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 (11:00 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our weekly chat. We'll continue these on Thursdays throughout the offseason. I'm still going through the process of putting wraps on the 2013 season, which will better help me outline what might be ahead for 2014. Some initial thoughts for the offseason have already been outlined (e.g. re-signing Aqib Talib as a top priority) but it's still very early.
Mike (11:02 AM)
We've seen some coaching movement on the staff over the last two days. The Dante Scarnecchia retirement was expected and something those close to Scarnecchia knew about this season. Pepper Johnson and George Godsey are among those coaches whose deals are expiring and have decided to try something else, as I understand it. So one year after having all coaches return, there is signficant change on the staff this year.
Mike (11:02 AM)
What's on your mind today?
With everyone hating on the Pro Bowl, why has no one revisited the idea of the skills competition? That was the absolute best back in the day!
Mike (11:03 AM)
Dave, I think it would be a great idea. One issue is that we remember what happened with Robert Edwards, the former Patriots RB, during a beach volleyball game in that type of setting. So whatever they decide, it's just avoiding that risk of injury as much as possible.
corky NPR Florida [via mobile]
Mike felt like the game was lost on the first series just didn't have attitude needed to beat Denver. Over all great year and lots to look forward too, hope we get our guys signed Can the team afford to sign our own players and still bring on someone like Decker??
Mike (11:06 AM)
Corky, when we talk about the Patriots being able to "afford" signing its own players, this highlights a key issue that I need to spend a little more time researching and understanding, and that's the potential salary cap relief from Aaron Hernandez's contract. This just might be the most important aspect of the team's offseason. So I don't have the answer right now, but based on the present picture, I think it's going to be tough to just retain what they have based on the current cap situation. Get the cap space back from Hernandez and it's a completely different story.
Justin Wolfe/ Cincinnati [via mobile]
Any chance Patriots go after Anquan Boldin? Or maybe do what Denver did last year with Welker and try and steal Decker?
Mike (11:10 AM)
Justin, it sounds like we'll so Boldin back in San Francisco. As for Decker, I know they liked him a lot coming out of the 2010 draft. If Denver didn't take him, the Patriots probably would have over Taylor Price in the third round. So what that all means, I'm not sure. I also think we need to project development for the young WRs. Dobson/Dobson/Thompkins will be better next season and if they turn into what Marvin Jones did for the Bengals in his second season (2013) in the NFL, there's your solution which is already in house.
Hi Mike, thank you for another great year of covering our beloved Pats along with Field. But as you know the NFL never stops so lets talk about some Patriots needs. I really think the biggest need is a pass catching TE to get our two TE offense back along with a healthy Gronk. Do you think the draft is the best way or do you think a FA like Finley if healthy can help us.
Mike (11:11 AM)
Tobias, thanks for those comments. Agree on the TE and believe they will address it. Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan gave all they had and maximized their skill sets, but I would imagine they look for additions with higher upside this offseason. Would think draft over free agency in that spot.
Mike, I just want to say that I loved your piece on Dante Scarnecchia. Just loved it. What a coach he has been to no-name offensive line men. Thank you.
Mike (11:12 AM)
Thanks MarkJ. Here is the link for those who are interested: http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/10336145/retiring-coach-dante-scarnecchia-leaves-lasting-mark-new-england-patriots
Mike (11:14 AM)
A quick behind-the-scenes story. I didn't get to talk much to Scarnecchia since 1997, and he's a pretty authortitative figure. I actually thought he didn't like me. So it was with some trepidation that I called him last night, and braced myself for the possibility that I would hear a click upon identifying myself. Turns out Scarnecchia couldn't have been more cordial. I have a lot of respect for his career. He sounded completely content with his career and decision to retire.
Dan (Leominster, MA)
Mike, Can I submit a big "Thank you" to Dante and Pepper through your chat today? Would be much appreciated, like the two coaches have been through the years.Thanks.
Mike (11:15 AM)
You got it, Dan. Could feel both their passion when watching any Patriots practice. Respect.
