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 (10:58 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our weekly chat. Kickoff in a few minutes.
Mike (11:03 AM)
How is everyone doing today? Weather has provided a nice pick-me-up here in the New England region over the last week or so. Nice to get the preseason schedule on Wednesday -- at Washington; vs. Philadelphia; vs. Carolina; at NY Giants.
Mike (11:04 AM)
My work has included a combination of draft-based preparation, following members of the present roster (e.g. Rob Ninkovich at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday), and dabbling a bit in free agency by trying to watch some tape to educate myself (e.g. Michael Bush/Will Smith and their skill sets). Fun stuff. What's on your mind today?
When does preseason start?
Mike (11:06 AM)
Nick, the opening of training camp will be in late July, although the exact date has yet to be announced. First preseason games Aug. 8-10.
Hi Mike,I'm not a huge fan of the draft being pushed back to May. Does that interfere with your vacation plans?
Mike (11:07 AM)
Not too much, Rick. We usually don't vacation until mid-June as that's really the time that the NFL teams shut down. Amazing how this has really become a year-round beat.
Mike, first off thank you for doing this every week, it's really nice to get a chance to interact with you week in and week out and ask questions. Earlier you wrote about Dobson making the year 2 jump but a lot of that is dependent on him staying healthy. Have you heard anything on how his recovery is coming?
Mike (11:08 AM)
Thanks Dan. I was thinking myself how much I enjoy the weekly chats and the interaction and the consistency of it. You're right on Dobson in terms of the health being the key. I haven't heard anything about setbacks, but would assume he won't be taking part in the offseason program at the same level of other players.
Does Dante's retirement this past offseason indicate that Belichik is not looking to walk away from this year's draft with a few starting potential Olinemen? Draft seems deep with talent and, in my opinion, is an area we need to send reinforcements to put us over the top. Coach can get this team to the playoffs, but in the playoffs good coaching is neutralized. We need to win those one on ones - especially up front.
Mike (11:12 AM)
I could see that position going either way, H-daddy. I think they like some of their young guys -- Josh Kline stepped up big for them at guard last year. Chris Barker was kept on the 53-man roster all last season for a reason -- they see something there. I think the biggest spot to watch is center. If they like one of the top prospects (USC's Marcus Martin, Colorado State's Weston Richburg; North Carolina's Russell Bodine), that would make some sense to me. But do I think it's a must-have? I don't. I think they can win with what they have, but that doesn't mean they won't try to upgrade if the right opportunity presents itself.
It seems like most draft experts have the Pats pegged as going after a defender in the first round. While LB and DL are certainly need areas, do you think chances are good the Pats will target a TE (like Troy Niklas) or bigger WR on Day 2/Day 3 of the draft? Other than Gronk there's not a lot of size in that receiving corps.
Mike (11:13 AM)
Jeff, Niklas is the guy who makes the most sense to me. He's not the "move" TE we've talked about, but he has the size and blocking ability that I look at and think "NFL." He'd be a solid pick in my opinion. The question, as I study where things may fall, is if you don't take him at 62 (late second round) does he make it to the next pick at the end of the third round? I don't think he does.
Your thoughts on FA Michael Bush. I saw him play in both High School and College. What other teams are interested in him?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Digger, I really got into a film study on Bush because I had the time to watch him. He only played 133 snaps last season, so in one sense, it didn't take too long. In another sense, I had to look a bit harder to find him on the tape because I don't have my own personal video department to get me his cut ups. Check out my "film review" and let me know what you think. I think he could help any team in a complemetary role: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4761301/film-review-on-rb-michael-bush
Phil Scolardi - Cranston, RI [via mobile]
If Chris Johnson were willing to take a very team friendly deal to get a chance at a ring, do you see the Pats moving on him? I think a weapon of his caliber with a staff that would push him to explode through holes more directly and a defense that must respect the pass is a recipe for something special. Thoughts?
