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 (10:58 AM)
Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few...
Mike (11:00 AM)
Let's get right into the questions this week. Bye week. Good time to step back and assess. 7-2. Hasn't always looked pretty but Patriots have put themselves in good position for the second half.
Kevin C (San Diego)
A bye week is a time for the players to rest up, get treatment on their injuries, and see there families. Not unlike us fans, we get a Sunday off, nothing to worry about, we get to rest up our beer guts and see our families. What do you do on the bye week Mike?
Mike (11:02 AM)
Kevin, will be a family weekend, which is always nice. Going to take my wife out for dinner in the North End and try to keep the computer closed. Along those lines, I kindly ask the Patriots to avoid any transactions or any off-field transgessions. Thank you, in advance, for your cooperation!
Dan (New Haven, CT)
If Edelman is just a good punt returner, why not have him return kickoffs as well?
Mike (11:03 AM)
Great question, Dan, and one we were asking on the set of Patriots All-Access this week. My theory would be that it's about limiting the injury risk. Has been playing a lot of snaps on offense and as the primary punt returner, do they want to put one more thing on his plate. We know his injury history.
Pete NYC [via mobile]
I've been waiting since march to hear something on armond armstead can we expect to see him make his debut in practice after this week or is this disclosed surgery for an illness going to keep him out this year?
Mike (11:04 AM)
Pete, he has two more weeks to start practicing before we can close the book on him playing this year. So if he isn't on the practice field by the time the Patriots are preparing for the Broncos, then we'll know he is out of the mix.
Mike (11:07 AM)
A quick Armstead story: He has been in the locker room a little bit more in recent weeks at the time reporters are present. I was walking in and sort of taking stock of the scene when he reached his hand out and said, "Hey Mike, how's it going?" I was surprised, in part because we've really only talked once or twice. I took that brief encounter as one that reflected a player who pays attention to details. The Patriots school their players on this stuff, and he seems like a sharp kid.
John (Andover (MA))
Love your work, Mike. I has to be pretty clear to anyone watching game film that the Pats offense moves much better when Ridley is running on 1st & 2nd downs and in short-yardage situations. Given that, do you feel he can finally just perform w/o having to worry about being benched every time he fumbles?
Mike (11:08 AM)
John, I don't think there is any question about Ridley's place as the team's top back. I thought the coaching staff maybe over-thought some things in recent weeks with him. As for the fumbles, a big part of it will be how they happened. Was it just a good play, like Troy Polamalu's? Or was it careless ball security? So tough to answer, but I thought Bill Belichick's vote of confidence after the game Sunday was telling.
Mike can we get a win-loss prediction for the second half of the season?
Mike (11:09 AM)
David, I predicted 12-4 at the start of the season, so I'll stick with it. But I wouldn't be surprised with anything at this point.
What was your preseason superbowl pick, and your current superbowl pick?
Mike (11:09 AM)
I always try to stick with my predictions, Joey. I had the 49ers against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
CB (Murray Utah)
Hey Mike, nice way to go into the break for the pats. Interesting Pick up in Laquan Williams. We know his special teams contributions from the Ravens. What other areas may BB look to use him? Can he return kicks? would he show up on the WR depth chart? if so, where?
Mike (11:10 AM)
Just special teams CB. As we've seen in recent weeks, the coverage teams have sprung some leaks and they have 7 penalties on special teams in the last 3 games. He'll obviously be on the WR depth chart in the event of emergency, but if they're planning to rely on a player who has 4 catches in 23 career games, that's shaky ground to be standing on.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hi Mike - Just wondering.....what kind of locker-room vibe might you be able to pick up on, when the opponent is a road game against an NFC team like Carolina? It's a team they haven't seen in 4 years, and haven't visited in EIGHT. Do the players look forward to going somewhere new, or is it really just "business as usual" and you just go where the schedule tells you?
Mike (11:12 AM)
Brian, it's early yet because they didn't really do heavy Carolina prep on Tuesday, the lone day the players are in this week. A big theme is familiarity. Expect to hear a lot about that next week when they return -- getting familiar with their personnel etc.
Mike (11:12 AM)
Overall, I'd say more business than anything.
