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. Best of luck to everyone with your brackets. We'll start with a few housekeeping items.
Mike (11:00 AM)
The NFL's annual meeting takes place Sunday-Wednesday in Orlando, and the Patriots have made four rule proposals: 1) Add 5 feet to the goal-posts; 2) Allow coaches to challenge everything but scoring plays and turnovers which are already reviewed; 3) Install cameras at all boundary lines for certainty on replay reviews; 4) Move the extra point back to the 25-yard line.
Mike (11:01 AM)
I think I've said it before, but I particularly enjoy it when Bill Belichick gets involved with suggestions to make the on-field product better, because I can't think of too many people who have been more invested and more passionate about it over the last four decades. So that's a nice unexpected addition to what will be discussed in Orlando.
Mike (11:02 AM)
On Tuesday morning (7:15 a.m.), all AFC coaches are scheduled to meet with reporters at the annual breakfast. I will have a full list of questions prepared for Bill Belichick, but would be interested to know what you'd ask if you had the chance. Feel free to add some of those questions in this chat, and maybe I can add a few to my list.
Mike (11:03 AM)
I might have to reschedule next week's chat, or have colleague Field Yates step in. Will update any changes on our Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com.
Mike (11:03 AM)
So what's on your mind today.
Mike G (Alexandria, VA)
What's your read on the Vince Wilfork situation? It seems like the smart thing from the Pats perspective is to wait it out a couple months until Wilfork or his agent realize they'll make less on the open market than by restructuring with the Pats. No one is going to pay a 32 year old NT coming off ACL surgery a lot of money. That being said, I'd probably do exactly what Wilfork has done if I were in his position.
Mike (11:04 AM)
Mike, my read is a little bit different this week than it was last week. When Wilfork first requested to be released, my first thought was, "This probably won't end well." But a week later, I think there's a chance they might be able to find a middle ground. There's hope there, I believe. I've been told that Wilfork is currently on vacation out of the country and maybe getting away from it has helped him clear his head and helps advance the sides towards a resolution.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike. Do you think the Pats acquisition of taller, heavier CBs the past 2 yrs (Talib, Revis, Browner) is a change in philosophy / realization that the large, physical WRs of today's game requires large, physical CBs who can disrupt at the LOS, and remain physical thru the route and at the point of reception; or, do you think this is merely a result of one time circumstance/opportunity to acquire special players
Mike (11:08 AM)
Tman, I think this is a clear philosophical change that stretches back a few years now. Think about some of the smaller corners they've drafted with high picks -- Terrence Wheatley (2008 second round) and Darius Butler (2009 secon round) come to mind. The Patriots used to place a heavy emphasis on reactive athleticism at the position and usually the bigger corners weren't as strong in that area. It is my belief that their viewpoint of what they value at the position has been altered a bit. Reactive athleticism is still important but maybe not as much as having the size, strength and technique to play physical at the line of scrimmage in man coverage.
Roberto, V.P. Mike Reiss Fanclub [via mobile]
Mike, with Vince's contact situation in limbo, do you see the Patriots targeting a DT with their first pick?
Mike (11:09 AM)
Roberto, if Louis Nix is there, I think that would be a Wilfork-type pick. If not, I could see them waiting it out for someone like Penn State's DaQuan Jones. Always tough to project how it will unfold.
Karim (Lille, France)
Hi Mike,Do you have any idea why the patriots didn't focus on the offensive line during free agency (at least for now) ?The interior of the offensive line don't seem to be an aera of strength and/or depth right now. Even with Mankins who I think isn't dominant anymore.It's a concern because inside pressure is crucial whan you're facing a Qb like Tom Brady.Anyway, keep up the great work and please excuse my poor english ! Go Pats.
Mike (11:10 AM)
Karim, they gave it a try and hoped to close the deal with Rams interior offensive lineman Shelley Smith. But the Dolphins just took that to a level the Patriots weren't prepared to go. Can't win them all. I'd just say there is still time to fill the needs. No team has them all plugged up at this time.
HI Mike,Very happy with free agency so far. The defensive backfield looks pretty loaded right now. The one area that really requires depth is the DE position (both DE's playing 98% again will surely result in injury) - the draft remains the obvious source for help. Who do you think might suit the Patriots in the firs few round as a 4-3 DE type?