Okay, I don't understand. Welker runs the same play that Edelman ran and knocked out Rogers-Cromartie. It's a borderline play for sure, could have been a flag, but nobody who looked at it saw it as much more than an OPI call. Belichick, who has made a career out of saying nothing or less at press conferences, calls out Welker for running a play that's in the Patriots playbook? How can you say it isn't personal? Is he trying to make it an issue to give Seattle an advantage? Try to influence the super bowl refs? Poor sportsmanship like that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Mike (11:19 AM)
Matt, surely there is an element of it being personal. If I was advising Bill Belichick from a public relations standpoint, I would have told him he'd be better off rising above it. As a reporter, however, we hope that coaches and players tell us what they really feel so I'm not going to slam him for that. I appreciate it, actually. As for the idea it's the "same play", Matt, that's where you and I see it differently. What Edelman did was block DRC after Austin Collie caught the ball. What Welker did was collide with Talib at full speed right around the same time the ball was arriving and I said it at the time, it should have been penalized (take your pick of OPI or unnecessary roughness). I don't think Welker's intent was to injure, but I do think his act was a penalty (which was written in my halftime notes). A lot of layers to this one.
max (my cube)
Mike, Do you think the Patriots regret giving Gronk a somewhat premature contract extension? How would things have played out had they waited until he was in the last year of his rookie contract?
Mike (11:21 AM)
Max, it's hard to predict the future. I can't fault the proactive approach on that one, especially since that deal really was two four-year contracts and the first four were pretty reasonable. It's not killing their cap or anything like that.
So this whole Welker-Talib collision that the NFL deemed legal is interesting. Seattle plays a lot of man and has big DBs. Now that the NFL has said that the contact was not a penalty and fine within the rules, the Seahawks are preparing themselves for those "picks." My thinking behind this is that when the Seahawks say "preparing" that they're going to do their best to blow-up the receiver setting the pick. What the NFL has done is said that the amount of impact on a pick play is fine which is going to bite them in the butt and cause more injuries. Why can't Blandino admit that the call was blown?
Mike (11:25 AM)
Eric, it technically wasn't blown based on the black-and-white current rules. But, to me, an official easily could have called unnecessary roughness on that and been "protected" by the rule book. So let's reverse it and consider this scenario: Had the official called unnecessary roughness on Welker and the Broncos complained, I think Dean Blandino goes on NFL Total Access four days later and says, "That's a judgment call by the official and we have no problem with it."
Mike (11:27 AM)
I said it at the time of the play and that's important to me here. This isn't revisionist history. That should have been a penalty. A WR should not be able to run full speed into a defender even if it's a bang-bang play when the ball arrives. The player needs to be in control, like Michael Hoomanwanui was on the OPI he was called for. Watch the difference in those plays and it's significant -- Hoomanawanui downshifts. Welker is in fifth gear. It's not right.
Mike (11:28 AM)
The difference between the way I view it, and how I think Bill Belichick views it, is that I don't think that was Welker's intent to injure Talib. I don't think it was a "suicide mission" as Bills safety Jim Leonhard put it. I just think he was playing hard and wasn't in complete control, and thus put another player at risk.
Mike, the biggest disappointment in the loss was the Oline. Wendell and Connolly were both subpar this season. If they could have effectively run, the game would have been different IMO. As such, I think wendell has to walk and connolly needs to restructure. Then I would look at signing a guard (Schwartz from KC) and moving connolly to Center or signing Alex Mack and having connolly and Cannon compete for the RG spot. I prefer the latter. Your thoughts?
Mike (11:32 AM)
Right on the money in terms of what went wrong in the AFC Championship Game. It's remarkable to me how the narrative of "Brady needs more weapons" has picked up steam over the last three days when I don't think that was the main issue in this game. I watched every snap live and then over again on tape and I thought the main issue started at center. They couldn't block Terrance Knighton. Look at the first two drives. On first down, two completed passes to set up manageable second downs. But then runs of 1 and 0 yards as the Broncos controlled the heart of the line of scrimmage. The line basically crumbled. Add in a fourth-down sack given up by your best lineman (Logan Mankins), another sack given up by your second-best lineman on an inside rush (Nate Solder beaten by Robert Ayers), and I saw the foundation of the offense splitting at the seams. This doesn't even touch on Tom Brady missing two deep balls to wide-open targets. So while we could make a case for "Brady needs more weapons", the question I'm trying to figure out the answer to is this: "Why did the offensive line, once again, not rise up in the big game?"