Mike (11:17 AM)
Phil, if Johnson is willing to take a team-friendly deal and buy in to a complementary role, why not? Would be a no-brainer. He can still help a team. I watched a little bit of him as well and there's still plenty to like.
How much laughter and relief is there in Foxboro relative to Spikes rediculous tweets? Looks like he only confirmed their opinion about him.
Mike (11:19 AM)
Jim, teammates mostly loved Brandon Spikes and I think they sort of laugh at that stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if he tweeted it while hanging out with some Patriots players. He's just playing around. From a management/coaching standpoint, that's not the type of thing they obviously like. Spikes always marched to the beat of his own drum -- last year at this time he was the only player to not show up for voluntary workouts and later talked about not conforming -- so it's not like it's anything out of the norm.
Concerned about the lack of depth at linebacker looks like we should have at least 2 NFL experienced backups and there are none
Mike (11:20 AM)
Yes, Scott, it's a good thing that the season doesn't start today or they'd be thin. It's an area they should address in the draft, and if that doesn't work out, look to free agency. Good opportunity for last year's seventh-rounder, Steve Beauharnais, to take that next step.
Tony (Pittsburgh) [via mobile]
Hi Mike, what's the latest on Armond Armstead, and how much of an impact do you believe he can have on the front seven of the defense? i have been very anxious to see him in action since he was initially brought on a while ago.
Mike (11:22 AM)
Tony, Bill Belichick was really high on Armstead last year, viewing him as a top-3 defensive tackle alongside Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly when training camp was set to open. No reason to think that changes this year and he's ready to go health-wise. Will be a fun player to watch.
What prohibits Mark Harrison from being a T.O. type receiver? Head or hands?
Mike (11:23 AM)
Brad, I honestly haven't seen enough of him to have an informed opinion. I do know this: At least one NFL team which had lost a "move" TE in free agency last year viewed Harrison as a possible option to fill that void. I could see that in New England as well.
I really don't think we need to go for a running back in the free agency, especially Chris Johnson. Even though the position has become less prominent in the pros you can still find great value in the draft at any round, look at alfred morris and zac stacy! I just think it's more sensible to draft a running back late. It's cheaper and you can groom him through your own system
Mike (11:26 AM)
If Michael Bush would accept a minimum-level contract, I wouldn't hesitate to strike that deal. He can help a team. Unique guy in that he's 245 pounds but is still pretty fluid in the passing game. Can deliver a blow. I like those big backs and the fact they've been around usually helps a bit when it comes to pass protection and understanding schemes a bit faster. Don't see too many of the big backs in this year's draft -- Ohio State's Carlos Hyde (but how early?) and Boston College's Andre Williams (third-fourth round) are the top guys. Could develop one late, for sure, like the Patriots did with BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2008. I sort of tossed a lot of thoughts out there in one, but I do think that's an area the team needs to address.
Mike, I saw your write-up on Aaron Dobson and the second year jump this morning, and your note that at 6'3" he was only 200 pounds last year reminded me of what a string bean he was. Some players have more work to do in that area than others. At what point do any new 2014 measurements become available that would indicate young players have benefited from the offseason training program?
Mike (11:28 AM)
Andy, I wouldn't call Dobson a stringbean. When he first got here last year after the draft, he was actually too big and not in the best condition, so they worked him down. It's always a balance in that area with players. I think Dobson at 200-205 is just fine. I don't think strength is much of an issue for him. He is also a physical player in my opinion. I like the way the receivers on this team block.
Gary in Monroe [via mobile]
When does the schedule come out? Looking forward to the Pats shutting up Brandon Spikes and want to mark it on my calendar.
Mike (11:29 AM)
A couple weeks, Gary, is the estimate for the regular-season schedule. No set date right now.