Mike (11:13 AM)
I agree with the position analysis, Nigel. I need to get back to the draft preparation after having such a heavy focus in free agency the last few weeks. Missouri's Kony Ealy and Auburn's Dee Ford are pass-rush types who would seemingly warrant a look if they are somehow available. Analysts say that isn't the deepest position in this draft.
Hi Mike,Have you ever asked any Pats front-office personnel if they keep track of likely compensatory pick ramifications when signing free agents? For instance, to be eligible for more than a 7th rounder, the Pats would need to lose more FAs than they sign that have enough impact to factor into the formula; right now, they've signed two (Lafell, Browner) and lost three (Talib, Fletcher, Spikes), with two others still out-standing (Wendell, Blount). Thus, to receive a 3rd or 4th next year as compensation for Talib, they'd have to not re-sign Wendell or Blount in order to sign any more FAs. Is that correct?
Mike (11:14 AM)
Matt, that is absolutely a consideration that is tracked by the team. I remember visiting Scott Pioli's office at one point and that clearly being marked on the greaseboard -- the idea that they were anticipating a certain compensatory pick. The reason that's the case is that it is an asset.
Levi (Sacramento,Ca) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, First off thanks for keeping us all in the loop when it comes to anything Patriots. I was wondering what do you think is gonna happen with Adrian Wilson and is there any chance the Pats bring back Steve Gregory at the veterans minimum?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Levi, I don't think the door is closed on Gregory. If it happens, I'm guessing it would probably be after the draft, depending on what needs at filled. As for Wilson, my assumption all along has been that he won't be part of the '14 team. The reason I assume that is that I didn't think he would be part of the '13 team after seeming to tail off in '13 training camp/preseason.
Ed (Queens Village)
Who would be projected starter for Browner as he serves suspension to start season?
Mike (11:16 AM)
Ed, that job will obviously be earned in training camp, but I'd put Alfonzo Dennard atop the list right now.
Thomas Baltimore [via mobile]
Mike, Jared Allen is visiting Seattle again today so in chances are he signs with them. I get the feeling that he was never on the Patriots radar. With that said we still need a pass rusher to spell Nink and Jones what do you see the Patriots doing to address this?
Mike (11:18 AM)
Thomas, I think we all agree Jared Allen would be a great fit. In this case, it's just a matter of economics. Tough to pull that one off given the cap considerations and uncertainty surronding Wilfork. As for where the Patriots go from here, it would be a disappointment if this is it. I don't think it will be. Draft and free agency (Robert Ayers, for example, is someone I think could help them) remain possibilities and we remember that Rob Ninkovich first arrived in August of 2009. So there's still time.
Mike, with all the news coming out regarding the Pats allegedly messing with the injury reports (my belief is that every team does this to a degree), is it going to take seeing them get hurt again for their new teams for the fans and media to vindicate them? Or could we expect to hear some evidence from the Pats organization to "prove" their case? Thanks.
Mike (11:21 AM)
(1 of 3) Bob, I have a strong opinion on this story. I think it's ridiculous and reflects the need for more context. I honestly don't believe Aqib Talib was taking a shot at the Patriots. He was asked about the condition of his hip by a Denver reporter, and said something like, "Oh, my hip is fine. Hasn't been an issue since Tampa. It was actually my quad, but that's the way they list things there." It was immediately concluded that it was a shot at the Patriots, even though there was no follow-up. If there was a follow-up, here's what I think Talib's response would be, "Oh man, no big deal. I loved my time there. They were just trying to protect me so an opponent couldn't come after me." ...
Mike (11:26 AM)
(2 of 3) ... The whole purpose of the injury report is to disclose any players who might be in jeopardy of missing that week's game. It goes back to 1947 because then commissioner Bert Bell felt it threatened the integrity of the game when a player unexpectedly didn't suit up one week. In the case of Talib and Spikes, the Patriots were well within the rules because they disclosed the possibility those players might not be available. In Talib's case, they did what many teams do -- they were evasive on the specifics of the injury to protect the player so the opponent couldn't target him. SO THEY WERE ACTUALLY TRYING TO HELP TALIB. A more egregious violation of NFL rules would be not putting players on the report at all, which we've seen other teams do. But when that happens, it doesn't seem to get the same media-based traction it does when the Patriots are in the cross-hairs. That goes back to my theory that the Patriots are an easy target.
