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 and is a native New Englander who has stayed close to his roots. 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. Since 2005 he has 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 11 a.m. ET!
Mike Reiss (10:59 AM)
Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium. I am here today for the Community MVPs event, hosted by Robert Kraft. It starts in the noontime hour. So let's plan on going until about noon on this chat. Looking forward to sharing some thoughts on Wednesday's organized team activity.
Mike Reiss (11:00 AM)
I also wanted to pass along a link to the ESPN Ombudsman piece from yesterday. I appreciated it because it shined the spotlight on journalism and sourcing.
Mike Reiss (11:00 AM)
John (Manchester, NH)
Mike, anyone jump out at you at OTAs in terms of physical development?
Mike Reiss (11:03 AM)
Brandon Spikes' length stood out to me at ILB, John. They weren't in pads and there was no contact, which is important context based on any observations that are passed along. But he has a little bit of a presence to him.
Lee Tempest (Gloucester, England)
Mike, I'm interested in how the playbook changes year to year. Do the rookies and new signings literally get a 'book' full of the plays? Also how much does the playbook change this year from last? is it dependent on the opposition being faced? Who 'write' the playbook?
Mike Reiss (11:05 AM)
Bill Belichick is the trigger-man for the playbook, but his coaches are obviously involved. I'm not sure the exact answers to these, but something David Patten on Wednesday ties into this: He talked about how the offense has evolved from the last time he was here, in 2004. His point was that as you build each year, there are more and more wrinkles that are added. I'd estimate anywhere from 10-20 percent new stuff from year to year.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear MikeWhen could you see the Patriots getting back there Old Uniforms for good?
Mike Reiss (11:05 AM)
I don't see them going back to the old ones. Maybe for a few games each season, but I think the "Flying Elvis" is here to stay.
Mike, among the young linebackers on the Pats roster this year, which ones seem to be better tacklers.
Mike Reiss (11:07 AM)
We'd have to go off college scouting reports, Aaron, becuase we haven't seen any tackling here at this point. Spikes comes with a reputation as a sound tackler.
Nick (Worcester, MA)
Mike - not long ago you posted an entry that shows which guys basically "broke-out" in their third year in the league. That's nice and and all but do you disagree that its a VERY optimistic way to look at it? For every Wes Welker, there must be 15 Chad Jacksons, so let's be realistic and say that Shawn Crable has to pull off some sort of miracle at this point.
Mike Reiss (11:08 AM)
For sure, Nick. In that blog post, I think I made the point that my opinion is that the Patriots should proceed as if not to expect much from Crable because relying on a player who has not played an NFL regular-season game is risky business. At the same time, patience can pay off. I think miracle is too extreme when it comes to Crable, but he clearly faces an uphill climb.
Mike--What do you think the reason is for the Pats signing a couple of their draft picks so much earlier this year than in years past? Floyd Reese being more comfortable in his position? Something to do with the labor situation? I expect that they'll have all their draft picks signed by training camp but these two signings seem out of the norm.
Mike Reiss (11:11 AM)
I don't think it's anything major, Shane, just a case where the sides hit it off and find that middle ground. These deals are pretty standard and not that hard to consummate. In Taylor Price's case, I think his agent was motivated to move because it showed Price's commitment since he can't be with the team until Ohio's graduation (June 11). So in a sense, I view it as strategtic "negotiating" to position his client in a favorable light with the team -- while at the same time getting him a fair deal.
Mike!!!Who do you think is better in coverage? Wheatley or Arrington?
Mike Reiss (11:11 AM)
Bottom line Mike. Do the Pats win the Super Bowl this season?
Mike Reiss (11:12 AM)
I wouldn't pick them right now, Peter. But for those who look on the bright side, how many people were picking the Saints at this time last year?
Anthony (North Andover, MA)
Do we have any guys in the secondary you would consider the "playmaker" type?
Mike Reiss (11:13 AM)
I am very high on Darius Butler in this area. Also, you watch Brandon Meriweather at times -- such as last year's Jacksonville contest -- and that's a high-level playmaker. His third-and-1 tackle early in that game was one of the best defensive plays of the season in my view. Leigh Bodden made a lot of plays on the ball (17 passes defended). So I'd say "yes" on this one Anthony.
Steve (Buffalo, NY)
Hey Mike, what do you think the chances are of Sam Aiken making the roster this year? He would seem the odd man out unless they go into the season with more than 5 WRs, no?