Jake norwood ma [via mobile]
What else do the patriots need on off/def
Mike (11:30 AM)
Jake, my feeling is that they don't "need" anything in the sense that there likely isn't a rookie who will come in here and make an immediate impact like we saw with Jerod Mayo in 2008. This is about filling out the roster and projecting to 2015 and beyond -- similar to the Jamie Collins pick last year. You really saw how he was coming on and ready to break through by the playoffs. Same concept this year.
MIKE D (Sydney, Australia) [via mobile]
Hi Mike. I've got a question regarding the secondary. The need at safety is well-documented, but are we underestimating the need at cornerback? Darrelle Revis has a $25m cap figure in 2015 and Brandon Browner has a $2m bonus for being on the 90-man roster in 2015. Barring a Pro Bowl season from Browner and an extension for Revis, it looks like both players will be 1yr rentals. Should we be considering CB as a higher priority in the upcoming Draft? Thanks again, Mike. GO PATS!
Mike (11:31 AM)
Mike, this sort of follows up on the previous thought. We could really look at any position and make a case for it in this way with the future in mind. Still, I rank CB a bit lower than others.
John (Manchester, NH)
Mike, I note that several commenters have expressed a desire to trade Ryan Mallett, given that he's not starting and will be a UFA and that the team "would lose him for nothing" at the end of the year. However, under that logic, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to trade a guy like Marcus Cannon? He's A) not starting, B) going to be a UFA and C) has actually demonstrated that he can play at the NFL level (and even start). If the Pats view him exclusively as a backup tackle for them and not a potential starting RG, doesn't trading him make more sense than Mallett, since he'd likely bring more back in return?
Mike (11:34 AM)
John, no team is going to trade more than a late-round pick for Mallett. I think this is a case where locally we've overrated the player a bit because we're lacking the NFL-wide context. As for Cannon, my concern on trading him would be Sebastian Vollmer's health/recovery. I'd be uneasy about trading my depth in that situation, and that doesn't even factor in that Cannon could be in the mix to start at right guard.
Wrisley - NYC [via mobile]
Do you see the patriots taking a flyer on Colt Lyerla or has that ship sailed with Hernandez? From what I've read about, he seems worth it.
Mike (11:34 AM)
I'd think he's off the board, Wrisley.
TazC [via mobile]
So you think patriots will sign Michael Bush for the poor man replacement if Blount? Also will they sign Will Smith when he gets healthy? Thanks
Mike (11:35 AM)
I like them both, Taz. The unknown is the money. I'm assuming it's closer to minimum levels with incentives. If that's what it is, I wouldn't hesitate. As we often say, it takes two sides to make a deal.
Hi Mike, I'm a little frustrated by pundits and posters who consistently talk about considering first where the depth and value is in the draft and then have mocks and opinions that have the Pats picking up DEs and DTs all over the place. Many also say that few rookies can really make a difference in their first year but then don't talk about what the team's needs will next year (when this year's rookies will matter). Its clear this draft is very deep on the OL and the Pats will have a major need there next year. That's the area the Pats should focus on in the 2014 draft. Not DEs or DTs.
Mike (11:37 AM)
Frustration noted, Steve. This is a good OL draft, particularly at tackle. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper predicts about 5-6 guards off the board in the second round/early third round range. My only counter to the thought is that they have quite a few young guys and it depends on how they view them -- Josh Kline, Chris Barker, Braxston Cave among them. It's almost like a draft class in and of itself, all from 2013.
John (Boston) [via mobile]
McCarron, Mettenberger, or someone else? Who would you want calling plays after Tom Brady is gone?
Mike (11:38 AM)
John, I think Pitt's Tom Savage is the best QB fit for the Patriots as the backup from 2015-2018. Similar to Mallett, it would give Savage the needed stability to refine and hone his skills behind the scenes after being a double transfer. Then we consider the picture in 2018. I wouldn't be surprised if Brady is still playing at that point, assuming good health. I am not betting against Tom Brady.