Mike (11:30 AM)
(3 of 3) As for Spikes, if we're all Patriots followers here, we watched every game in 2013. How could anyone, in their right mind, think he wasn't hurt? His knee was abolsutely an issue. I think back to the regular-season finale and remember him getting up slowly after missing a tackle. He was a gamer playing through it. Spikes could have played through it in the playoffs but that wasn't the only issue -- he also blew off a practice in the bye week when it was snowing. So you take the injury, and couple it with a player missing a practice, and I think that's what led the Patriots to the conclusion of placing him on IR. That is well within their rights and it happens all the time -- players land on IR even if they think they can play/return at some point. It comes down how a team decides its best to manage their roster. When you listen to Spikes' remarks, what exactly is he contesting? He acknowledges he was injured. I TRULY BELIEVE HE WAS CONTESTING THE REPORT THAT IT WAS A MUTUAL DECISION TO HAVE HIM PLACED ON IR. That is a completely different issue but it's being lumped in with Talib. What a mess.
George (Czech Republic)
Mike: If you're the Patriots, why are you not throwing the kitchen sink to get DeSean Jackson? I understand the financials are the main issues, but this guy is a top 10 talent at receiver. The last time Brady had that type of talent? They won 18 straight. It seems to me that they should be doing everything they can financially to obtain him and balance out the offense. If that means cutting ties with Vince, then so be it; build at that position through the draft. Yes, the run D suffered when he went out, but I feel like everyone is forgetting the massive hole that losing Mayo left as well. Getting him back, in addition with the massive boost of the secondary will no doubt make the run D better off. If they can land Jackson, I think there is no doubt that they are the favorite in the AFC, maybe the entire NFL.
Mike (11:33 AM)
George, I don't doubt the talent of Jackson. I do have doubts about the fit. What type of guy is he? Why are the Eagles willing to deal? I heard Jackie MacMullan say something on "Around the Horn" on Wednesday about this: She said that part of the reason the Eagles are willing to move on is that Jackson was talking about possibly wanting more money immediately after the Eagles' playoff loss in the locker room. When I hear things like that, I proceed with caution, especially given the big price tag involved.
Hilal (Baltimore, MD)
Mike, in light of a recent article on ESPN about predicting successful QBs. Do you think Tom Brady would have been successful anywhere he went? Thanks.
Mike (11:36 AM)
That's a great question, Hilal. I'd like to put some extended thought into it, so here's what I'd say right now. Brady himself has mentioned how fortunate he has been to play in essentially one offensive system his entire career. I think that is the springboard to success for a lot of players. You think about some of these young QBs who have to adapt to a new system early in their career with consistent coordinator change and it can stunt development. ...
Mike (11:36 AM)
... All that said, would anyone bet against Brady based on what we've seen?
Mike, I really like the idea of Patriots trading down this year. The second round looks real strong. I'd look to be trading with The 49rs and trying to grab both of the second round picks they have. Which team would you look to trade with and why?
Mike (11:39 AM)
Evan, it's sort of a blanket answer, but that's around the range where a QB-needy team might be looking to get back in and be willing to deal a valuable draft pick in return. So I'd look at that area first. You also think about last year and how the Vikings were were willing to give up 4 picks for 1 to move into the first round -- with that in mind, look at the clubs which have the most picks to wheel and deal (49ers, Jaguars etc.)
Hey Mike, I'm excited to see some competition at long-snapper... let the battle begin!
Mike (11:39 AM)
Chris (NE CT)
Hi, Mike. I think it's interesting that there's a ton of press on getting targets for Brady but almost nothing on the running game. One of the problems the Pats had last year was the running backs holding onto the ball. Over their careers, Ridley averages a fumble every 69 carries and Blount every 64 carries. On the flip side, Maurice Jones-Drew averages a fumble every 120 carries and Chris Johnson every 124 carries. When the Ridley/Blount combo fumbles twice every 133 carries, why don't the Pats let them both go to sign a feature back who can carry the load the entire game and only fumble it once in roughly the same amount of carries? It doesn't make sense to me, especially since MJD is a UFA in a buyers market with fuel still left in the tank at 29 yrs. old. It shouldn't be because Blount and Ridley know the system, because the whole system goes out the window when you cough the ball up.
