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 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (10:59 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our weekly chat. Will be back in a few to get started.
Mike (11:03 AM)
The story of the week is injuries, particularly on defense. LB Jerod Mayo goes on season-ending IR, joining DT Vince Wilfork. That's a direct hit at the heart of the Patriots' defense. And with CB Aqib Talib currently looking unlikely to play Sunday against the Jets, that is arguably the team's 3 best defenders.
Mike (11:04 AM)
I think the Patriots have the depth to overcome it. We'll see if they prove that viewpoint correct. Stopping the run is No. 1 priority this week. Could be the type of week where the Patriots really feel the loss of Wilfork.
Mike (11:04 AM)
What's on your mind?
I feel people have always given Jerod Mayo way too much credit. Before everyone freaks out let me explain. He deserves credit for being the captain of the defense and being the 'quarterback' out there, but I think his incredible tackle numbers are more attributed to the amount of snaps he plays than anything. More often than not, he is making tackles after a 5 or 6 yard gain instead of behind the line of scrimmage, and is rarely seen breaking up passes and forcing fumbles. Simply, he has always seemed sort of soft with no big play making ability. That said, I would sure like to have him, but I'm not too worried about losing him.
Mike (11:05 AM)
Adam, when I consider Mayo's value to the defense, the tackle numbers are lower on the list. It's the things you mentioned -- leadership, getting everyone lined up, good range in the sub packages. Tough blow to the defense. Also one I believe they can overcome.
Mike (11:08 AM)
To me, that is the theme of the week -- depth. This is a staple of the Bill Belichick team-building philosophy. It's why sports-talk radio often lights up when he more often than not trades down in the draft to accumulate picks. It's why the disciplined management of the salary cap, which sometimes seems inflexible, is a big part of the team's work. It's why he wouldn't have traded up for Julio Jones in 2011 and given up five picks. ... Whether that's the right approach or not can be debated. But what can't be debated from this view is that the reason the Patriots take that approach is because of what they are living through right now.
John -New Jersey [via mobile]
If Jamie Collins is asked to.play a bigger role now, do u think he is up to the challenge???
Mike (11:09 AM)
Collins has played 52 defensive snaps. His biggest issue is just knowing the defense. Things change out there fast. You have to make a check in a split second, and can you adjust? Sometimes just a split-second of hesitation is all it takes. I'm not sure he's ready because I am not privy to practice. But if he isn't, I think Dane Fletcher is more than a viable option that a team can win with. He's a good football player.
What is your take on Ridley? Seem to run with a purpose on Sunday. Do you think he will keep that up or go back to a even time share?
Mike (11:12 AM)
Ridley has been running with a purpose since Week 2 and I feel like I've been pretty consistent on this one. He screwed up in the season opener from a ball-security standpoint and paid the price by being benched. But I really think since that point he has been solid running the ball, even if the stats haven't always shown it. If we go back to the Week 3 game against the Buccaneers, the Patriots were awful on their first few drives. It wasn't until they turned to Ridley, out of the 3-receiver, 1-TE package, that things settled down. I thought he was sort of an unsing hero in that game, even though the stats didn't show it. I expect him to get the bulk of the snaps as the "big back." Bolden the "passing back" right now.
Gary (Arlington, VA)
Spikes is a playmaker. Can he overcome the negative karma from the off-season to become a big part of the captainless defense?
Mike (11:14 AM)
Yes, Gary. Spikes is one of the more interesting players in the locker room and I don't think the offseason affects him at all. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think he looks at things the same way most players would. I had a great chat with him last week in which I told him that he's now one of my favorite players to watch on defense, especially when he plays like he did against the Bengals. He responded by saying how much that means to him because that's why he plays for the game -- for respect. Not for the money. Not for the lifestyle etc. He just wants the respect from those who watch him, play with him etc., and he was flattered that so many people from the Bengals came up to him to compliment him on his performance that day. We know his limitations, but the Patriots need him now. I expect to see a lot of him, especially this week. This is a Spikes type game -- downhill and ... BAM!
Riaz (Berea, OH)
Mike, do you think the Pats are regretting the Amendola signing? He is falling right in line with his history of getting injured and Welker is blowing up in Denver
Mike (11:16 AM)
Riaz, I don't think they look at it the same way many of us do. They aren't judging things after six games. That was a decision made with longer-range considerations in mind. Now, if you held their feet to the fire and said, "After six games, would you like a do-over?", I think we all know the answer.
Do you envision the Pats possibly moving Nink to SLB to take Mayo's spot and starting a bigger DE like Buchanan or Bequette?