E-Rock (Funspot, NH)
If he still there when the Pats pick in the second round I would love to see them get Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB from Nebraska at 6-3 218 lbs he is one of the bigger corners in this year's draft and fits the mold that the Pats seem to be trending to right now. Plus with the depth in front of him he will get to learn for a year before we have to worry about him being on the field, similar to the Soldier pick a few years ago. Have you done any work on him yet?
Mike (11:41 AM)
E-Rock, you hit it on Stanley Jean-Baptiste. He's that bigger press corner who fits the Seahawks-type mold. Utah's Keith McGill (6-3, 211) is another one. All fair thoughts. I still see other needs trumping it -- I'd lean toward Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas at 62, for example, assuming the first pick was on defense -- but maybe the Patriots see it differently.
Patrick Wilson (Bedford MA)
Hello Mike. Does the Patriots visiting with a lot of Wide Recievers and Quarterbacks mean anything? Do you think they will select each position in the draft?
Mike (11:43 AM)
Patrick, everything means something, but I do believe context is important here. Unlike last year, when I thought the receiver in-house visits were telling and the overall circumstances telegraphed the team's intentions a bit more, I don't see the same scenario this year. I think the roster is better distributed and there is less of a pressing immediate need to fill.
Gee [via mobile]
Hey Mike, what do you think about Kony Ealy in a Pats Uni? He is the best pass rusher behind clowney. DE is by far a bigger need than DT. We can't have Ninko and C Jones playing 90%+ snaps. Look at the workload Vince got and his injury I just think Ealy is the perfect pick if he falls to 29
Mike (11:45 AM)
Gee, I have Ealy on my radar as well. He's a good player and that DE spot has a drop-off after Jones/Ninkovich. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens, but if I had to guess, I think a more likely scenario is that they sign Will Smith (3rd DE) and draft more of a height-weight-traits DL prospect like Louis Nix (tackle) or Stephon Tuitt (versatile DE/DT type) there. It falls a bit more in line with their history/tendencies.
Not accounting for trade movements, what is your ideal choice for the Pats at 29 that is entirely possible?
Mike (11:47 AM)
Kevin, it's so hard to know who will be there, but I'll tell you one player who I'm surprised is even a consideration based on some of the pre-draft chatter is Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier. He'd be my slam-dunk choice if he somehow is available. He's one of those prospects who I think will go lower than he should and then in five years when we do a "re-draft" he'll be a top-15 pick. Great speed and instincts. In today's game, with 70 percent of the game played in sub, that's what I want from my LBs. It easily trumps any concern over size.
Frankie (Outer Banks NC)
Louis Nix is likely to fall to 29 because of the changing philosiphy of the position in the league - teams dont view run stuffers the same. But the Patriots need to replace Wilfork...is first round too early for mainly two down player?
Mike (11:49 AM)
Frankie, I think there is a lot to digest with this topic. 1) What does two-down player mean when 70 percent of the game is played in sub?; 2) Is Nix really just a run-stuffer?; 3) How is Vince Wilfork's rehab going? etc... (con't)
Mike (11:51 AM)
I'd start with this: Nix is going to play in sub packages if he ends up with the Patriots. Just because he's not a penetrating DT doesn't mean he doesn't have value in sub. The way the Patriots mix and match their packages each week, a player with that size, athletic ability and potential will be tapped. They said the same thing about Wilfork at times early in his career and he later came an 80-percent playtime guy. Think about the Broncos regular-season game last year when the DTs were getting blown off the ball in the six-man box. You still need a presence in there even in this "changing" league.
Keith (Annapolis, MD)
Why draft Nix? or any DT at 29? They would play behind Kelly, Wilfork and probably Armstead. I think Saligia could be molded into Wilfork's replacement. The running DTs are not needed as much anymore. Need pass rush. Kelly and Armstead can both get that interior push. Jones is good depth at DT too. Maybe a later round guy but I think a DE/OL like Dee Ford would help more right now.