Mike (11:43 AM)
Chris, a lot of factors in play and a few different ways you can go with this one. I don't think MJD would be a bad signing, but in Blount you have a big back who has been in the system, you have a good feel for the fit, and he'll probably come a bit cheaper on the contract. I'd ask the question, "Is it change for change's sake, or does this really make us better?" I also think back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and how ball security was viewed as one of his strong suits in New England. That hasn't necessarily carried over to Cincinnati. So I'm not sure we can say, "That's definitely an upgrade in that ball-security area." A lot to chew on there. Good topic.
Mike, any chance the Patriots take a flyer on Dustin Keller? If healthy, he could be a good complement to Gronk, and if not, he should come with a low or no-risk contract where you can let him go. I think he'd be good for competition at the position - how do you see it? Are there other low-cost options at tight end with more upside than Mulligan?
Mike (11:44 AM)
I like the thought, Pat, assuming he's take a split-level contract that protects the team in the event of injury. There is some background there with Brian Daboll having coached in New York with the Jets in 2008.
Mike, any update on a potential Blount re-sign?
Mike (11:46 AM)
Haven't heard anything, Sergei. My read on that situation is that the Patriots are letting the market dictate and Blount hasn't been generating much interest. Leads me to think he could be back on a deal that is closer to the team's terms. Don't have any concrete info on that one -- just my read.
Day (Draft Musings) (COO, Reiss is the best in SN)
Would you say DL, OL (interior), LB (depth), and TE top the positional needs list? Secondly (and what I'd ask Belichick - even though it's probably simply system-related), I'd also say Safety (depth), but it doesn't seem like they have prioritized the S position very much in terms of high-level quality, except with maybe some (but non-primary) emphasis in drafts (Harrison probably one of the best of the past 2 decades). And maybe Harmon will pan out. I personally thought Harmon did better in light of his playing time and experience when proportionately compared to Gregory, and think Harmon may really become an impact player. It'd be nice to see them try to do something else at WR in FA or in a trade (also think OL and - to an extent - LB should be in FA or in a trade, and not early in the draft), but I think the cap is going to prevent that. Unless other teams experience a ton of injuries (as NE did last season) and NE does not, at best this seems like another AFC Championship's-as-far-as-they're-going year, and possibly largely due to not a cap management crisis, but simply natural cap restrictions at present. I?d like to see them do enough in roster terms in FA and trades so that they can really focus on DL and TE in the draft, but even then it doesn?t look like a Super Bowl year, unless injuries and other factors are in NE?s favor. And I?m hoping they retain Wilfork somehow, don?t think the defense can sustain his loss very well, the DL (interior) would be a patchwork like the secondary a couple of years ago, much like the interior DL this past year. Thoughts?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Day, you've covered a lot there. Areas to still address, include: DL, interior OL, "move" TE, RB, safety, developmental QB, coverage-based/special teams LB.
Mike (11:49 AM)
Ideally, you enter the draft with a roster that you feel comfortable with in all areas so you're not locked into one position. Last year, because of a variety of circumstances, I felt like they were locked into WR and that's not ideal. I think they're in a little bit of a better position this year.
AntAve (Longmeadow Ma.)
Hey Mike . I've been reading your stuff since you first came on-board ( and following your Twitter feed since before most people even knew what a tweet was ) . I have to say the sheer volume of your work recently has blown me away . My question is : Do you find yourself working twice as hard covering the Pats now as say 4 or 5 years ago and if you had to pick another team / market which team would you pick and why ?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Thanks Ant. I really enjoy the job, and having some history where people can say, "I was following you back at Patriots Football Weekly." It's sort of fun to have some institutional history and there's only way to get it -- time. In terms of working hard, I feel like the work is more efficient now than maybe it was in 2005, for example. I used to blog the same way in '05, but then I also had to put articles together for the newspaper. Now it's more streamlined and the blog itself is where all the resources are devoted. So while it might seem like more content/work, I feel like it's probably the same, just a bit more efficient with little duplication. Not to get too much into it, but I feel like that's kept my mind fresher and maybe a little sharper. ...