Mike Reiss (11:14 AM)
I'd put him on there, Steve, simply for his special teams contributions (assuming he's still playing at a high level). Special teams captain and a respected player in that locker room. I think if he starts to become a factor at WR, it is not ideal.
Mike, I'm curious about some of your previous comments about the size the Patriots want in an OLB. For example, you say that Gary Guyton is too light to play the position. Since Shawn Crable is listed at 243 pounds, then, how can he play the position? I think I've heard you say that they want the OLBs to weigh in the 260-270 range, like Jermaine Cunningham.
Mike Reiss (11:17 AM)
The OLB in the 3-4 defense plays at the end of the line of scrimmage, and is basically like a defensive end. So when I think of the ideal size for a player there, it's not just weight, but also height, arm length etc. Crable is listed at 243 (he said last week he's up to 247), but the difference between him and Guyton is in the length department. Crable has those long arms to keep long-armed tackles off of him. If I could draw up the perfect OLB prototype for the 3-4 defense, I'd make him 6-5, 265, with that long reach. It doesn't mean a player without those measureables can't do it (Banta-Cain is 6-2, 250).
Mike Reiss (11:18 AM)
If the Patriots play more four-man line, then I could see Guyton at one of outside linebacker positions, playing off the line of scrimmage.
brian (north of the equator)
hi mike - first i'd like to say, great job.question about the afcthe media seems to be in love with the jets, fins, ravens, and vince young rejuvenated titans - what gives? bored of the same old pats, colts, bolts, and steelers? they are on top every year for a reason....
Mike Reiss (11:20 AM)
Those teams you mentioned Brian have made some big-name acquisitions this offseason, and they look to have improved. But as Scott Pioli once said, "Anyone can win the Super Bowl in March. The goal is to build a team that wins it in January of February." I think the natural chain reaction is for media members to react to these offseason moves and look through that limited lens instead of the big picture.
Dennis (WPB, FL)
Mike, I know everyone is going to say the correct thing, from the Patriots Owner on down to players. But, if all goes well in 2014 Superbowl in New York, it will be awesome for Boston. Look at the new additions coming scoreboards at each end zone, which Miami had to do in order to get the last Superbowl. How realistic and great will it be for the Patriots to host a Superbowl?
Mike Reiss (11:21 AM)
I don't think it's realistic Dennis. They usually go to those who build new stadiums, and this one is already nine years old.
Mike,I am curious as to how the three rookie Gators are interacting with one another and the rest of the team collectively during OTAs?
Mike Reiss (11:22 AM)
Good one, Zack. I remember Brandon Spikes and/or Jermaine Cunningham making the point that while they were happy to have their fellow Gators here, they wanted to bond with all of their new teammates. I sensed that was something that might have been stressed to them by the coaching staff.
Hey Mike, with the Pats' two 1st round picks next year, do you see them going after a playmaking running back and a pass rusher?
Mike Reiss (11:23 AM)
I said pass rusher and big defensive lineman in this week's mailbag, Bill.
Mike- Has BB put out an early "1st" string on Defense yet for practice, or more position based drills? I understand not everyone is present for these activities, but I'm interested in knowing who BB is possibly giving consideration for possible first string players.
Mike Reiss (11:24 AM)
Not yet, Mark. This week's organized team activities are for lesser experienced players in the system and rookies. Lot of questions on some of those positions (ILB, OLB, RDE)
David (North Attleboro,Ma)
How much of a blow to the Patriots do you think it is that Taylor Price can't join the OTA's until June 11?
Mike Reiss (11:24 AM)
I think it hurts. Rookies are already far behind. This puts him back even further. It's ground he can make up, but it's not ideal.
Louie (Tampa, FL)
Mike, is this finally the year the Jets pass the Pats and win the AFC East? And if so, will Bill shake Rex's hand??
Mike Reiss (11:25 AM)
If I was picking right now, I'm still going Patriots. Jets look tough, but like the Patriots they also have some questions (LG, QB development, contract issues). I see no reason why there wouldn't a handshake.
Mark D. (Cambridge, MA)
Hi Mike, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on who our punter is going to be a the season's start, based on what you've seen in the OTAs? Here's hoping its Zoltan Mesko, simply because his name is awesome!
Mike Reiss (11:26 AM)
Mesko, barring a big upset.