Mike (11:20 AM)
Eric, it's possible, but I think it makes them a little slower at LB than you'd ideally like. I also don't think Buchanan and Bequette are strong enough against the run, from what I've seen, to feel comfortable with that for extended snaps this week. I've batted around the idea of playing a DL like Andre Neblett or Marcus Forston in an end-type role this week at times, with the Jets' running game in mind. Just not sure it's the best plan, but the idea of getting bigger in the front 7 is something I could envision being discussed by the coaching staff this week.
Scott (Monroe CT)
If I were to ask who is the MVP of the team after 6 games? My answer is Talib, he is so important to the defense right now, this injury worries me.
Mike (11:21 AM)
Mike (11:21 AM)
From a pure football perspective, it's been enjoyable to watch how a true matchup man corner can be such a difference-maker. He's answered every challenge. Shades of Ty Law when at his best IMO.
DL is scary to me right now. Although I have been very impressed with Chris Jones, its looking likely that we won't have Kelly again this week. What have you seen for progress of the other DL like Vellano, Forston, Jones etc.
Mike (11:23 AM)
You have to figure the Jets will challenge the Patriots right up the middle. Chris Jones was solid last week, but it's one thing to do it against Brian De La Puente and another against Nick Mangold. These young linemen are giving the Patriots everything they have. But you still see the leaks at times.
Dan (Leominster, Ma)
Mike, While I know the Pats players are professionals and work hard to prepare and win every time they take the field, does seeing things like Sheldon Richardson's and Rex Ryan's comments clearly mocking the offense add any fuel to their fire?Thanks
Mike (11:25 AM)
Dan, I think it does adds fuel to the focus they have in preparations. That stuff doesn't decide games, but do I think it might raise their ire? Yes. Not a lot of love there.
What is the latest with Armond Armstead? He was due to begin practicing with the team this week, but he's not. Sounds like he's done for the year, eh?
Mike (11:27 AM)
Delevie, he is eligible to practice this week (and up to Week 11, as part of the new rules this year), but has not started practicing yet. That tells me he is not yet ready, but it's too early to count him out entirely for 2013.
Charles (Oscoda, MI)
Do you think Gronk Will be out there against the Jets? Also, How do you view the expanding role of Aaron Dobson? He sure looks like he is turning into a weapon for Brady and an intregal part of the Offense.
Mike (11:29 AM)
Charles, not sure on Gronkowski. Would guess no, but it's just a guess. On Dobson, I like to see him out there because I think at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he is more of that true outside-the-numbers presence/red-zone presence you want. His playing time in the red zone this past Sunday was an adjustment as he wasn't on the field in those situations the week before. Smart adjustment to utilize his size when the space gets tight. That said, the drops are killers. I thought that was supposed to be a strength of his coming out of Marshall. Seemed like some false advertising. But when you turn to young players, these are some of the growing pains you endure.
Any idea how long Talib will be out?
Mike (11:30 AM)
Not sure, Michael, but would be surprised to see him this week.
Hey Mike, why haven't we seen more Josh Boyce, really like watching him in college?
Mike (11:31 AM)
Good question, John, and not sure the answer. Looks like they are more comfortable with Collie at this point, which tells me it could just be a whole "getting up to speed" with the offense type deal.
Mike (11:31 AM)
Here is last week's football journey on Josh Boyce: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4750853/football-journey-josh-boyce
Everyone (including, today, Gronk's agent Rosenhaus) that Gronk has not been medically cleared to play. Can we find out what exactly is the remaning medical issue or issues that remain? If we're told "the bone needs more time to get stronger," we'd understand. The vacuum is frustrating to say the least.
Mike (11:32 AM)
Psychological. When does Gronkowski himself feel he is mentally ready to get back on the field?
Mike (11:33 AM)
Go through five surgeries since last November and I can understand the mindset. As team president Jonathan Kraft said, the football field isn't a place to be if you don't think you are ready. Every play is like being involved in a car crash.
Given what the Jets do on O, do you envision more 4-3 (with Collins getting a huge bump in snaps) or 4-2-5 sub package (which, I would think, increases Ryan's playtime)?
Mike (11:36 AM)
T, I've been trying to think of the best plan and have batted around a few ideas. I think it's more of a base defense game this week. If we go back to Week 2 when the Patriots played the Jets, it was about an even split (31 snaps in base). I'm just projecting what Rex Ryan is thinking and why wouldn't he try to play power football against a Patriots' front-7 that is without two of its key players?
Hello, Mike. I always delight in your perspective and plausible ideas. I noticed some concern in running back's blitz pickup, as sometimes bolden went into his route sooner than expected, leaving Brady open for the blitzer. Can you comment on any adjustments or personal that could help in this department, especially how they are going to be challenged by Rex Ryan's scheme?
