Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at noon ET!
Mike (10:59 AM)
Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few...
Mike (11:04 AM)
How is everyone doing today? I am here at Gillette Stadium, where the topic all week has been how the Patriots adjust without TE Rob Gronkowski. The team has practiced inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse the last two days, turning up the heat to simulate, as much as possible, South Florida conditions.
Tyler (Connecticut )
Good morning Mike...I notice you spoke to Danny Amendola in you P.A.T post, I just wanted to ask did you sense a confidences in him that he will be able to help carry the load left by Gronk barring a injury?
Mike (11:06 AM)
Good morning Tyler. Did you happen to notice Danny Amendola elected to keep the hood on for that interview? I sort of felt like I was interviewing a lightweight boxing champ. LOL. To answer the question, yes, expect to see more Amendola. He has essentially been a pure No. 3 option, playing in the slot in the three-WR package. I expect them to go to that package more often now. I also think Amendola is on the cusp of a breakout. It's close. You see signs (e.g. first quarter, Carolina). Just not at that 100 percent peak connection level with Tom Brady like Wes Welker was. Not yet, but close.
Good afternoon Mike Reiss I would like to know does the LB from Rutgers play a role in New England's willingness to resign Spikes after this season?
Mike (11:07 AM)
Shawn, the Rutgers LB, Steve Beauharnais, is more of a developmental prospect for 2014. He's a little undersized so I;d hesitate to compare him to Spikes, but he will be back in 2014 to compete for a roster spot/playing time. To project a starting role is a big leap I wouldn't make.
Malik (Dade County )
Yo Mike pretty slick of Bill to draft Boyce before Miami did. I just want to know does Josh playing like he has validate the Pats in drafting him?
Mike (11:08 AM)
Malik, Boyce has basically been on the developmental track and hasn't played that much. He was on for 72 offensive snaps (including penalties) last Sunday. He had played 71 (including penalties) in the 12 games prior to that. So that was his first real breakthrough. I think this will be a question that is easier to answer next year. I will say this -- the arrow is pointing up on him.
Earl (Cincy )
Hey Mike I just wanted to ask do you think Pats fans should be weary of Cincinnati's possibly sneaking into the second seed? Me personally believe they should'nt be weary but cognizant, therefore taking care of business and leaving it out of the hands of another team trying to beat them.
Mike (11:10 AM)
Yes, absolutely Earl. As we've seen, this picture can change in an instant. The Patriots don't want to rely on the Bengals losing another game (at Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota, vs. Baltimore). Too risky.
Wes (Mile High )
Reiss we go back a long time and you've seen how durable I am(setting aside my knee injury) do you think my 2 concussions in 4 games that I should really retire? C'mon man!!!
Mike (11:11 AM)
Wes, was it awkward when I went in for the man hug after the Patriots-Broncos game? LOL. Just be careful and trust the advice of the respected people around you.
Adam (Denver, CO)
Hi Mike! What are your thoughts on Josh Boyce? Before the season started, he was my pick to have the most impact out of the rookie receivers, which obviously hasn't panned out, but last Sunday he showed what he's capable of. That move going across the middle on 1st and 10 was just ridiculous, and say what you want about the PI, but at the end of the day, he drew the foul (which I think was valid had it been called at the 10 yard line, for what it's worth) At any rate, do you see Boyce breaking out or does he go back to the bench when Dobson and Thompkins are both healthy?
Mike (11:13 AM)
Adam, we won't see Dobson this week. So that's the first step to Boyce being on the 46-man game-day roster. Once active, anything is possible. If Kenbrell Thompkins is back this week, I could see him and Boyce splitting time at the X outside spot. Here is my projected plan for this Dolphins game -- 4 WR/1 RB and/or 3 WR/2 RB packages and play turbo up-tempo. Attack that secondary with ferocity and put pressure on their defense by playing fast to see how they handle it. That would put Boyce in line for some snaps.
Mike (11:13 AM)
P.S. -- Boyce also will be the primary kickoff returner.
Mike (11:14 AM)
They need these WRs more than ever with Gronkowski's injury. So Boyce will be part of the mix in some form -- special teams, offense, both. Once thought to be on the developmental track, he now has an opening to contribute.