Hi Mike. Can you briefly describe how the NFL chooses which cities will host the Superbowl? And now that New York will host one, do you think the Patriots will push to have one in Foxboro? Thanks.
Mike Reiss (11:27 AM)
Cities bid for the game, Omar, and the owners vote for the winner years in advance. I don't see it as a likely possibility for the Patriots.
Mike,looking at the 2010 contract list you made, we could possibly lose all running backs except Pat paschall - which brings to my concern before the draft - why didn't BB draft a decent RB? Maroney is not the future, taylor,morris and faulk are getting too old and BJGE is still a wildcard. If Pat becomes a bust we will be really in a pickle.
Mike Reiss (11:29 AM)
I think the Patriots would have liked to draft a RB, but they weren't going to do it just to fill the need. It had to be the right player. The few RBs they liked either weren't available, or other needs/opportunities (e.g. tight end/trade for a 2011 second-rounder) trumped it. With five picks in the first five rounds next year, perhaps it's addressed there.
Jackie (Quincy, MA)
Have any of the later round draft picks particularly impressed the coaches during the OTAs? Are any emerging as serious roster spot contenders? How's Zoltan Mesko looking?
Mike Reiss (11:30 AM)
Let me see if Belichick bites on that question today, Jackie, and I'll post it on the blog if he does. The biggest way to impress the coaches in this setting (no pads, no contact) is mentally by not making the same mistake twice. Mesko can boom it. Still refining technique, and will continue to work on consistency, but he looks solid to me.
When are individual regular season ticekts going on sale? I haven't heard a thing and the usual go on sale around this time.
Mike Reiss (11:31 AM)
Not sure on this one, Scott, but when the Patriots announce it, I'll be sure we have it on ESPNBoston.com.
Jane (Cole Harbour)
Mike, on Tuesday you tweeted that there is no "clear cut option" at OLB for the Pats at this point. Do you really believe that Bill Belicheck, the great defensive guru that he is, looks at his roster at this point in the offseason and says "damn, we have no legit option for right OLB" and is doing nothing about it? What's the answer? Do they rely on a revolving door of Burgess, Cunningham, Brace and others to fill that spot? Is it conceivable that a rotation tactic could work, at least at the start of the season? Or do they have to invest in a free agent - restricted or otherwise - if they are going to be able to compete deep into the playoffs? I just can't see BB doing nothing or having no concrete plan if he sees there is a glaring hole in his line-up.
Mike Reiss (11:33 AM)
I see a lot of questions at OLB, Jane, and don't see a clear-cut choice as a starter. I'm sure Bill Belichick has multiple scenarios in mind, including the idea of playing more four-man line, which would eliminate the questions at OLB. On an aside, I'm in the process of doing a study on Derrick Burgess, because I wanted to see how realistic he might be in that role. At this point, I'd say I wouldn't count on him as a full-time option at OLB.
What do you think is a realistic expectation for the kind of contribution Gronkowski can make in his first year?
Mike Reiss (11:35 AM)
I'd say around 50 percent playtime, and a player who should be featured in the red zone.
Which Rookie do you see making the biggest contribution this season?
Mike Reiss (11:36 AM)
I'd start at the top with McCourty. The battle between McCourty, Butler and to a lesser degree Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley will be intense. At the least, McCourty should be on the 45-man game-day roster as a special teamer.
Arjuna (Derry, NH)
Three storylines I'll be monitoring this summer is the contract status of Logan Mankins and Tom Brady. I also would like the team to get a long term contract to Gostowski, he is one of the better kickers in the league. When the summer ends and the season beings, which of these three do you see with long term contracts?
Mike Reiss (11:37 AM)
Brady and Mankins, but that is probably optimistic.
Arjuna (Derry, NH)
Hey Mike, I've heard about the recent trade talks with Albert Haynesworth and have heard your opinion on it (getting him for a second in a heartbeat). Personally, I disagree. This offseason has been highlighted, in my mind, by getting rid of locker room cancers, and replacing them with true players who aren't distractions. Wouldn't Haynesworth be a cancer to the locker room? And how would Mankins and Brady feel with us dishing out tons of money to him? It would also mean cutting one of our ILB. What say you?
Mike Reiss (11:38 AM)
With news of some recent offseason troubles coming to light, that puts the X through my thoughts on possibly trading for Haynesworth. Your point is well taken on locker-room harmony. I was putting Haynesworth into the Randy Moss category, thinking that perhaps the perception didn't match the reality. They wouldn't have to pay Haynesworth much, so I didn't see that as a factor.