Preston Miami Fl [via mobile]
Hi Mike do you have any information on DE Justin Francis
Mike (11:13 AM)
Sure, Preston. Francis worked out for the team within the last week, which was the fist time he was eligible to do so after getting his injury settlement. They didn't sign him, but I wouldn't be surprised if they ultimately do. I think he can help them; it's probably just a matter of available roster spots. For example, I think he probably helps them more than Jake Bequette. But maybe financial considerations are keeping Bequette on the roster instead.
Mike could you envision the Patriots having all their backs active in the same game when Washington and Vereen return? they haven't had 5 backs active yet this year.
Mike (11:14 AM)
Yes, Paul, although Washington would probably be more of the pure kickoff returner. Bolden's knee also is a concern to monitor -- seems to be affecting him a bit.
Paul (Oxford, CT)
Hi Mike, I was wondering about Mankins. It seems like his play has slipped and he's been racking up the penalties. Do you think there is some kind of injury he's dealing with now?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Wouldn't be surprised if he's injured, Paul. That's one tough player. I'd say very good in the run-blocking game, with some uncharacteristic hiccups in pass protection. His six penalties are a team-high, double the next player on the list.
Alex (Raleigh, NC)
Hey Mike, I am really looking forward to the return of Shane Vereen against the Panthers next Monday. How has he looked in practice so far?
Mike (11:16 AM)
Alex, reporters only get to watch a limited portion of practice (stretching, jogging etc.). He should be ready to go based on the limited part of what I've seen, but it's hard to say it with conviction based on the limited sample.
Tom V (Outer Banks NC)
Carolina is playing great but haven't beaten a team with more than 3 wins. Do you think they are as good as their stats suggest or easy schedule?
Mike (11:17 AM)
Tom, I'm going to take a closer look at them over the next day or so to get a better feel. I do think it's fair to say we'll have a better feel for them over the next three games: at 49ers, vs. Patriots, at Dolphins. ...
Mike (11:18 AM)
... I caught a glimpse of them on TV and one thing that stood out was how general manager Dave Gettleman has seemingly attempted to build the team in the image of the Giants in the sense that they are big. I like those teams that look good getting off the bus. The Panthers qualify from the limited snapshot I've seen.
Danny Woodhead (Torry Pines Golf Course)
With Vereen coming back, will you still miss me?
Mike (11:18 AM)
Now you're just stalking me, Danny. Congratulations on leading the Chargers in receptions at this point in the season.
Mike, What's your opinion of the bad rap the AFC East gets as far as being one of the worst? They have done pretty good against NFC teams. Doesn't look like the worst in the league to me!
Mike (11:20 AM)
Dan, I'd say the division is much better than I anticipated. The Jets are probably the main reason why -- good defense. Credit to Rex Ryan, right? As much as it might pain some with Patriots ties to say it, he seems to have coached his tail off this year. As for the Dolphins, let's see how this issue with Incognito/Martin affects them. Looks ugly from afar.
Clearly it is too early to make definitive judgments on Jamie Collins, but is it fair to say that the early returns are not promising??
Mike (11:21 AM)
Dave, I think it depends on how you're viewing it. Based on his on-field contributions, I'd say it's been about what I'd expect from a second-round pick -- some flashes, some inconsistency, and chips in on special teams. If this is what it is going forward, that would be a disappointment. But I think most felt he had a long way to go when he got here, especially at a position like that which is tied heavily to the more complex passing game, but he clearly has physical tools that can be harnessed in time. This isn't the time to judge Collins IMO. Needs more time.
Is it reasonable to expect Aqib Talib to be back after the bye?
Mike (11:22 AM)
I believe so, James.
Mike, who are the candidates for release to make room for Vereen and possibly Armstead?
Mike (11:25 AM)
The Armstead decision won't have to come for a while, so I'd hold off on that one because an injury could change the picture. As for a player who might be let go to create room on the roster, Bequette and Forston are two that come to mind. They have practice squad eligibility, I believe, so they could still be with the team if they clear waivers.