Mike (11:39 AM)
Frank, very astute obsveration. I specifically noticed Bolden and Ridley with blocking breakdowns, and possibly one for Develin and Blount too (hard to truly tell without knowing the play-call and check at the line). They miss Vereen (and Woodhead) in that area. Should have never let Woodhead get away, IMO, but that's over and done with at this point. Part of it should give credit to the defensive scheme. The Rob Ryan and Rex Ryan pressure schemes create issues like that -- not just for backs but for linemen too. I think the answer is that they just have to block it better. There is no waving a magic wand or anything like that.
Mike, it was nice to see Collie get in the mix in that final winning drive against the Saints. Do you think he could be a significant factor this week, with Amendola likely out?
Mike (11:41 AM)
I do, Michael. He played 9 snaps in that game as the No. 5 receiver (bumped up to No. 4 when Amendola went out). If he remains the No. 4 from the get-go this week, I think a realistic expectation is that he could play 20-plus snaps. They are using that four-receiver package more often.
"Every play is like being involved in a car crash." that is the dumbest analogy I have ever heard. Nobody should be playing football then.
Mike (11:42 AM)
Come talk to some of the players. I've never played the game but there's a reason why some of them, as they hit 30, say, "Just a few more years, I want to make sure I can still walk and play with my kids."
tim (keene) [via mobile]
Any thoughts on Collins vs Fletcher?
Mike (11:42 AM)
Youth, athleticism and upside vs. veteran know-how and steadiness. Both can help. Just a matter of who practices better.
Chuck (Oscoda, Mi)
Mike, TE Hoomanonuwi has done a great job as you've stated. But who do you think would fit the Pats offense as the move TE. Someone FA that's open on the street? Draft pick? That move Te position works great with Gronk out there....
Mike (11:43 AM)
No one, Chuck, who would make a bigger impact than their No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. Which is why this offense has morphed away from the 2-TE stuff and more into the two-TE stuff. I think it will stay that way, mostly, when Gronkowski comes back.
WHats up with the Gronk stories about discontent? these comments aren't coming from nowhere right? Non-jokingly, do you think these reports are well-sourced? ora sort of friend of a guy who said something that was taken the wrong way type stuff?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Mike, what we have is a situation with many layers. 1) Team; 2) Team doctor; 3) Player; 4) Player's family/agent; 5) Independent doctor. With so many layers, and different agendas, I can't say I'm surprised at how it's all swirled in today's media/twitter landscape. Not sitting in judgment of anything/anyone because I'm far from perfect. Just one of those complex situations based on the dynamics in play.
Hi,In terms of WR depth chart, where's Julian Edelman for this week?Thanks!
Mike (11:48 AM)
Ben, would think he's in the No. 2 or 3 spot. Expecting a lot of snaps as long as his health checks out.
Talib-- serious injury, reaggravation of the same thing that hampered him last year, or just a twinge and he'll be fine?
Mike (11:49 AM)
Wish I had more for you on this one, Mike. Don't know. Saw him walking through the locker room earlier this week and didn't look too bad. But that doesn't really mean much.
Eric (Hard Hittn, CT)
Love your work Mike. What effect will the losses of Vince, Mayo, and Talib have on the Patriots offense during practice over the weeks to come? The defense has been carrying the team thus far, and I have to think that practicing against a solid unit raises the level of competition as the team makes its weekly preparation. This might be easy to over look, but I think not working against top quality partners will stunt the growth of this budding offense.
Mike (11:50 AM)
Eric, I think that's a minor concern compared to what it means for the actual defense. Those are 3 core players. I believe they have the depth and coaching to overcome it, but that's a tall talk. Maybe the toughest challenge for the coaching staff since 2008 when Brady went down.
Should the Patriots go after Jay Ratliff?
Mike (11:51 AM)
Davis, he's not healthy and won't play in 2013. He'd be more of a 2014 consideration.
Zach (Pats Fan)
Hey Mike, Do you think now with the losses of Wilfork and Mayo that the Patriots can beat Denver in the AFC?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Yes, Zach, I wouldn't count this team out. As we see on a week to week basis, the picture changes in an instant. Who knows what the Broncos and Patriots will look like on Nov. 24? I thought Bill Belichick said it best on Wednesday: "Who knows exactly how the wheel is going to spin, who is going to be where, but we all have to prepare for that."
Mike - forward thinking here. At what point is IR a serious consideration for Gronk? Week 10? Week 12? Ever? Bottom line, if he goes 16 games and still isn't cleared, would he still take up a playoff roster spot?
Mike (11:54 AM)
I don't think that's part of the consideration right now.