Perhaps the most crucial area for the Patriots is the OLB position, how do you see that position shaping up? Also, is it possible for the O-line to survive without Mankins, if he were to be traded what possible scenarios are there?
Mike Reiss (11:41 AM)
I've been studying last year's games to get a better gauge on OLB play and my feelings would be summed up this way: 1. I view Banta-Cain as more a spot starter and think it's risky relying on him as a full-time guy across 16 games; 2. Pierre Woods struggled in the Carolina game and after four years I think he's a stop-gap on defense, not a realistic option; 3. Rob Ninkovich flashed a bit in limited time, but it's asking a lot of him to make that jump; 4. Derrick Burgess played mostly going forward and not backwards, which makes me think he's still a nickel rusher at heart, not a true OLB candidate.
Mike Reiss (11:42 AM)
Overall, this leads me to second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham. I think you throw him in there and see what he can do. It's also why I wouldn't give up on Shawn Crable just yet. ... Bruce Davis and Marques Murrell will also compete.
Mike Reiss (11:43 AM)
As for the OL without Mankins, it's a concern because I don't think center Dan Koppen has been at a Pro Bowl level the last two years. You lose Mankins, you leave yourself a bit vulnerable on the interior. Dan Connolly probably steps in there, but it's a big hit.
Do you do these chats solo or does someone help you filter through the questions?
Mike Reiss (11:44 AM)
Solo, Brendan. I'm out on the island.
Ernie (Anaheim, CA)
Hey Mike love your articles about the pats especially being from the west coast. Am i the only one excited about next season for the pats? We got some young players on the team and we can only hope they pan out. Linebackers on paper look good, corners look good and the recievers can be deadly. What are your thoughts? Thanks
Mike Reiss (11:46 AM)
Thanks Ernie. I'm with you in terms of excitement. I always get excited about another season and part of what makes this one interesting to me is some of the younger players. You're asking "Who will emerge?" I like that element of the unknown. I always try to temper it by reminding myself that I was also excited about the Monty Beisel/Chad Brown expirement at ILB in 2005 and we know how that one worked out.
I'm not sure if I've heard your take on Buddy Farnham yet. Some of the guys at PFW seem to be pretty high on him, and I like the idea of a receiver out of Brown. Seems like a good fit for the Pats' more complicated offense.
Mike Reiss (11:48 AM)
Those PFW guys are intense. Farnham looks like he can change directions qiuckly and is pretty smooth. He'll be fun to watch. I'll reserve my thoughts until training camp, when he's grinding through, trying to string together 8 solid practices together in the heat. That's when we'll be able to see who has some possible staying power.
Old LB (Marlborough)
Hi Mike, love the blog. I have reluctantly concluded that Jerod Mayo often has real difficulty shedding blockers, and Gary Guyton just can't do it. Do you agree, and do you think one of the young stud ILB?s not only should improve our run stopping, but also help Mayo play better because his counterpart will hopefully be going forward rather than backwards clogging up his pursuit angles? Also, my impression is that our blitz packages are far less effective than those of the Jets or Ravens. If you agree, do you attribute that to scheme or personnel? Lastly, do you think that Coach B. is embarrassed by the overall coaching performance last year, and might that lead to some new schemes and ideas this year?Thanks,
Mike Reiss (11:51 AM)
I've been watching some of the late-season games the last few weeks and Guyton's struggles stood out to me. As for Mayo, I haven't noticed as much struggles shedding blocks, but how he seems to be at his best in some more space. He can really move. I think Guyton is going to have his hands full with McKenzie and Spikes, and he'll probably be back to sub linebacker duties in 2010. On the blitz packages, I'd lean toward personnel. As for the last question, I think there is some truth to it. Not sure we'll see a variety of new stuff, but it could be coached and played better.
Mike, Any inclination of what kind of contract Mankins wants?
Mike Reiss (11:52 AM)
I don't, Blu, but my educated guess is that he's thinking Jahri Evans' deal with the Saints would be close to market value. Knowing Mankins, I think he'd take less than that for the long-term security, but that's just me speculating.