Adam (Broomfield, CO)
Mike, even if Talib is resigned, he is still an injury risk and the secondary has some holes whether he plays or not. I see a hard-hitting safety who can cover as the biggest offseason need on defense. What are your thoughts and do you think Belichick shares my view?
Mike (11:33 AM)
Adam, I do think he shares your view because he tried to fill that void last offseason with Adrian Wilson. Just didn't work out. I'd expect them to try again.
Mike - if you could pick one rookie on this years team that will make the leap next year to difference maker status, who would you pick? I'd take Dobson.
Mike (11:34 AM)
Dave, this is the question I previously answered with Darius Butler (2010) and Jermaine Cunningham (2011), so in the spirit of not embarrassing myself any further, would you agree I should take a pass?
Mike (11:34 AM)
Mike (11:35 AM)
Jamie Collins and Aaron Dobson are good picks.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
The unknown thing is, Mike - what's been Scarnecchia's reaction to the O-line's failures in big games the past few seasons?
Mike (11:36 AM)
Brian, I think the first thing you do is give the opposition some credit. No line plays a perfect game and Terrance Knighton was a man among boys the other day. When did he turn into Ndamukong Suh? That was impressive. Based on that game, I might call him one of the best free-agent signings of the season.
Matt (New Jersey)
Mike,Danny Amendola came through with Zero catches in the AFC Championship game. Any chance the Pats cut him loose the way they did Brandon Lloyd last year? Seems like he significantly underperformed compared to his contract.
Mike (11:37 AM)
Matt, here's my view on Amendola. He looked special in the season-opener. He never looked the same again. He probably should have been on IR but played through a significant injury. I applaud his toughness, while at the same time acknowledging his production fell short of expectations. ...
Mike (11:38 AM)
... Which brings us to personnel and the team's 2013 offseason. The Welker-for-Amendola exchange, Danny Woodhead's defection, signings of Adrian Wilson/Leon Washington/Tommy Kelly ... it seems fair to say this wasn't the team's best year on the pro personnel side. It's hard to get it right, and no team is perfect, but the record is the record.
Mike, would you be comfortable going into next season with the 3 rookie receivers this year, amendola and a banged up Gronk? Even if they kept Edleman this is not enough. Whilst the arrow is pointing up for Dobson, i think KT is a 4th receiver at best and Boyce is unknown. You are asking for a big leap in production
Mike (11:39 AM)
In that scenario, if they lost Edelman, they'd bring in another veteran receiver. Emmanuel Sanders, anyone?
Hello Mike, I'm very optimistic about this team going forward (Denver was on and kudos to them). I do think they should bring back Talib and Blount, but I'm not sure they should invest big money in two slot receivers, so Edelman may be the odd man out. I'm confident the rookie WRs will play much better next year, so I would not be inclined to spend big FA money on a wide receiver. What I would spend big money on is another really good tight end - Brady is a different player with that kind of target. I would then load up on offensive and defensive linemen in the draft. What do you think and what tight end out there would fit the bill?
Mike (11:42 AM)
Jay, you're a little bit further ahead than me on this stuff. I'm still mostly in 2013 clean-up mode. What I do is compile all my notes from film review, couple them with play-time stats, and then create a snapshot for each player/unit. From there, I start to consider additions to the roster in areas of need based on who might be available. I'm just not at the "who might be available" point yet, but I am at the point where I'd agree TE is a need.
Mike, your thoughts on Chandler Jones this year? For me definitely an increase from last year but what were his sack numebers down the stretch? Still does not get enough consistent pressure for my liking and dosent dominate
Mike (11:44 AM)
Mike, I thought Jones had a solid second year. The AFC title game was a good one for him, if you look closely at how he was being utilized. Plenty of jams/chips on TEs, as they sacrificed initial rush to disrupt the timing of the passing game with jams. I think it's too easy to look at sack numbers with a player like Jones. While those can be important, he played the run well in the AFC title game (outside of a missed tackle on Virgil Green in the backfield and taking his rush too far upfield on Moreno's 11-yard run early in the second quarter). He's a solid starter with more potential to tap. I like him.
max (my cube)
Mike, do you think the Pats win the game if it was in Foxboro?
