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 (11:53 AM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Could be a slight delay before kickoff.
Mike (11:59 AM)
Just getting settled here and we'll shoot for a 12:05 kickoff.
Mike (12:04 PM)
Hope everyone is doing well today. Beautiful day in New England. Since we last chatted, we've had a few signings (WR Lavelle Hawkins, G Tyronne Green) and a few notable releases (DL Brandon Deaderick, DL Kyle Love). Let's get in to some more detail on those moves and more. Here we go...
Paco (the burg, VT)
Hi Mike,After Deaderick's release, you offered a restrained and reasonable view as to what might have caused it. With Love now being released so shortly afterward and turning what was a position of great training camp depth into a little more of a question mark, do you still attribute these to some unknown off field issues or has your thinking changed?Thanks for the chats!
Mike (12:07 PM)
Paco, the first thing I'd say is that the Patriots obviously knew of Love's situation when they released Deaderick. So this wasn't a case of them regretting a move with Deaderick because they all of a sudden learned something new about Love. My take on Deaderick is that the Patriots were OK with his on-field performance but it was the other things that came with the player that led them to move on. What those "other things" are, I can't say for sure, but it caught my eye when Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet wrote the other day that a source told him Deaderick's work ethic had been an issue since he joined the team, and that there was a feeling from some he had become "complacent."
Mike (12:07 PM)
I trust Tom Curran and don't think he would just throw that out there. Here is the link: http://www.csnne.com/blog/patriots-talk/complacent-deaderick-lands-jags
Mike (12:10 PM)
Teammates felt Deaderick was a talented guy who might not have been at the same maturity level of others in the locker room. I don't want to slam Deaderick on his way out the door. I thought he was a solid contributor and the Patriots obviously felt the same way because he was playing meaningful snaps for them at the end of the year. You can't have it both ways. I think this probably falls into the category of "when you sign a player/draft a player, you get everything that comes with them."
Paul M (NH)
Do you think this increases Cunningham's chances to make team with theses DT's being released as Cunningham played there a little last year?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Paul, I don't personally see it as being connected to Cunningham, who I put more in the end/interior sub rusher group. To me, Love and Deaderick were more early-down DTs. Cunningham, to me, is a guy who has to earn the trust back from the coaching staff. Really thought he let the team down last year with his suspension.
Corey (NW ohio)
Mike, is it possible they are doing away with the run stuffer mind set and going for more speed?
Mike (12:14 PM)
Corey, in the case of Deaderick and Love, I think the issue is more depth than anything because I wouldn't be surprised to learn that BB views a Kelly/Armstead combo as comparable to Love/Deaderick next to Wilfork. I don't think it's revisionist history to say that, because I didn't view Love/Deaderick as roster locks after Kelly/Armstead were brought in as competition. But I did think Love/Deaderick would be around to compete, because they've shown they can contribute. ...
Mike (12:15 PM)
But on the overall point, I do think it's notable that the team isn't playing those big DTs as much as they once did. In the 3-4, they used to have the 3 bigs on the field (Wilfork, Seymour, Warren). In the 4-3, they really only have two (Wilfork, Deaderick/Love/Kelly/Armstead). So there has been a change in that regard.
I read the story about the Pats offensive line. I don't buy Cannon displacing Connolly, do you. Where does Silva come up with that? Connolly may have struggled a bit last year, but, I just haven't seen enough out of Cannon to think this way.
Mike (12:17 PM)
Dan, I read that as well. I appreciated Evan Silva's breakdown of every offensive line in the NFL. Provided some good context. As for Connolly vs. Cannon, I lean toward Connolly. I could see a scenario where Cannon competes at right guard, espcially with Connolly recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but I still view Connolly as the top guy there.
Hey Mike! I literally just read an article blasting the patriots for releasing Kyle Love. The article claims the only reason he was released was due to his recent diagnosis of type-2 diabetes. Is there more to the story?
Mike (12:22 PM)
Justin, there is always more to the story. I think it's important to gather all the facts before blasting anyone. As I understand it, Love wasn't cleared to participate. So when that happens, there are a few options -- a reserve list and a release are two of them. For all we know, the Patriots gave Love the option to go on a reserve list and he declined, preferring his release. Until I learn more facts, I'll withhold judgment.