I live in NY and I hate the Giants and Jets with a passion. But it's hard being a Pats fan around here. Rex Ryan's mouth doesn't seem to have an "off" switch. However, I am interested to know what you think of the Superbowl that is to be played in the "New Stadium in the Meadowlands" aka the billion dollar stadium no one wants their name on? Don't you think it's a little unfair that NY was given a special exception to be able to bid for the 2014 game but other cold weather club - like say the Patriots - were not given such an exception? Do you think we'll ever see a Superbowl in Gillette Stadium?
Mike Reiss (11:54 AM)
Alanna, I'm not a fan of the N.Y. Super Bowl. I understand why the league did it, but I prefer the Super Bowl in a warm-weather or climate-controlled environment. We covered a bit of the possibility of the Patriots getting a Super Bowl, and I don't see it.
SteveB (Millbury, MA)
Mike,A lot of expectations seem to be building for Brandon Tate this year. While I can definitely see that in terms of the return game, isn't a bit of a stretch to expect that in this passing offense? He never really had a big season at UNC, his high reception total was only 25 as a junior. Do you really see him as being a big part of this passing offense?
Mike Reiss (11:55 AM)
I'd start with Tate as a return guy, because I like him with the ball in his hands. Then I'd look to him as a third or fourth option behind Moss, Edelman and Holt.
Mike, after watching all of the Florida Gators games this season, it seemed to me that Aaron Hernandez was most effective through screens and shovel passes (or at least thats how they used him). I didn't really see much route running from him in college, should this be a concern of him in the Patriots system?
Mike Reiss (11:56 AM)
I didn't see him much at Florida, SethS, but the downfield routes I've seen him run in practice look crisp and nothing that stands out in terms of a player not looking comfortable in that role.
Mike Reiss (11:57 AM)
Let's go for another 5...
Mike, With the Pats claiming QB Mike Teel off Waivers what do you think this does for Zac Robinson's chances of making even the practice squad much less the team?
Mike Reiss (11:58 AM)
I like it, Sean, because I think the added competition has a chance to bring out the best in both of them. I could see the team keeping both when factoring in active roster/practice roster.
has mckenzie been working out with the OLB's at all in the OTA's? what do you think the team has planned for him if spikes plays on early downs and guyton on 3rd?
Mike Reiss (11:59 AM)
More of an inside guy, Dave. He could rotate with Spikes or even beat him out for the job.
You're on the island and my questions apparently get washed out to sea.
Ron C (Seattle)
Mike, I have sent you numerous questions and I have yet to see one of them get posted. I feel left out. Can you post one for me to appease me. I sent one earlier.
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
I'm going back through the chat to find Bernie and Ron C's questions and we'll end it there...
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
Might take me a few...
Tose are my sentiments, also, on our OLB situation. So how then could Belichick just let this situation slide like this? Also, his not hiring a new defensive coordinator with some fresh thought is very disturbing to me.
Mike Reiss (12:03 PM)
Understood on the defensive coordinator, Bernie. I think one thing that can be overlooked is that fresh thoughts can be implemented in different ways (e.g. studying other teams in the offseason and then adopting what you see on tape). You don't always have to hire a new coach to do that. As for the OLBs, there are lot of layers to the answer. Maybe Belichick is cooking up schemes that we're unaware of. That is why I am OK to wait to see how some of it plays out so we have more context to fully analyze the decision-making.
I still feel like I was punched in the stomach when we let our WR pick go to the Dallas Cowboys in this draft. When will I recover from this sick feeling I still have?
Mike Reiss (12:06 PM)
Dez Bryant is an appealing talent, Bernie, but he also comes with plenty of questions. The Patriots got themselves a solid cornerback in Devin McCourty and I sort of view it like baseball, where you can never have enough pitchers. In football, you need those young corners in the pipeline with the way teams throw the ball these days. Time will tell if it was the right choice, but I think their decision-making is sound.
Mike Reiss (12:08 PM)
One final thought as we wrap up this chat, as I've recapped some of last year's games on TV tape, one aspect that was reinforced to me was how much the team was in sub packages (about 50 percent of the time). So as much as we talk about the OLB in the 3-4 defense, more teams are playing sub packages these days, so it's important to view the entire defense in that context. For example, in the second half of the Jacksonville game, we saw a lot of 4-2-5 nickel. I think it's easy to pigeon-hole a team and say 'They're a 3-4 team' but the Patriots have a pretty flexible defense. ...
Mike Reiss (12:09 PM)
... Thanks to everyone for jumping on the chat. I make the attempt to get to as many questions as possible. Looking forward to doing it again next week.