David(Long Beach) [via mobile]
Mike can you please explain how Tommy Kelly goes from practicing to season IR? If a setback occurred why wouldn't they wait to see if I'd get better 2-4 weeks from when he last practiced?
Mike (11:26 AM)
David, it probably just comes down to the severity of the setback. I assume it was pretty serious to land him on IR.
Greg(Phoenix AZ) [via mobile]
Why do so many Pats fans expect a Larry Fitzgerald trade? Isn't he expensive?
Mike (11:27 AM)
Greg, we can always dream, right? I think that's what it is. Highly unlikely, of course, but fun to talk about.
Shawn(Dade County) [via mobile]
Do you gain appreciation of the respect given towards each player on the Patriots? Compared to the situation involving Incognito.
Mike (11:30 AM)
Shawn, I'm a bit uneasy about some of the stories I have read in various NFL cities the last week or so about how "this stuff doesn't happen with this team because..." As we learned here with Aaron Hernandez, there are always some blind spots with players. I would just say, in general, the Patriots have annually had what I'd describe as a "professional locker room." The core of players that sets the tone is generally solid. That, to me, is a credit to Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Co., and the type of player they target.
Josh Boyce(Practice Field) [via mobile]
Mr. Reiss can you please explain why I receive practice player of the week but still can't see game time action? And is this a representation of the team's long term picture for me? I need ANSWERS!!!
Mike (11:32 AM)
Josh, it's probably just a matter of consistency. As we've seen with Kenbrell Thompkins, some rookies flash early and then taper a bit. As we've seen with Aaron Dobson, some start slow and raise initial concerns before really picking it up. There is no one straight course for rookies. You have obvious physical tools and smarts. Just keep working and it could break your way at some point, likely in 2014.
Malik(St.Louis) [via mobile]
Overreaction as usual to Brady early struggles. Whenever faced with the idea of criticizing his play I think to myself "Would you prefer Ryan Mallet" didn't think so!!!!! Comments
Mike (11:32 AM)
Overreact? Us? In Boston and the New England region? I have no idea what you are talking about.
Mike (11:34 AM)
Just so we have it on the record, my response on if Brady was showing a decline as a player: http://espn.go.com/boston/story/_/page/reissmailbagweek1022/new-england-patriots-mailbag-tide-turns-tom-brady
Mike (11:34 AM)
For those who don't click the link, from Oct. 22, here is the short version: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!"
Mike, during the Miami game did you think, even if only for a second, that maybe it was time for Ryan Mallett?
Mike (11:35 AM)
No, Peter, I didn't. The only thing was Brady's hand and its condition, and how it was affecting him. But I honestly never thought it was Mallett time.
hiya Mike, has Ryan Allen been better than Mesko?Do you think the offense line depth is thin?Hope you enjoy the NORTH END.
Mike (11:37 AM)
Jack, Allen has been better than Mesko in terms of leg power, but is still a step behind IMO in control/direction (as evidenced by his 8 touchbacks). That's a skill that can develop. On the offensive line, I think the depth is pretty good. That was a pretty strong performance from Marcus Cannon on Sunday. That reflects good depth.
Hi Mike, how do you see the Panthers? A trap game? A shoot-out or a slow, grind-it-out game? I think the Patriots will be prepared.
Mike (11:37 AM)
I don't see how the Patriots, given the way the first nine games have unfolded, could fall into any trap. I see it as a tough, phsyical game, against a big quarterback. Still getting up to speed on the Panthers.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Shocked and pleasantly surprised. It's been 2 weeks since we've seen someone asking why the Pats don't sign Richard Seymour...
Mike (11:38 AM)
LOL Tman. Isaac Sopoaga played 26 snaps Sunday and his strength and power up front could be what they need. Pretty good in the short-yardage situation. Good trade for them IMO.
CB (Murray Utah)
Boston is on a World Series high right now. Tedy Bruschi wrote that he expected the Pats to win last Sunday to keep the high going. Do you sense that the Pats got a bump up from the positive energy? Is there any "competitive" energy with the players. Maybe they saw the parade and are thinking, that could be us? Thoughts?