Greg (Akron )
Hi you doing Mr. Reiss longtime Pats fan recent fan of your mailbag post. My question to you would be does the rookies on IR ie. Mark Harrison, T.J. Moe and Armstead play a role in the Pats plans to decide whether to resign Julian and possible draft scenarios? Keep up the good work!!
Mike (11:15 AM)
Minimal factors, Greg. Those players are nice developmental prospects, but I don't think they are difference-makers to the point that the Patriots would not select a player at those positions.
Is the bargaining agreement (fewer full-contact practices) to blame for bad tackle that injured Gronk? I'm going to sound like a curmudgon, but today's players have lost the skill of making a good, clean tackle.
Mike (11:15 AM)
Andy, I file it more under bad luck/these things happen in football.
Eric (Houston )
Hey Mike I just wanted to ask is Aaron Dobson injury more of the team practicing caution with plans to make sure he's 100% come playoff time and if not when is a reasonable return date for AD?
Mike (11:17 AM)
Eric, I don't know the details, but it's obviously serious enough that we haven't seen him at practice the last two weeks. Also, with any rookie, the idea of him being able to just pick it back up upon this return is risky business. You generally want to keep that momentum going. So this isn't ideal. I wouldn't expect to see Dobson until Dec. 22 (vs. Baltimore) at the earliest, if that's even possible.
Curtis (Chicago IL,)
Good morning Mike... My question for you is does D.J Williams two year contract in any shape or form indicates how long the Pats expect Gronk to be out next year?
Mike (11:19 AM)
No, Curtis, the 2-year contract just shows that they are planning into 2014, just a month earlier than they would have otherwise. With TEs Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mullligan in the final year of their contracts, there is an element of long-range planning, and since the player is being signed in December, it makes sense to extend it out two years if you like the idea of working with the player in the offseaosn program. They need to add depth at the position anyway, so why not if the player is willing to give you the extra year with no up-front bonus?
nathan (northampton, ma.)
Based on the rash of dramatic and devastating injuries across the board to the patriots this season how do you see the team approaching the draft and the upcoming offseason? I know its early to be thinking about this but it seems like many people are already throwing in the towl on this season. Do they look to find replacements for proven stars here or just add more depth in case of another rash of injuries next year?
Mike (11:20 AM)
Nathan, the Patriots certainly aren't throwing in the towel on this season. As we've seen this year, depth is so critical. I don't think their philosophy will change -- they'll look to build the roster 1-61 and in this particular case probably focus on the OL and DL as a top priority.
Alvin (Canton Ma)
Can you explain why the defense struggles on 3rd down and long. It seems like they are in a prevent defense and the DB play the receivers off the line. Why doesn't belicick change up the defensive alignments. The defense has been smoked by Carolina ,Cleveland Denver and the list is long. What solutions are available or is it just lack of good players left to make the plays ?
Mike (11:21 AM)
Alvin, I watched all those third-and-longs. I think it's more about execution than scheme. On each one, players were either out of position or simply didn't make the tackle. Has to be better than that.
Mike - one last question going back to the browns game. On a Boyce catch and run, he juked a DB out of his pants. On the play it seemed the DB tried to leg whip him. He made no contact, and no flag was thrown. Is that the type of penalty they only call if contact is made?
Mike (11:22 AM)
Yes, Chris. Similar to the one that should have been called against Marcus Cannon in the Panthers game.
Ken (Virginia Beach)
Hey Mike, Do you think James Develin will be a bigger impact, now that Gronk is out? And how much more do you think that Julian Edelman will start to shine as an outside WR until Dobson gets back?
Mike (11:24 AM)
Ken, Edelman (a.k.a. Minitron) played every snap last week. I expect that to continue. On Develin, we might see a small uptick in his responsibilities, but in the end, I think the bigger change will be more 3- and 4-WR packages. So it's Amendola, Boyce, Collie, Thompkins who I think will see more of an increase in their playing time. I just see them as more threatening to a defense. Not to take anything away from Develin -- that was a sweet 31-yard up-and-out route -- but I don't see as high of a ceiling when he is in there when the plans are to throw the ball.
Nemanja (Vranje, Serbia)
Mike, why don't the Pats use Amendola more? Health problems or maybe Tom doesn't trust him enough.
