teams have been sub par the last few seasons.
Mike (12:48 PM)
Dave, rookie running back James White would project as a possible top option in that role.
Why do we call Wright a Tight End and LaFell a receiver? Considering that they likely will often line Wright split out and sometimes will use LaFell to block, aren't they really the same thing?
Mike (12:50 PM)
Joe, the main difference is that Wright is more likely to line up next to the tackle and be asked to execute as an inline blocker, which is a tight-end-type responsibility. I think of his 43 snaps in the preseason finale, he had blocking responsibilities on 8 of them. You're not going to do that with LaFell. One of the plays with Wright blocking, he was thrown down by Jason Pierre-Paul, so it's a reminder that it's not the main part of his game, but something he still is going to be asked to do. LaFell's blocking will come split out wide.
Matt (Bristol CT)
There's been discussion about Vollmer taking Mankins' old spot at left guard. Do you think that will be the case in Miami?
Mike (12:52 PM)
Matt, I don't know how the o-line will be configured. I wish I did. Tedy Bruschi doesn't like the idea of moving to Vollmer to guard and I have great respect for Tedy's analysis: http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/page/bruschibreakdown-0904/bruschi-breakdown-new-england-patriots-defense-difference
Frank in Woodland Hills [via mobile]
Hi Mike. I watched tape on Kelcy Quarles this week and got really excited at the prospect of him contributing to this defense. His size and skill set to me seem like he could make an immediate impact so of course I was disappointed to see Bill release him. What are your thoughts on him landing back on the practice squad and your thoughts on his potential going into the future. I think this guy could be lights out with easley.jones.wilfork.etc.. Thank you
Mike (12:54 PM)
Quarles would be an obvious choice to stick on the practice squad. But I think the question for Quarles is whether it's the best fit here (5 days) or with the Giants (3.5 months). The Patriots made their pitch with the idea that they think highly enough of him to put him on the 53-man roster for a few days -- something the Giants wouldn't do. Is that enough to sway him? Not sure. Let's see what happens today. I am always fascinated by these roster decisions.
Was is your gut feeling at this point on Amendola - does he emerge in relation to the money he was signed for, or does he keep a lower profile role in the offense?
Mike (12:55 PM)
Todd -- gut feeling on Amendola is that he plays this year and then he's either back on a reduced salary or released. I don't see them paying him $4 million next season (with a $5.5 million cap charge) at this point. Maybe if he blows up this year, that changes. But that's based on the present snapshot.
justin (manchester nh)
Given that Gronk has had two significant injuries now,do you think it would be smart to place him in limited situations, i.e short field or down scenario's? To keep him healthy for the playoffs
Mike (12:57 PM)
Justin, I don't think Bill Belichick believes in preserving players like that. They'll probably ease him into the mix in his first few games, just like they did last year. By the quarter mark of the season, I'd think he's a full-workload player, or close to it. That ties to Bill Belichick's philosophy: In football season, players play football.
Hey Mike -- I can't believe the predictions you came out with for the Pats on Tuesday... it's not that you're saying 12-4 (I can believe that) -- but you're saying that all four losses are going to come after mid-November? BB's Pats have consistently performed strongly in the second half of the season over the last 15 years -- it's something they pride themselves on! Do you really think that they're going to lose 2/3 of their last 6 games? Lose three of four games in a four week span from Nov 30 to Dec 21? I think they're more likely to lose against Miami this week or KC than to give up that many games in December. I sure hope you're wrong this year -- cause if they back into the playoffs like that, it won't bode well for the postseason.
Mike (1:00 PM)
Probably not, Sean, but I was asked to make predictions and my crystal ball is obviously a little cloudy. After all, I am the same guy who had Greg Salas going for 61 catches a few years ago. In the end, there are always things that we never see coming. Who had them losing at the Jets last year? Or at Miami? Predictions are fun to banter about, but I wouldn't put too much stock in them.
Mike (1:00 PM)
And in the words of Bill Belichick, I don't think anything that has happened last year, or in the last 14 years for that matter, will have any impact on what happens this year.
Tim (Brighton, MA)
Hi Mike,With all of the talk about Ridley and fumbling, I still can't believe he won't get the majority of carries both Sunday, and going forward this season. He's the only proven 3 down back on the team, and IMO, the fumbling issue is a bit overblown. Do you expect closer to the 2012 Ridley or the 2013 Ridley?