Mike (11:45 AM)
Not the way they played on Sunday. Disappointing performance. I don't think they ran out of gas or the injuries finally caught up to them. I think some of their core players who had been there since Day 1, particuarly on the o-line and QB Tom Brady, played their worst games at the wrong time.
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Charlotte, NC)
Anything to be read into the seemingly unusually high coaching departures? Each one looks plausible but something odd about the sheer number.
Mike (11:48 AM)
The only one I think falls a bit outside the box is Pepper Johnson. Godsey came in with Bill O'Brien and with an expiring contract, it made sense to think he'd re-join him. Also, Scar was expected. Here is a link from Dec. 29 foreshadowing it (see No. 2): http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/109875/quick-hit-thoughts-around-nfl-patriots-9
How could you have possibly picked the pats to win that AFC Title Game? you are such a homer mike...A little objectiveness would be nice
Mike (11:48 AM)
I thought they would win the game. That's why I picked them. Just like I didn't pick them against the Falcons, Saints and Ravens this season. Silly stuff.
Jerry (Lansing, MI)
So Mike - I trust my eyes and from watching Dobson, Thompkins and Boyce this year - I don't know if they can play.
Mike (11:50 AM)
There is no counter to the "trust your eyes" test, Jerry. If that's what you see, I can't change your viewpoint. I thought Dobson was one of the bright spots in the AFC title game. Boyce and Thompkins have obvious traits that stand out (Boyce's speed, Thompkins' ability to create initial separation off the line against the jam) but they need to be consistent. Developing picture for all three.
Bill L. (Fort Collins, CO)
Hey Mike! It's extremely hard right now living near Denver, as they are NOT gracious winners! It's hindsight now, but thought we abandoned the run to early and that Ridley with his speed should've had more outside runs, what do you think? Also, I never wish for anyone to get hurt, but would hope Collins or Mayo get a "clean" hit on Welker as he crosses the middle of the field next year in Foxboro!!!
Mike (11:51 AM)
Bill, the Broncos deserved to win the game so you have to tip your cap to them. Ridley was the more effective runner than Blount but it wouldn't have mattered because the line crumbled. It's sort of like picking out some nice furnishings for your house and getting the living room looking all nice, only to find out you have a crack in your foundation and the house is sinking.
Mike (11:51 AM)
Did that make any sense?
Mike i think I share your veiw on the receiver position - not a glaring need. I expect them to try to re-sign Edelman or bring in another guy like Doug Baldwin or Emmanuel Sanders. I like the rookies that played and I'm also super intrigued by Mark Harrison and TJ Moe. Were they both around the team a lot throughout the year? Do you think either has a chance to make any impact next year?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Shaun, I'd put Harrison and Moe in the "Jeff Demps Category of Intrigue." Wouldn't expect anything but have obvious traits that lead to some intrigue.
Matt (Essex Jct, VT)
Hi Mike,Who do you want to win the Superbowl and who do you think will win?
Mike (11:53 AM)
My initial thought is that it will be Denver, but don't hold me to it. It's still early. As for who I want to win, I don't have strong feelings, but it would be nice to me to see Wes Welker get a ring. Have a lot of respect for him.
Ramin (San Marcos,TX) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, who has more leverage? Talib saying "look what happened without me." Or the team saying "you haven't been healthy when we have needed you most."
Mike (11:55 AM)
Ramin, the Patriots hold the initial leverage because they could assign him the franchise tag. I wouldn't be surprised if they do, with the intent of working out a longer-term deal. Still need to see those figures and get a better grasp on the cap (re: potential Hernandez relief) but I view him as the key piece to the offseason.
Should we still be excited about Armstead in 2014 like we were in 2013? If he recovers from his injury situation, will he bring some talent to the table?