Mike (11:55 AM)
... Maybe it's the explosion of social media that has changed things the most. There was no tweeting in '05. That's added a new wrinkle to the job and maybe further increased the immediacy aspect of things.
Mike,What does the writing on the wall tell you about Amendola's role this coming year? Does he have one?
Mike (11:57 AM)
Dan, I think this is the same situation as Julian Edelman at this time last year. Stay healthy and I think he produces big. We saw him in the season-opener at Buffalo and he was remarkable. We saw him at joint practices with the Eagles and he was terrific. I wouldn't write his Patriots football obituary just yet.
Scott (Somerville, NJ)
Mike, do you see a philosophy change along the front 7 depending on the way the draft unfolds? Is Nix, assuming he's available, a fit in a 4-3 look? Or would drafting him alter their plans to go back to a 3-4? I think with Jones at DE, they are locked into a 4-3 for the foreseeable future.
Mike (11:58 AM)
Scott, I think Jones has that flexibility to be multiple. We saw him stand up and play that OLB role at times in the 3-4. I still think the philosophy, for the most part, is the same. And I do think Nix can fit in both 4-3/3-4 schemes, especially for a team that likes to be multiple like the Patriots.
Mike (11:58 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Ben B (Bar Harbor)
Do you think adding two quality cornerbacks might infringe on Logan Ryan's "second year jump" that is talked about? Arrington can't be the #5 corner with his contract can he?
Mike (12:00 PM)
Ben, Ryan is a competitor. That's one of the things that is most admirable about him so I don't think this will beat him down. Also, with Brandon Browner suspended for the first four games, that's a factor to consider. We also never know how injuries will alter the picture. I don't worry about Ryan and still view Arrington as their best slot CB. I often cite the stat that the Patriots were in their sub defense 67 percent of the time last year, which means CBs No. 3, 4 and sometimes 5 are more important than the typical reserves.
Mike...I know you think Arrington is valuable...but it seems outrageous to me that he has essentially the same type contract as Edelman...an average of $4 mil a year is way to much for a decent slot corner who gets burned on the edges allllll the time...why not cut him?
Mike (12:02 PM)
From the pure economics standpoint, it would cost the team more on the cap to cut him than keep him.
Alec (Lehigh) [via mobile]
If the Patriots end up cutting Wilfork do you see them go after a veteran in free like Kevin Williams then go after a DT in the first round?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Alec, when I think of Kevin Williams, it's more in the role of the 3-technique, penetrating DT. I think they have two solid players in that mold in Chris Jones and Armond Armstead. Thus, not sure it's a fit there.
Ralph (Orlando via mobile)
I feel that Vince deserves to finish as a pat. I think if we release him he will ultimately end up having a stellar season for someone else. Vince has always taken care of himself so I don't see a reason why he wouldn't in this case. Your thoughts?
Mike (12:09 PM)
Ralph, let's end on this one, as it sort of brings us full circle. We started talking about Vince Wilfork and we'll end talking about Vince Wilfork. It takes two sides to make it happen. I know people often don't like when I say that, but it's the truth. Think about Darrelle Revis, do you think he could have gotten more elsewhere? I believe so. But he showed a desire to be here, the Patriots showed a desire to have him, and they consummated a deal in which both sides got something that was important to them. I've shared my viewpoint that if I was making decisions for the Patriots, I'd still pay Wilfork the $7.5m base salary for this year and it wouldn't be an issue -- I think he's more than a two-down run-stuffing NT as some have suggested. But I think the team sees it differently and that's their right (the injury situation complicates it a bit). It's also Wilfork's right to decline that request and sign elsewhere. It's complicated in situations like this. But in the end, if Wilfork is fully committed to finishing his career a Patriot, and the Patriots truly want that to happen, they should be able to work something out. I know that's a long answer to the question, but I don't know how else to answer it. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. It comes down to what's important to each party involved.
Mike (12:11 PM)
Thanks to everyone for the questions, and especially to Suluuq the Eskimo, who peppered me with Randy Moss questions during the chat. I saw them all.
Mike (12:11 PM)
Have a great weekend and we'll catch up again soon.