Mike (1:02 PM)
Tim, I'm curious to see how it unfolds with Ridley. My sense is that the Patriots wouldn't mind turning things over to a Vereen-White combo, but White didn't exactly light it up in the preseason, which maybe has them re-thinking things. I like Ridley, but if Vereen is healthy, I think he's going to play the majority of snaps.
JB (LA, CA)
hi Mike! Care to predict the starting Offensive line? Thanks.
Mike (1:04 PM)
JB, it's a guess, but I don't think Ben Volin of the Boston Globe would report what he did if there wasn't validity to it: So Solder-Vollmer-Wendell-Connolly-Cannon would be my guess.
Anthony Chavis (Franklin, Indiana)
Hello Mike, My question is about Zach Moore. How much playing time do you see him having this year?
Mike (1:05 PM)
You mean Roy Hibbert? That's what Patriots players call Moore because he looks similar to the Indiana Pacers big-man. Moore looks like a situational guy/game-day inactive at this point as he continues to grow. Lot of potential there.
Bob (Alexandria, VA)
Did BB get too little for Mankins and for Mallett, in your opinion?
Mike (1:06 PM)
With Mallett, the market spoke. I didn't see any team paying any more than that, which I wrote April 6 (http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4767225/analysis-digesting-the-mallett-trade?ex_cid=espnapi_public). So I'd be hypocritical if I said otherwise. ...
Mike (1:10 PM)
On Mankins, I wouldn't have made that trade. To me, the value of the player/person trumped the return (which was still good). I think it's a bold move that comes with risk, because when you trade a player that represents everything you want in a Patriot, it sends a tough message through that locker room. I also wonder about the gap in performance from Mankins (still very good) to the next player and how the line is configured. Do I think the Patriots can overcome it? Absolutely. But I also think there is risk involved -- on the field and in the locker room -- that is hard to just dismiss.
Mike (1:11 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Kevin O'Malley (Hoosick Falls NY)
Do long snappers get headlines in other citys, like they do in Boston?
Mike (1:14 PM)
Probably not, Kevin. No one wants to talk about snappers ... until they cost a team a game. We break the mold here in Boston and talk about them before. Nice. Reminds me of the great 2003 story from the Super Bowl: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4714805/paxtons-absence-sparks-kinchen-thoughts
James (Derry, NH)
Mike, is it me, or are you pushing this Mankins trade a little far at this point. It's been a week. The players are over it. Or at least say they are. Why aren't you?
Mike (1:17 PM)
James, I think it's a big storyline. How the line is configured for the season opener ties to it. How the locker room replaces the leadership is part of it, and Dan Connolly was named a captain Wednesday. So it's not like it just ends. I'm not harping on it, but I think it's a fair question to ask Vince Wilfork how he feels the locker room has responded. If that's taking things too far, then I think we respectfully view things differently.
Do you see Garropolo going down the same route as previously hyped backups that became underwhelming? ex. Hoyer, O'Connell, Mallett...etc.
Mike (1:17 PM)
Jay, I'd say Garoppolo looks like the best of the bunch. Most promising of all the backups.
For the record, TB's 40 sacks were not all on the OL. The receiving corps could not get off the line and TB held onto the ball a bit longer.
Mike (1:18 PM)
Absolutely, Matt. Can't pin those all on OL.
Hello Mike. Thanks for your work. Give us some context, please, on Steve Beauharnais. Why did he fail to make the roster?
Mike (1:19 PM)
Stan, I think he's a little heavy-footed. He has great knowledge of the system and a commendable work ethic. Just probably a bit limited from a physical perspective.
Maritime Pat (The Great White North)
Mike who starts next to McCourty this weekend?
Mike (1:20 PM)
Don't know for sure, but wouldn't be surprised if it's a corner-type for that inside coverage element with TE Charles Clay in mind.
max (my cube)
Mike, regarding the roster management, what was the point in cutting Aikens only to sign him back? This, to me, made as much sense as the Ross Ventrone (or was it Ray?) moves from a couple of years ago.
Mike (1:22 PM)
Let's end on this one, Max, because it sort of ties into an overall theme that has been touched on in this chat. They figured they could always have Aiken back on the 53, but by floating that decision for 5 days, it allowed them use their waiver-claim leverage to bring another player into their employ that perhaps they otherwise couldn't. It all ties to the overall 63-player snapshot (53 players on roster, 10 on practice squad) and Bill Belichick's roster-building philosophy. There's a method to everything they do here and to me, that's the basis of it.
Mike (1:22 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. We'll do it again next Thursday ... and every Thursday throughout the season.