Sebastian Vollmer (Deutschland)
Remember when you said during a chat last August that if you could either sign me or Patrick Chung to a long term deal you would choose Chung? That stung. Let this be a reminder that a single year can make a HUGE difference. Thoughts Mike?
Mike (12:23 PM)
Should have never doubted you, Sebastian. I like that you hold me accountable. Adding context, I believe the reason I said it at the time was that it would take another year to gain more comfort in your health/back issues. Fair?
Dave (Elmira, NY)
Don't see them replacing Connolly. He has the best yard per return of anyone on the team.
Mike (12:23 PM)
LOL, Dave. That said, I think it's also fair to say Connolly didn't play up to his prior level of performance in 2012.
The timing is bad sure but come on guys. We're reacting to the release of Love and Deaderick as if it was two big name players. They played their role and the team is moving on from 3-4 to 4-3. It has to be scheme based. The realeases are too close together and not performance (in camp) based.
Mike (12:24 PM)
Eric, two different circumstances and context is everything here. I didn't view either of them as roster locks, but did think they'd be around to compete instead of being released in mid-May. Nothing more, nothing less.
Do you consider Justin Francis to be in a lock, a probable, or a "fighting for his life" situation when it comes to making the 2013 roster?
Mike (12:27 PM)
Oliver, would put him in the "probable" category. Special teams contributions/pass rush situational type guy in 2012 who has a chance to build on that. Good work ethic. I like the Ninkovich/Jones combo and then you really have a young group there in what should be a good competition -- Cunningham, Francis, Bequette, potentially Jamie Collins, Michael Buchanan.
Gary (No VA)
Could some of Love/Deaderick decision be related to the expected jump in the development of Marcus Forston? Is he still on the roster?
Mike (12:29 PM)
Gary, I don't think the Patriots look at Forston and say 'We can now cut two players who played significant snaps for us over the last three years." It's just not sound business at this time on the NFL calendar. Maybe you make that decision in mid-to-late August after a competition unfolds. But in this case, you're eliminating your depth before you have to, and that's why I think these decisions were made more with off-field considerations in mind. As for Forston, he spent most of last year on the practice squad and at one point Vince Wilfork told me that he thinks he will help this team down the road. Maybe a little UMiami love there, but still notable from this viewpoint.
I can't see Belicheck cutting Love just because he has diabetes. Plenty of pro athletes have been successful with diabetes. I gotta think there is something else behind Love getting cut or some more info on his health that we have not heard yet. What is your take?
Mike (12:32 PM)
Branden, his health is part of the consideration because they designated him "non-football illness" when releasing him. That said, we were all watching closely last season when Love saw his snaps reduced down the stretch in favor of Brandon Deaderick. So it's not like this is an "all-of-a-sudden" type of thing in terms of thier viewpoint of Love's play. If I had to make an educated guess, I think the coaching staff probably was down on Love a bit last year after the club signed him to a two-year extension and gave him a $500,000 signing bonus. His performance in 2012 wasn't at the same level as 2011.
Mike (12:32 PM)
That was probably part of the consideration too.
AveMass (Longmeadow Ma.)
Keeping with the "DT's release" theme : Looking back on your time covering the Pats , Who do think was their single worse release ? ( using 20/20 hindsight )
Mike (12:33 PM)
First thought that came to mind was trading Mike Vrabel. Looking back, a regrettable one for them.
Toddrick [via mobile]
Will the Pats sign another DE on the market
Mike (12:34 PM)
Toddrick, I'm probably in the minority on this one. I don't think they need one right now, although Trevor Scott (22 percent of the defensive snaps last year; good game Dec. 2 vs. Dolphins) is someone they still have on their radar. I could see them going with a bigger-bodied DT after the Deaderick/Love releases.
Martin Prince (Springfield)
Why does it seem that every time an existing Patriots player achieves All-Pro status (e.g., Curtis Martin, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, Asante, Wes Welker, etc,) and is up for contract renewal or extension, they wind up getting traded or become a target for controversy? Please don't use the salary cap as an excuse!