Mike (11:40 AM)
CB, I didn't really sense that. It's 24-all in the third quarter and I don't think the Red Sox really had much to do with the Patriots turning things around. It's about execution on the field. I just think you see some players coming on (e.g. Dobson) and the impact that Rob Gronkowski has on the offense.
joe c (rhode island) [via mobile]
I just want nnamdi asmougha to come to new England....you can't have too many corners can you? especially at the rate we get injured..
Mike (11:40 AM)
Joe, my one question on Nnamdi is why have two teams now moved on from him. I haven't seen enough of him to know if he can still play. If he can, why not?
Mike, was curious to get your thoughts on the Incognito/Martin saga and to what extent, if any, you've ever witnessed the kind of hazing/bullying of rookies by vets that is alleged to have transpired in Miami?
Mike (11:44 AM)
Michael, it's hard when you're not close to a situation like that. So a few thoughts: 1) I'm always a little uneasy when we see the Patriots rookies get haircuts at the end of the preseason, but it generally seems to be in good fun. Yet watching it, I've asked the question on whether that is close to crossing the line; 2) Tedy Bruschi told the story this week on his ESPNBoston chat of paying $1,700 for a dinner when he was a rookie. The tabs started to increase in future years, Bruschi said, until Bill Belichick learned of it and put a stop to it; 3) The locker room dynamic is always interesting to me. Sounds like, from afar, Martin maybe didn't fit in and that's part of this; 4) I think Joe Philbin is one of the most decent people I've had the chance to get to know in coaching; 5) I wonder what type of leadership they have player-wise in Miami, and what kind of players GM Jeff Ireland is bringing into that locker room.
Gary (Arlington, VA)
How did Andre Carter look?
Mike (11:45 AM)
Little shaky on one of the long runs they gave up, as he rushed too far up the field, which was also an issue for Michael Buchanan. But some good pass rushes. Just a solid guy and his veteran presence seems to be important for a D that lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Solid addition from the complete package standpoint.
Dan (Sheffield, UK)
Hi Mike. I find it almost incredible that this Pats team is 7-2. With such key injuries, the loss of Welker and Hernandez, the inexperience at WR and the shaky O-line play, it looked like a prime year for the Jets or Dolphins to sneak the division. I know the bar has been set pretty high for this Franchise, but even so - wow. How much of the team's success do you think is due to coaching, and how much to the team's cap and personnel management?
Mike (11:47 AM)
It's all of it, Dan. That's one of the things that has stood out to me this year from a general standpoint. I think we often look for black and white answers in this game. Why are they struggling on third down? Red zone? Etc. Usually, it's not one thing. When you have 53 players on a team, 61 including practice squad, there is a lot going on.
Not sure if you have been asked this before, but if ESPN told you that you can't cover the Patriots any further, and you had to pick either the Celtics, Bruins, or Red Sox, who would you choose?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Mark, I'd probably go with the Bruins. But would Boston College be an option? I'd like to stick with football if possible. Thanks for the consideration.
Mike. Kenbrell Thompkins. Decline in snaps the past couple of games including the healthy scratch. I am puzzled by that. Especially since the Patriots were eating the Steelers defense for lunch. I can't be convinced that Austin Collie (3 catches in 4 games) was put in place for Thompkins. Of course hind sight is 20/20, but certainly the Pats game plan was looking at tapes of the Steelers D and realizing they could play a lot of 3 receiver sets against them. Again I ask, why not put Thompkins in there? Unless I am missing something, I haven't seen his performance decline to the point of being inactive.
Mike (11:51 AM)
Mark, as we saw against the Steelers, the Patriots went heavy on multiple-TE groupings as the plan was to get play-action game going and throw against their base defense. So with 3 TEs active, plus a lead-blocking fullback, they went with 4 WRs. With Dobson passing Thompkins as the X, they probably felt Collie offered more value at the other spots than Thompkins. Don't think we need to overthink it. Collie a little more of a veteran hand, a little more steady.
Mike (11:51 AM)
I don't think this means Thompkins is a bust or this is headed down the wrong path. He's hit a little bump in the road. Deion Branch had some rocky moments in 2002 as well, in his rookie year.
Oliver(Oregon) [via mobile]
In next year's draft do you think a run stopping DT is the main priority? Keep up the great work!