Mike (11:25 AM)
Probably a little bit of everything Nemanja. When Rob Gronkowski came back, it made them more diverse in their groupings and took them out of the pure 3-WR stuff a bit more than they had been earlier in the season. That's part of it too. At the same time, Amendola's groin has been an issue all year for him.
Hi Mike, I've seen teams get plagued with injuries before but not ever like the Patriots have been especially with the season ending variety to starters. With that in mind should we not be more lenient and expect less of this team ? Should we not resign ourselves to a first/second round exit in the playoffs ? We cannot ask the backups and third man up to live up expectations we have for the full healthy roster
Mike (11:28 AM)
Nicolas, I look at it differently. The NFL is a moving target from week to week. The picture is ever-changing. So let's say we lower the expectations, and then all of a sudden Peyton Manning goes out and breaks his leg this week, do we raise those expectations all of a sudden? That's why I think the best approach is to go week by week, you hope your team survives and advances, and then you assess the next week based on what the picture looks like. I've noticed this as a trend in recent years. It seems like we often want to write the ending to the story while it's going on. I'm not quite sure why our general media/football culture is like that. We should all enjoy the journey more.
Basil (Enemy Territory)
Hi MIke, love your balanced reporting style. Would you have any inside knowledge on Leon Washington? Did the Pats just, flat out, misuse him? They had him inactive most weeks from injury, he gets released, picked up 3 days later and plays the following two games. He has a monster return and other notable ones. His past and present use reflects a pure returning capacity, is it just his one-sided abilities that BB felt weren't valuable enough to merit an active role? It just seems like such a waste. Thanks.
Mike (11:30 AM)
Big mystery to me Basil. I can't figure it out. He couldn't get on the field here due to injury, is released, then signs with the Titans and is tearing things up. How? It makes me wonder if his release was less about health and just more about the Patriots feeling they needed the spot for someone else and just felt like they could turn that KR role over to Josh Boyce. Real weird one ... not to mention a waste of $360,000 in signing bonus they paid him.
Joe Schmeltz (Burrillville, RI)
With all of the backs that the Pats have, is there any chance of seeing two of them in the game at the same time using one(Ridley/Blount/Bolden) as a fullback/running back and Vareen as a running back/receiver?
Mike (11:32 AM)
Bingo. Joe just got bingo. When a player like Rob Gronkowski goes down, it forces the coaching staff to be creative. We have hardly seen a personnel grouping with 2 pure running backs this year, but why not? I like the idea of having a Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount/Stevan Ridley in the game at the same time. I expect to see it. It's all about getting your best weapons on the field.
CB in Utah (Murray UT)
The pats defense against the run seemed to improve during the game agains the browns. did the addition of NT Sealver Siliga help the cause and could they improve with him there moving forward?
Mike (11:33 AM)
I was pretty impressed with Siliga, CB. He was the player I probably watched closer than any other in film review and here's what this "amateur" scout saw -- a big body who showed he could hold the point, play with pretty good leverage, and shed and tackle. It wasn't all perfect, but it looked better than what I've seen from Isaac Sopoaga. I expect to see more of him.
Jeff (on the chat with you)
It's pretty obvious Armstead won't play this year. Did you ever find out what the problem was?
Mike (11:33 AM)
Mike,It seems that the Dolphins are weakest in the defensive backfield. Do you expect a lot the spread offense from Pats this weekend?
Mike (11:34 AM)
Spread them out, play fast, and hope that you hold up in pass protection. I expect an aggressive approach.
Nick (Miami )
Mike, I think we have crossed the threshold into the why not us? realm. Even with all the injuries and slow starts we come back and find ways to win games. I see us going deep into the playoffs and have a chance at the 4th ring.
Mike (11:35 AM)
Anything is possible, Nick. We've seen that this team can lose to anyone, beat anyone, and that's why I'd say "hang on for what could be a wild ride."
Assuming Dobson and and Thompkins don't play, shouldn't Vereen be on the field every down as a receiver, regardless of who is in as the RB? Vereen is easily one of the top 3 healthy receivers (arguably, the best receiver), so why not utilize him fully on every down? He is much more of a threat as a receiver on early downs than any of the TEs currently on the roster.
Mike (11:36 AM)
Here's the isssue on that one, Bunk. At 5-foot-10 (generous IMO) and 205 pounds, does extended snaps put him at risk for injury? Something to keep in mind.