Mike (11:52 AM)
Keith brings me to my next point on Nix. The pick isn't as much about 2014 as it is 2015. Similar to Nate Solder in 2011 when Matt Light/Sebastian Vollmer were already on the roster at offensive tackle. Sometimes we need to look ahead. ... Good point on Siliga, too, as a lot depends on how the team views his potential. He filled in pretty well last year, but what is his ceiling. Nix's is pretty high in my view.
Hi Mike, am I the only one that thinks drafting a LB in rd 1 or 2 would be a huge mistake. As you have noted most times they are in a sub defense (which means a 5th or even 6th d-back on field). Also, the have 3 lbs (Mayo, Collins, Hightower) already, plus a guy that can play a hybrid role (Ninkovich). Unless its a guy that can rush the passer getting another lb early seems like an unncessary move. I just don't see that linebacker getting much playing time, so why spend a 1st or 2nd pick on him. Thoughts? Thanks
Mike (11:55 AM)
No, Jared, you're not the only one. I don't think you go in and say, "We need a LB in round 1 or 2" as much as say "if the right LB is there, we wouldn't hesitate to take him." It has to be the right player and I wouldn't want to pass on a top player because I was looking to fill a need elsewhere. I'm not sure that answers the question, but they obviously have a need there to fill out the depth chart, and it's just a matter of what prospects are available at the time of the pick to determine when you address it.
Hi Mike, Were the trade rumors on Amendola all smoke? or is there still a possibility that he is not here on opening day?
Mike (11:56 AM)
Rob, I think economics drives that decision. More expensive to cut him than keep him. I'd also make the point that he was a difference-maker pre-injury. Let's see if he can recapture that.
Bob Q (Coventry)
Mike- I don't get the reaction to Brandon Spikes Tweets. How has he "ripped" the Patriots? Seems pretty normal to say you wat to beat your former team- or any team for that matter. Is this just some media generated controversy?
Mike (11:58 AM)
Bob, to me it wasn't as much about beating the Patriots as it was bringing slavery into the discussion. Bad taste, IMO, with a player I liked personally in my interactions with him.
Mike, please explain your Armendola is a "difference maker" comment. I am not sure you can call him this. Are you saying he is a difference maker like Gronk ? C'mon Man
Mike (11:59 AM)
John, if you have time, go back and watch the regular-season opener at Buffalo from last season. That's what I mean by difference-maker. The tape doesn't lie.
Mike (12:00 PM)
A difference-maker, to me, is a player who plays a major role in deciding wins and losses, especially when the game is on the line. Yes, Danny Amendola did that in the season-opener last year when he badly injured his groin in the process.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, Greg Cosell mentioned two DE/DT type players he really liked on Ross Tucker's podcast yesterday; Kareem Martin and Taylor Hart. They appear to be two players that fit the Patriots' measurables that would be, perhaps, second day picks. Do you have a sense for these guys and their potential fit on the defense? I am all in on getting an upside DT type early in this draft.
Mike (12:02 PM)
I don't know as much about Martin, but I did study Hart and the Patriots have personally met with him and he does strike me as their type of player. Good size. Chip Kelly obviously has a good read on him as well and I think the Eagles will be a team to watch with Hart. Good prospect to keep on the radar. I like him.
Ryan (Maryland) [via mobile]
Mike, you often say that since the defense is in sub so often the third cb is more like a starter. With this in mind, why would the Pats take a linebacker in the first round when in sub, the third and fourth linebackers are less like starters? Does that mean you see Hightower as a 2 down lb?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Either a two-down LB, Ryan, or playing on the line like he did at Alabama. Collins could do the same thing. A lot of versatile parts here which sort of creates some intriguing possibilities. I'm not saying you lock in a LB and that's where they have to go, but if the right player is there, I wouldn't hesitate. Can never have enough good players and I'm bullish on Shazier this year. In the end, I'm assuming he'll be gone by 29, but I'm surprised it's even a consideration, and that's why I brought it up. Too good of a player to be there that late.