Josh (NY, New York)
Mike, great work! Did Ballard ever get looks by other teams? I was a bit surprised he didn't make it with the Pats. Was it just his body couldn't hold up because he seemed to be playing a decent amount of snaps as the preseason went on.
Mike (11:54 AM)
Maybe a tryout in Baltimore if I remember? But no signing.
Mike, why not trade a 2nd round pick for Josh Gordon? I know he's one strike away from a full season suspension, but the opportunity to play with Tom Brady and for the Patriots, you would think, would be some serious incentive to stay on the field. He is a dynamic play maker and one that could elevate this offense. I can't really envision them taking someone who could make a bigger impact in the 2nd round next year. I think you have to curb the character concerns and go for it, don't you?
Mike (11:55 AM)
I don't, T. I think they'll be fine at WR. More concern here on the DT. Any good DTs you could ship that second-rounder for?
Tom Brady (Foxboro)
Why did Edelman snub me on my high-five last game? He isn't made at me, is he?
Mike (11:56 AM)
LOL. As you noted, he was just locked in on the upcoming punt return. Lot of love between those two.
Christian (Boston )
What's the plan with Bequette?
Mike (11:57 AM)
Christian, he is behind Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Michael Buchanan on the depth chart. Don't see that changing at this point. Has played sparingly.
Josh (NY, New York)
Mike, I get the anti-Gordon love. I don't think he would be a great fit here but how about Hakeem Nicks? I know its late and could stunt the young guys a bit, but he has great hands, a downfield threat and everybody says he is a really smart guy. Seems like a good fit no?
Mike (11:57 AM)
Sure, but what would it cost? And if you don't re-sign him next year, I wouldn't give up a 2 for him. I'd focus more on defense. I think they will be fine at WR.
Anyone notice that Edelman has more catches than Wes Walker with the same yards per catch? Isn't he the replacement that everyone envisioned him to be? More so than Amendola at this early point
Mike (11:59 AM)
Eric, Edelman has been terrific for the Patriots this year. While his production has topped Welker's at this point, I think even he'd agree that Welker is in another class of player.
Hey mike,Steven Gostowski is slowly becoming a fantasy football stud. Do you think the offense just needs more time to become better in the red zone or do you think by this point in the season they are what they are?
Mike (12:00 PM)
I think they can get better. Gronkowski will make a big difference.
Give some Framingham love, Mike! Seems like Brady takes more shots on pass plays this season. This O-Line is supposed to be top notch... so is it a decision making process with Brady being hesitent with the new/young WRs, or scheme and protection break downs?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Vinny, up and down for the o-line this year in pass protection. I'd give some credit to the defenses for that. Those are some good defensive fronts (Buffalo, NY Jets, Buccaneers, Bengals, Saints). I think they'll be fine. The other guys get paid too.
Loved the Sam Berns story that was on the blog! People can hate the Patriots all they want, but they are a class organization, and it all starts at the top with Mr. Kraft. Can't think of a kinder, more caring owner in all of sports. Do you have any other "behind the scenes" stories of Mr. Kraft's generosity?
Mike (12:09 PM)
Let's end on this one, Ryan. I'll share a little personal story here. When we had our first child in March of 2009, there were some serious complications that we had. We had previously learned of them at an 18-week ultrasound, which changed the complexion of the next 4-5 months. Anyone who goes through something like that realizes that not too much else matters at that point, and when word somehow got to Robert Kraft, he reached out to ask if there was anything he could do to help. As you know, he has some strong connections to the medical community in Boston. We were in good hands, and we are fortunate that everything has worked out, but I thought it was quite kind that he took the time to see if there was anything he could do. Now, I want to make this clear: That doesn't affect my ability to be objective in this job. But it does reflect that we are all human beings and not robots, and just like everyone else, we have our ups and downs. My family appreciated the gesture, and we feel blessed that everything is in a good place right now.
Mike (12:10 PM)
Some more details on that here, as it is obviously something that has become one of the most important causes in our lives: http://www.mikereiss.net/important-causes/
Mike, you wouldn't do Gordon for a 2nd round pick, but what about Phil Taylor for a 3rd? I would also do that deal in a heartbeat, and we know there has been interest at some level in Taylor before. Jurrell Casey could be another DT they could get for a 2nd or 3rd pick, potentially?
Mike (12:11 PM)
Let's end on some football. That's a bit too heavy to end on...Yes, T, I would do Taylor for a 3 in a heartbeat. Would the Browns really do that?
Scott (Monroe CT)
I know it is only Thursday, but a prediction for the game Sunday?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Scott, I could be way off on this one, but I was thinking we might see some points. I went Patriots 31, Jets 21. I think this offense is ready to carry some of the load.
Mike (12:12 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week.