Mike (11:56 AM)
Harold, they viewed him as their No. 3 DT entering the year, as Bill Belichick recently said. So that's where I'd start the expectations.
Mike, your thoughts again on Belicheck's Welker hit. To me it was rather embarassing the way he came out - not in the heat of the moment - and said its the worse play he has ever seen. Perhaps a touch of jealousy that Welker is going to the big game and he is left with Danny On-the-mend-ola
Mike (11:58 AM)
Johnny, I think Belichick really believes what he said. As a reporter, I appreciate the unfiltered honesty and believe there is also a touch (or more) of venom toward "the receiver" with whom he has a history. As someone advising him PR-wise or what's best for his image, I would have told him not to go there. Not a good look for him.
Mike (11:59 AM)
Let's take a few more..
Alan (Tucson, AZ)
It seems that the general assessment of Patriots 2013 is that the team overachieved given all the injuries. I differ. To me, 2013 looks like the beginning of the end. In particular, I believe 2013 represents the decline in skills of Tom Brady. While TB's football IQ is still off the charts, it is clear he cannot throw the deep ball with any consistency any longer. Unless the Pats are remade around defense and a running game, I cannot see a Tom Brady led team winning another Super Bowl. Thoughts?
Mike (12:00 PM)
Alan, I think the Patriots will be right back in the mix for a playoff berth in 2014. My general belief is that you qualify and hope to be at your healthiest and best at that time ... and anything is possible. I wouldn't rule out another ring.
With all of these coaching changes, any chance the Pats welcome Schiano to the staff? I think he could be a huge help if properly directed by Belichick?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Would be a coup if it worked out, IMO.
Was Blount injured in the first period? Or is the reason we didnt see him that he is not adequate in pass protection and Josh had decided to largely to the passing game where Blount does not shine as a receiver. If the Pats decided just to abandon the power running game after 5 carries, I think that was a huge coaching error. Power rushing often needs a lot of reps to get going.
Mike (12:03 PM)
The latter, John. Down 20-3 early in the third quarter, you really only have one drive before you have to turn to the pass almost exclusively and that's Shane Vereen time. That's the pressure that the Broncos put on you offensively -- they force you into a mode where you almost have to abandon the run. Think about what BB said on WEEI yesterday, as he was questioning his decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 and trailing 20-3 in the third quarter. Against any other team, he probably kicks there.
Mike, if you're going to bust on BB for Woodhead/Wilson/Washington/Kelly/Amendola (and you can't predict injuries, btw), don't you have to give him credit for Blount/Edelman/Siliga/Talib? Plus it looks like his draft was pretty strong. Seems to me like a pretty typical year on the pro personnel front...
Mike (12:06 PM)
Big credit for Blount, Peter. That was a great deal. On Edelman, I view that one more in the draft-and-develop category as they discovered him, groomed him, and that vision is impressive when seeing what he accomplished this year. Any team could have had him for cheap dollars this past offseason as I sensed that the Patriots were OK with letting him walk, so I'm a little less authoritative in doling out the "credit" on that one based on the context. But solely looking at a bottom-line perspective, you have to give them credit. Siliga was a solid addition and tip the cap on that one, particularly how he was coached up. Talib was a great 2012 trade and important 2013 re-sign.
George (Rhode Island)
Mike, what was the deal with Washington this season... keep him on staff so his contract is guaranteed, then cut him and bring him back, don't use him, and them let him go to another team where he has success returning kicks. Was there any logic to it?
Mike (12:08 PM)
It just didn't work out, George. Not sure the thinking there. Would love to know myself. $360,000 signing bonus and very little return on investment.
Jill (Arlington, VA)
Congratulations Patriots - thanks for a great season. At least 28 other cities, would trade places with us. Enjoy!
I'd like to remind everyone that Willie McGinnest was a LATE bloomer
I want the 2014 season to start TOMORROW!!! (crying at my desk).
Mike (12:11 PM)
Let's end on these thoughts. Great passion and interest and that's what I appreciate about our chats. We'll keep them up throughout the offseason and each week I hope that I can bring something new to advance us in what is often referred to as the "team-building season."
Mike (12:11 PM)
Have a great week and catch up next Thursday.