To piggyback onto Nick's comment. Last year remember when Flacco had 4th and 29 and did a dump off to Ray Rice? That come back was awesome and really without it, the Ravens were in deep trouble. How is that different than this NE team?
Mike (11:38 AM)
Chris, a buddy of mine was over yesterday and we were talking about it. Just shaking heads at all the injuries. Some things are hard to figure. He turns to me and says, "Maybe this will be like the Red Sox, one that no one saw coming." Boston strong, Part II? Will be fun to see how it turns out.
Is it true DJ Williams was looking at a 2 year contract from the Patriots even before Gronk went down? I think Williams is a great pick up. Your thoughts?
Mike (11:39 AM)
Derek, Williams adds depth and likely will be active on the 46-man game-day roster, playing on the kickoff return unit first and foremost (wedge). A player to develop.
Mike,In reading your piece about groupings, it brings up one big concern. It is common opinion that at this time of year (playoffs/cold weather locations) you need to be able to run the ball. How do the Patriots establish a ground game with the 4 WR 0ne running back grouping? The other big question, how is the Red Zone affected by 1) loss of Gronk, 2) this type of grouping? Pats were horrible in Red Zone earlier in the year.
Mike (11:41 AM)
Great questions, Dan. The 4 WR/1 RB grouping can be exclusive to hurry-up and half-ending/game-ending situations. They can run well out of a 3 WR package, as we saw the Broncos do against the Patriots on Nov. 24. On the red zone issue, it's a big hit, no sugarcoating it. Have to get creative and find new ways to make it work in there.
Mike, did Solder leave last week's game with concussion? Do you expect him to play this week - your best guess.
Mike (11:41 AM)
Rick, I think he will play. Educated guess. But as we know with concussions, those situations can take a turn.
John (New Jersey)
Mike, how would u rate the development of Jamie Collins this year??
Mike (11:42 AM)
Pretty good John. I could see him being a solid starter next year. Right now, more of a role player who fits in specific packages.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike. Talk me off the figurative ledge. Without Gronk, a singularly unique talent, who creates mismatches and spacing all by himself, there is no one on the offense which worries or stresses a defense.. In terms of playoff sucess, and, given the state of the injured and depleted defense, the Pats, it pains me to post, have 2 chances, slim and none, and slim just left town
Mike (11:46 AM)
Tman, the Patriots aren't as good without Rob Gronkowski. Anyone who argues otherwise should be sent to the hospital for observation. But I know you realize this, because you're on these chats pretty consistently, so much changes from week to week in the NFL. You go from week to week and assess the picture that week based on the health of the roster, elements etc. So if you're really standing on the ledge, here's some advice: Take a step back, crack open a cold one (make it a soda if you're not 21), kick your feet up and say, "Instead of thinking about the end result, let me appreciate this 10-3 team for what it is -- a resilient vulnerable bunch that has taken us on an entertaining ride."
Mike (11:47 AM)
Who knows what the picture will look like next week? Does Welker play again? Who is the next big injury? Will it snow during the Super Bowl?
Mike - one of my favorite games last year was NE vs Buffalo and the absurd amount of rushing yards they gained. They had the attitude, until you stop it - we're going to keep doing it. I feel this year, even when something works Josh will change the formation drastically and constantly IE, Blount looks running hard and next thing you know he is on the bench. Am I alone on this?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Good point on Blount last week. I thought the same thing on film review. He was hot and I wondered why they didn't give him a chance to keep going. I think it's a good one to bring up, Chris.
Hi Mike: Try as I might, I still see this season's last game ending like the others: OL cannot control line of scrimmage and LBs exposed in coverage. Thoughts?
Mike (11:49 AM)
Wouldn't surprise me, Brad. The Dolphins are a solid team. The main reason I am not picking against the Patriots is that I am on a hot streak going with them, starting with the Broncos game when I did it because I just figured, "What the heck, expect the unexpected."
Mike, your man Woodhead will be in prime time tonight! Get you popcorn, he's going to help the Pats get that 1st seed in the playoffs.
Mike (11:51 AM)
LOL, Derek. Woodhead is having a solid year in San Diego. Every week on ESPNBoston.com, we do an update on former Patriots and Woodhead is the one who stands out to me as the player who shouldn't have gotten away. I wonder if they regret it now. Regardless, they've been able to overcome it and it's a credit to them. No team gets it right all the time. No reporter does either. I'm just more curious in the process on that one and here's my educated guess -- they thought they got the most out of Woodhead and figured he'd hit the ceiling. If true, I think they misjudged it ... just like I misjudged Greg Salas catching 61 passes for them last year.