Mike (12:36 PM)
Martin, it often isn't easy when it comes to negotiations, but there are plenty on the other side of the equation that should be mentioned over the years -- Tom Brady, Jerod Mayo, Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez.
Carla Tortelli (Boston,MA)
I read an interesting piece recently on draft reaches in the Belichick era. Always a lot talk about picks that don't work out and not enough about picks that do. Brady aside, Samuel 4th round, Gronk & Hernandez 2nd
Mike (12:37 PM)
Carla, not sure if this is the one you're talking about, but I put together a list on "outlier" picks in the Belichick era. Here is the link:
Mike (12:37 PM)
Mike (12:39 PM)
I took some heat in the comments section of that blog entry, and I understand why. Some people made the point that you can't list any picks after the fourth round in that category. That's a good argument. What I meant was players selected well in advance of their projection, or those who weren't really on any radar to the point that TV didn't have highlights ready for their selection, or the team had to dig up a biography on the player because it wasn't readily available. I know that's a loose interpretation, and it isn't black and white. ...
Mike (12:40 PM)
I remember reading a piece in 2002 in which a Boston-based columnist quoted a scout on Deion Branch, saying the Patriots reached for him in the second round when his team had him as a fifth. Branch was worth the 2. It's always interesting how those things work out -- or don't work out.
Ari (wh) [via mobile]
Mike- was armond armstead eligible to participate in the rookie minicamp? How does he look from a size / athleticism standpoint?
Mike (12:42 PM)
Yes, Ari. 6-5, 298 for Armstead. Solid physical makeup.
Mike (12:42 PM)
Played mostly 3-technique (outside shade on guard) at USC. Played a little inside and at end in CFL. Has some flexibility, but I see him as an interior presence in the 4-3 in that Wilfork/Kelly/Forston etc. group.
Mike - with the release of Deaderick and Love, are the Pats clearing the decks for a veteran D Line signing or is a vote of confidence in the less experienced players?
Mike (12:44 PM)
Jim, I don't view it as a vote of confidence for others as much as the team deciding it was comfortable moving on from Deaderick/Love based on their specific situations. They haven't even put on pads or had a real practice, so it's hard for me to imagine they would have looked at Armond Armstead in four weeks of conditioning work and said, 'I think we can let Deaderick go now based on what we see.'
Mike:Please talk me off the ledge! What is going on in PATSville? All of these "contributors" getting cut. Either BB knows he has really upgraded with new players, or these guys, like, LLoyd were not good clubhouse guys and he simply is getting rid of problems. Which is it?
Mike (12:46 PM)
Karl, I don't like kicking players when they're on their way out the door. Don't think that's the way to go. In the cases of Lloyd, Deaderick and Love, my viewpoint is that the Patriots felt like their on-field contributions were suffice. With each of them, it was something different off the field that led to their decision.
Who do you predict will be starting at WR week #1?
Mike (12:47 PM)
Denny, I'll go Dobson-Amendola as the starting WRs. I think that would be the Patriots' best-case scenario.
Eyeball Art (Living the Dream in NH)
We now have a far less capable run-stuffing d-line - which was our only real defensive plus last year. Do you agree?
Mike (12:48 PM)
I think it's too early to say that. In the end, I don't think run-stuffing will be a concern; as it's been, it will be if they can get enough heat on the opposing quarterback.
CaptFox (New England)
If you could have waived your magic draft wand and instantly added any player from the 2013 draft : Who would it have been & why ?
Mike (12:50 PM)
Fun one: I thought the can't-miss players for the Patriots were guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, cornerback Dee Milliner -- and all were gone early. And then a little later, receivers Markus Wheaton and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson were guys I liked for them.
Mike (12:50 PM)
Wheaton's speed/complete package made me think he was the best fit for them. Wreh-Wilson's size/intangibles had me thinking along those lines as well.
I'm putting the over-under of Rutgers players on the 53-man roster at 4. What's your take?
Mike (12:51 PM)
Perfectly placed because McCourty, Ryan and Harmon are locks, and Francis is in that "probable" category.