IF Amendola is a difference maker, what is Gronk then?
Mike (12:05 PM)
Difference-maker, indeed. One of the best in the NFL at his position when healthy.
Mike - no way Amendola is difference maker - is Edelman difference maker, Blount was he a difference maker? everyone has a good game
Mike (12:07 PM)
Liam, he had a good game and badly injured his groin in the process. He wasn't the same again after that. If he's healthy in 2014, after what I saw in 2013 offseason camps/training camp and the '13 season-opener, I have no reason to think he won't be a difference-maker again. Health is the key.
Ben Bradley (Rochester NH)
Agree to disagree with them Mike re:Amendola. Just wait until he gets injured again in week 1 and we can all blame that for him not being a difference maker anymore
Mike (12:07 PM)
Health is the key, no doubt.
Logan Mankins (California)
I had a good game - not in the Superbowl - can i be called a difference maker?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Absolutely, Logan, you are a difference-maker.
Cal (Los Angeles)
Hey Mike! Todd McShay had us drafting a running back in Round 2, but I don't get it. We have Ridley, a 1200 yard back, for 1st and 2nd down, and Vereen (Sproles 2.0) for 3rd, with Bolden for depth. I just feel like we have AT LEAST half a dozen greater needs...
Mike (12:09 PM)
Cal, I saw the pick of Carlos Hyde in that mock. Ridley did have some issues last year and enters the last year of his contract in 2014. I could see it, but would agree there are greater needs. It would just come down to how strongly you felt about Hyde. Good player.
Earl M. (Marlborough)
I disagree with the negative sentiment on Amendola's skill. In his excellent 1st game, Amendola seemed just as shifty as Welker, and appeared quicker - though maybe doesn't get as low as Welker. I think he's being (legitimately) punished for his injury history and for appearing to be slow when he was hobbled by the groin injury. However, his skill and potential remains high despite the risk of injury.
Mike...all these Amendola haters really need to watch the Buffalo game when he was healthy...guy was the whole offense that day...do ppl not realize he played hurt the whole year? I mean was Gronk a difference maker sitting on the sideline? come on ppl
Mike (12:12 PM)
I am surprised at the negativity on Amendola. It's all about health with him, just as it was with Julian Edelman the first four years of his career. Edelman acknowledged as much after his breakthrough 2013 season. Unfortunately, I view it as a reflection of what often happens today -- we build people up and seem to love to tear them down. I'll just stick with the tape analysis and avoid falling into that type of situation. Watching Brady and Amendola in joint practices last year in Philly was telling. Then the season-opener. There are some good things there. All about health.
Tyler(Oklahoma) [via mobile]
We need a pass catching tight end in this draft as well. But we can't jump too early on that guy. Who do u thinkthat guy is and where do the pats need to draft him?
Mike (12:15 PM)
This isn't the strongest draft class at the position. I don't necessarily see a "move" TE in the draft that would come in and immediately trump what they already have on the roster. Thus, I'd look closer at what they have in D.J. Williams and Mark Harrison and focus as much on their development as any prospect in this year's draft.
Mike - if the Pats cut him next year - will you admit you were wrong on Danny Amendola?
Mike (12:17 PM)
Let's end on this one, John. Of course. I always hold myself accountable. All I'm saying is that if the player is healthy, he is a top talent and a big part of the plans. If you're looking into your crystal ball and telling me that he'll be healthy and still be a disappointment, that's different and I'm not sure what you're basing it on. I don't know how anyone can evaluate his 2013 season without factoring in he played most of the year with a bad groin. It's all about health with Amendola.
Mike (12:17 PM)
Good spirited chat today. I'll let Danny Amendola know you're all behind him. LOL.
Mike (12:18 PM)
Have a great day and we'll do it again next week. Always enjoy it.