Mike (11:52 AM)
Oliver, I could see next year being a "fortify-the-lines" type of draft if that's the way it works out. They really haven't selected that type of player since 2009 (Ron Brace, 2nd round), and we know how that worked out.
Bijon(Detroit) [via mobile]
Good morning Mike I just wanted to ask you do you feel the recent play of Dobson justifies the Patriots drafting him as oppose to your pick Markus Wheaton?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Yes, Bijon, you have to tip the cap to Dobson. At the same time, to be consistent, I don't think we want to close the book on any rookie analysis just 9 games into their careers. Rookies develop at different rates. But arrow is certainly pointing up on Dobson.
What is your take on Logan Ryan's play so far? He's made some big plays, but has he shown the consistency that Belichick looks for?
Mike (11:54 AM)
Very solid, Nick. Ideally he'd be given a little more time to develop but when thrust into duty, he's answered the call. Good combination of being competitive in coverage and tough against the run. Promising prospect.
Funny how the Pats could be 9-0 or 5-4 give or take a few plays
Mike (11:55 AM)
That's the NFL, Eric. No doubt about it.
Paul M (New Boston)
What do you think of Wendell's future with the team after this shaky year?
Mike (11:55 AM)
Paul, I think they'll want to keep him. Just a matter of agreeing on value.
Richie (Los Angeles)
Mike, I have to echo Dan from the UK. What a run this team has been on. It has been fun to watch. My question is, do you think Belichick stays on after Brady retires?
Mike (11:56 AM)
What year is that, Richie. I could see BB going another 5-8 years. Wouldn't count Brady out either.
Do you envision Billy O'Brien coaching the Pats one day?
Mike (11:56 AM)
Great thought Jill. Between him and Josh McDaniels, those would be my top two candidates.
Mike (11:56 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Brian (Oxford, CT)
I bet it ends like Doc Rivers and Pierce/Garnett exiting, leaving the new guy with a much emptier cupboard.
Mike (11:58 AM)
Could be, Brian, but can we make a deal? Can we just enjoy it/appreciate it while it is going on instead of focusing on the ending? I feel like there have been people predicting the demise of the Patriots since 2006.
Arjuna (Durham, NH)
Saw the question on Logan Ryan, and I've got to ask about Duron Harmon; the head-scratcher pick from the draft. How do you think he's turned out? More of a Tavon Wilson (flashes potential but ultimately busts) or do you think he could be something?
Mike (11:59 AM)
Arjuna, since he's ahead of Tavon Wilson on the depth chart, I wouldn't put him in that category. To me, it's just a matter of if he has what it takes physically. He's contributed more than I anticipated on defense. Smart kid. I think he has a better chance than Tavon at this point to be a part of this defense.
Ryder John (Goffstown, NH)
When Vince Wilfork went on IR, it was a very real possibility that he had played his last down for the Patriots. His gigantic cap number next year means one of two things: a restructure or a release. How do you restructure a deal with someone of his size coming off an injury? Now with the trade for Sopoaga, it seems that a release is even more realistic. Philadelphia didn't trade him to move up one round in the draft, they wanted his money off the books. He is the 11th highest paid player on the Pats currently and is signed for two more years. I hope I am looking at this incorrectly, as an ugly break up with Big Vince, while maybe best for the team, won't sit well with a good percentage of the fan base. Thoughts?
Mike (12:01 PM)
It seems fair to say that between Wilfork ($7.5m) and Sopoaga ($3.75m), something has to give next year. I can't imagine the Patriots keeping both of them at the start of the regular season in 2014 at those figures. Wilfork is a superior player but coming off injury. That might be too high a number for Sopoaga based on what he does. Something to watch, for sure.
Adam(New Jersey) [via mobile]
Hey Mike my question to you is how impress are you of the growth that Aaron Dobson has made from Week 2 until now?
Mike (12:02 PM)
Let's end on this one, Adam. Very impressed with Dobson. Had a lot of questions about what he'd be able to contribute based on what we saw in the spring. He really turned the corner. It's a credit to him.
Mike (12:03 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. Great questions. We'll do it again next week.