Dylan (San Diego)
Hi Mike, I will mix it up for you since I am sure you are sick of the DT questions. If you were to make a prediction on which rookies/UDFA will make the team, who would you pick? (asides from Collins and Dobson)
Mike (12:54 PM)
WR T.J. Moe stands out based on receiving the highest total of guaranteed money ($30,000) among rookie free agents. Otherwise, it's hard to answer now without seeing any of them play. Cory Grissom, the DT from South Florida, could have a chance based on the Love/Deaderick releases but it's way early to go there IMO.
Dum Dum Dugan (Boston,MA)
Do you feel Jamie Collins will have a Chandler Jones-type rookie season?
Mike (12:58 PM)
I think he has further to go than Jones did last year. Interestingly enough, I think Brandon Spikes' status could have some trickle-down effect on Collins. Even though they play a different position -- Spikes at middle linebacker, Collins more of a weakside/strongside projection -- my feeling is that Spikes is in somewhat of a "prove-it" type of situation with the coaching staff. I'll leave it there for now, but that's one position I'm going to be looking at closely in OTAs next week. I want to see who else is working at middle linebacker (Hightower? Mayo?) and what kind of trickle-down effect that could have on Collins possibly being thrust into a greater role if he can handle it.
Luther Van Dam (Minnesota)
Michael Jenkins seems to be in a squeeze for a position. Could BB be looking at him as a Hernandez backup? Hernandez is a WR is TE clothing as far as route running. The big difference is blocking. Hernandez is an adequate blocker as a TE and a great blocker when compared against WRs. Does Jenkins have the blocking skills to fill Hernandez's niche?
Mike (12:59 PM)
I see Jenkins mostly as Dobson insurance, Luther. He's that outside receiver. Doesn't have the movement skills you'd be looking for in that H-back type from this view.
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, what do you make of the Tampa coaches coming up to Foxboro for a tutorial session. I can't imagine it was a one way street. What do you think they brought to the table for the Pats coaching staff? PS, for all the banter about your size you didn't look that much smaller than Vereen in your video interview. Hitting the weight room or picking up the kids?
Mike (1:03 PM)
Nicely done, Munchkin. With Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker out of the mix, that bumps Shane Vereen up a notch in the "perfect size" interview category for me. Nate Solder, not so much. On the Bucs coaches, I think both sides felt it was productive. "Think tank" type of set-up with exchange of ideas -- they split up the staffs by offense/defense -- while also talking about joint practice set-up. I think in a set-up like that, you can talk about how you view opponents, personnel, schemes etc. I know that's sort of general, but being open to others' viewpoints can be helpful/productive.
Ken behind the enemy lines in Upstate NY [via mobile]
Do you believe that the Patriots will use their 2 openihgs for more offensive line help or could it be for secondary help? I believe it can't hurt for one of each but if they would use more for DBs makes more sense.
Mike (1:05 PM)
Ken, if my math is right, they have 88 players right now -- 44 on offense, 39 on defense, and 5 specialists. Would guess defense for the final two spots, with at least one coming in the front seven.
Mike (1:05 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
It looks like the staff has a particular vision for the DL this year (less run-stuffing, more interior pass rush). Is it possible that the Pats wanted to give Deadrick and Love a chance to hook on elsewhere before training camp to give them a better shot at making another team? Seems like a thoughtful move by them.
Mike (1:08 PM)
Prasad, I don't think the moves were made with the intention to help the players or as a "classy" gesture. In the end, it's a bottom-line business and I think this is a bottom-line situation: Bill Belichick makes decisions that are in the best interests of the team and he didn't see the contributions of Deaderick and Love -- on and off the field -- as worthy of keeping them around. Time will tell if his decision is correct. I didn't see them as roster locks, but I'm also surprised they were cut in mid-May. I didn't expect the club to voluntary thin its depth at a hard-to-fill position.
what is your take on why the Pats did not go after a real speed merchant at WR to complete the total package of options for Brady - seems they suffer each year kn playoffs with no one consistently to stretch field and keep safeties deep
Mike (1:10 PM)
PJ, the first thought I had was Bethel Johnson/2003. They didn't come much faster than Johnson, whom the Patriots traded up for in the second round that year, but he wasn't a complete receiver. Really, he was a one-trick pony. So you're trying to balance the two thoughts -- everyone wants speed, but are you a complete receiver? Tough to find that mix. I thought Markus Wheaton was the best choice for them in that area. We'll see how it all turns out. Dobson can still run, but I wouldn't call that his defining asset.