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Chester, UK (this week))
Am I giving Develin too much credit when I think that a D could be really stressed if you go with 3 WR/2 RB when the RBs are Develin and Vereen? Can run lots of things out of that if you are willing to line Develin up as a *credible* (big if) receiver in addition to being a lead blocker.
Mike (11:53 AM)
Sure, we could see that. They split Develin out at times, but that is sometimes more to get pre-snap information on the coverage. They used to do that with Heath Evans too. Develin is a solid player. I just don't see too much of an uptick in his snaps.
Am I the only person who thought that Dont'a Hightower had his best game in coverage on Sunday this season?
Mike (11:54 AM)
I thought he played faster than we've seen. Still liked his work in coverage vs. the Steelers best, though.
What do you foresee from the Dolphins this week? They ran the ball well against the Steelers last week with Thomas leading the way. Do you think they'll try to pound it out vs. the Pats, or try picking on a New England defense that has let up a lot of passing yards recently?
Mike (11:55 AM)
Lou, I think they'll strive for balance. The Patriots' run defense ranks 31st in the NFL and has shown the inability to create resistance at times. I think it starts with the run, putting Tannehill in manageable situations, and going from there.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Any way you can convince Josh that the pulling lineman play-action pass (=sack) does NOT need to be called again this year??
Mike (11:56 AM)
I noticed that on film review Gary. They've some plays on it, but it seems like the degree of difficulty to pull that off is high and is almost too risky.
Hi Mike, your Wellesley High alum again....I think the thing with the Pats is that they have suffered devastating injuries on BOTH sides of the ball, and are STILL 10-3. Might this be BB's best job so far?
Mike (11:57 AM)
One of his best, Scott. Sort of like I remember Andy Levin's old Wellesley High squads running the Wing-T offense. Very precise. I still like 2008 best. You saw what happened when the Colts lost Peyton Manning, and with the Packers struggling without Aaron Rodgers this year. To me, that all makes 2008 look that much better when they had to do it without Tom Brady.
Mike (11:57 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Patrick (Keene, NH)
Hi Mike, One of the stronger points of Bill Belichicks HOF career is his ability to staff the "back" half of his roster. His diligence-player tryouts, the practice squad is always being looked at and his late round drafting are why imo they can win the SB.
Mike (11:59 AM)
He does a good job at that, Patrick, but the thing that probably impresses me more than most -- and what comes up in discussions with those around the league -- is his ability to see what is happening in a game and coach the players accordingly. This is a complex game. Things happen fast. He has a remarkable knowledge base and ability to process information as it is happening and then communicate it to players. He is a great coach.
BillM (Delray Beach, Fl)
Mike, Any Boston's on the Beach appearence this Saturday?
Mike (11:59 AM)
Bill, I get in later on Saturday, so it won't work out this year. Thanks for the interest.
Terrelle Jackson (Elk Grove, CA)
Mike, if you had to name one Patriot as the "Most Improved Player" from the beginning of the season until now, who would it be?
Mike (12:00 PM)
Good question, Terrelle. James Develin was the first player to come to mind.
thomas (vienna, austria)
Hey Mike!I'm flying to Miami in the morning and will be at the Pats game this sunday! Super pumped.Anyway, I was wondering if you think that the Patriots will finally be able to come out to a hot start...as much as I enjoy watching them win in dramatic fashion, I feel like they are going to suffer even more so of a sputter start with Gronk being out of the mix. What is the main key to getting off to a hot start. It seems like Brady doesn't really even "try" to score until he absolutely needs to, and then he manages to grind out two touchdowns in 2 minutes. Why can't we be that desperately dominant throughout the game?Thanks
Mike (12:04 PM)
Let's end on this one. Safe travels, Thomas. They are obviously trying early in games, it's just that the execution has been off. I think the plan this week is going to be up-tempo, fast, turbo no-huddle with an attack-type mentality. Perhaps that leads to a faster start.
Mike (12:05 PM)
Thanks to everyone for the questions. We'll do it again next week. Enjoy the rest of the day.