Big fan since the MWN days. You and Tom E are the best in the business. That said, I have a bone to pick with you. I think this is a critical offseason for Brady to develop some chemistry with the WR corps. You have been pretty easy on TB12 over the years when it comes to chemistry with WRs, often placing blame not at the feet of Brady, but rather with the WRs themselves (not altogether unjustified by the way) or with personnel (also, not unjustified in many cases i.e. Chad Jax). I know that TB is exacting and demands precision, etc etc, but how come Manning and Brees can develop and utilize non-heralded WRs and Brady cannot? At this point, doesn't it speak volumes to you that they have not developed a consistent WR since 2002? TB12 is clearly one of the best in the business, but come on Mike, its time to at least examine the possibility that some of this is on TB12 himself.
Mike (1:12 PM)
Very fair point, Marc, and I think I've always been pretty up-front about Brady's role in the process. He shares in the responsibility in part of the team's struggles to develop young WRs. But the reason I'm not bullish on the thought is that it's not like any of the young WRs have gone on to greater things elsewhere, which tells me the issue probably falls closer to the receiver himself than anything.
Mike (1:13 PM)
I think this will be a good challenge for Brady, testing his patience with the young guys. It is often said that Brady is a coach on the field. He'll need to also be a coach from the perspective of helping these young WRs develop. Well said, Marc.
Gary (No VA)
Doesn't Dobson have good speed?
Mike (1:13 PM)
He's not speed definicient, Gary, but some analysts/teams viewed him as more of an intermediate-type receiver than a real home-run threat.
Mike, you can't keep bringing up Markus Wheaton in comparison to Aaron Dobson when they also took Josh Boyce, who has similar measurables to Wheaton. Just throwing it out there.
Mike (1:14 PM)
Nick, Boyce a little bigger than Wheaton, but like you said, runs very well. Wheaton has the edge when it comes to college production.
Hi Mike. My question for you pertains to Dont'a Hightower's role in the team's sub-defense. You have said in the past, and I would tend to agree, that given his draft position as a late first rounder, one would expect him to be able to effectively contribute as a 3-down player. What I am confused about is what the Patriots staff envisioned his role being on 3rd downs when he was drafted. Field pointed out Dont'a's struggles playing in space in his piece on the Saints earlier today, and, at the time, NFL.com's draft profile included descriptions including: "He is not the most athletic player in space...Hightower doesn't quite possess the speed to be a true sideline-to-sideline inside linebacker ....Hightower has a big frame and can labor at times to move in extended spaces on the field. He excels within the box but likely won't run down many scatbacks at the next level..." etc, etc. So, is this an example of the patriots seeing (incorrectly, it seems) something other scouts didn't? Or, were they hoping he would add more of a pass-rush dimension on 3rd downs that he did as a rookie? He's a talented player, no doubt, but his skill set seems a bit redundant in light of Spikes? Similar limitations. Appreciate your insight.
Mike (1:18 PM)
John, we should have some thoughts on Hightower posted on the site shortly. The thing I remember about Hightower is that he played some end in Alabama's nickel defense, and rushed the passer. So when I think of his contributions in a sub defense, I don't think it has to be coverage-based. Why not turn him loose off the edge? I do think he has more flexibility in sub than we've seen. Going to be interesting to see how a year in the system maybe expands his role.
Is it September yet?
Mike (1:20 PM)
Let's end on this one, Justin. Can't wait for the season. Already booked the first trip to Buffalo. At the same time, I'm looking forward to the next few months, which are some of the best in New England. Have two young ones at home and there is something about the family vacation in the summer that hits the sweet spot here. We'll keep things rolling here at ESPNBoston, as it should be another great year.
Mike (1:20 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week.