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 1 p.m. ET!
Mike (1:01 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. A bit later than the norm. It allowed me to take my oldest to Kindergarten orientation, which was pretty neat. The day started at Gillette Stadium, where TE Michael Hoomanawanui met with reporters at 9 a.m., and then the Kindergarten orientation, and now this chat. Life is good. What's on your mind?
Tom B. (Encinitas, CA)
What is your policy on reaching out to interview free agents? Considerable speculation follows any players visit to the New England that I was wondering if you attempt to contact the players directly (or their agents) about their visit, perception, other options, and interest in joining the Patriots? (Read: What's Dustin Keller's cell phone?) Thanks for everything. ESPNBoston is the first place I turn for Patriots news.
Mike (1:03 PM)
Thanks Tom. That is really the basic fundamentals of what we do. When a player visits, you always reach out and see how it went. Sometimes, you have to work hard to decipher truth from agenda. With those player agents with whom you might have a more established relationship, you know you're probably getting it straight. One example came recently with a defensive player who came through. The response after reaching out was something like this, "We feel like it went well but there is no urgency right now." That can be helpful because you then know it isn't on the front-burner.
Mike (1:04 PM)
The main thing with most of these free agents is that it wouldn't be smart for the Patriots to sign them before June 1 because it would count against next year's compensatory pick formula. After June 1, it doesn't count. So I would expect some form of movement on a veteran or two after June 1.
Marco (From Boston transplanted to California)
Mike can you see any scenario where Houston would ask for Jimmy Garappolo instead of Mallett if they were willing to deal Andre Johnson? If so, would Belichick be willing to do so? God Bless and thanks again.
Mike (1:07 PM)
Marco, this is a fun one to consider because I believe the Texans were prepared to select Garoppolo at the top of round 3. If those were the dynamics in play, I wouldn't necessarily rule it out (Johnson would have to readjust his contract as well, IMO). But in the end, my educated guess is that Johnson plays for the Texans this year, Garoppolo elevates to the No. 2 spot by 2015, and he's the first candidate to succeed Tom Brady if Brady isn't playing at a top level when he's 40.
Leo (Narragansett, RI)
Love the Easley pick. Pats have employed patchwork DL thru high effort but average producting UFA or signing older veterans that have little left. Love the pick
Mike (1:09 PM)
Leo, outside of the ACL injuries, what stands out to me about the pick is that it reflects how the game is being played differently these days. So much more in sub packages (65-70 percent) and those undersized defensive linemen who can penetrate and create disruption now have more value to a team like the Patriots than before. I wonder if Bill Belichick would agree with me that if this was 2004, or even 2007, the team probably wouldn't have viewed Easley as a system fit based on its 3-4 defense. Times have changed. It's almost all about the sub.
Thanks for the chat Mike. Two quick things; what kind of role does James White project to? Seems like we need depth in the Ridley power back role, and White ran between the tackles a bit in college, but BB compared him to Vereen. I figure he's somewhere in between the two. If coaches see him more as a Vereen type, is Michael Bush still a possibility for depth? Also, why are you posting comments on the blog from Bill Polian about building depth? Mr. 2-14 knows nothing about that topic!
Mike (1:11 PM)
Will, I'm still getting a feel for White. Initial impressions would be that he falls more into the "passing back" category with Vereen. Then you put Ridley and Bolden into more of the "big back" category. At this point, I'd be surprised if they go with Bush. While he's a bigger back in terms of size, I'm not sure they view him as "big back" in terms of the way he runs. That's why I have my eyes on undrafted free agent Stephen Houston from Indiana. 230 pounds. Sort of liked what I heard from him last week.
Frankie (Outer Banks NC)
Mike I have concerns about Easley because of the way he plays. He tries so hard and has such a good motor that he often finds himself in vulnerable injury positions often. It can be really great but also he could easily get hurt. thoughts?
Mike (1:14 PM)
Frankie, the concern I'd have with Easley is less about the way he plays ("tries so hard") and more about the fact he's an undersized defensive lineman coming off two ACL tears in 22 months, and will now be going up against bigger offensive linemen who will be bearing down on him. This is the risk of he pick in the opinion of scouts and personnel people I've spoken with. They know the resconstruction of the knee(s) is going to get Easley back on the field. That isn't the question. The question is if Easley, coming up a level and given the importance of his quickness, will be able to be the same player he was before the injuries at this new level of competition against bigger blockers.
What's your reaction to Bill Polian's comments that the Patriots have a lot of age at a lot of of positions and if they ever go south at the same time they're in trouble?
Mike (1:15 PM)
Dom, I debated on whether to post that comment in the blog, just based on the history of Polian/Patriots/Belichick. Maybe I should have passed. I don't see it, frankly. At the same time, I've never run an NFL team like Polian and I do respect those who have done so.
Hello Mike. Is it a big coincidence that the head of scouting leaves after this latest unspectacular draft? Huge letdown to see the Pats use their only second round pick on someone we don't even want to see play their entire rookie contract. I'm OK with the lineman being taken.
Mike (1:18 PM)
Brad, I wouldn't read too much into Jon Robinson's departure, which was solodified long before the draft. This is about relationships and upward mobility. First, Robinson was hired in New England in 2002, in part because then national scout Jason Licht gave him a great recommendation. Now that Licht is Buccaneers GM, he naturally wants some of his own guys. Second, Robinson didn't have a chance to have the same position in New England because Nick Caserio is entrenched. So it's hard to keep a guy in town when he has a chance to better his career.
Geno (Kansas City, KS)
What can we expect to see from LaFell?
Mike (1:20 PM)
Geno, I watched a few games of LaFell's tape from last year. If he plays like he did against the Patriots, he'll be a great addition -- good size, smart, lines up in a bunch of different spots, often in motion, runs different routes and blocks well. That was probably his high point of the 2013 season. You watch a bit more and see some drops and inconsistency. So I think, at the least, he offers you a solid No. 4 with special teams prowess. But if he plays like he did against the Patriots, he'll be in the top 3.
ReDrew (S Fla)
Yes...Blount is gone, but why does everyone assume Ridley is now the defacto starter? Did Ridley solve his fumblitis this off season?
Mike (1:21 PM)
I think that's a job that Ridley still has to earn, ReDrew, no doubt about it.
Riders of Rohan Davey (Beyond the Wall)
Mike, while I am ok with the Garoppolo pick, I was much more excited when they drafted Mallett a few years ago. Mallett seemed to have way more upside and was considered a steal. With Mallett having one more year, wouldn't there have been more value to the Pats to bring in a raw prospect with lots of upside that could have used the year as 3rd string to be groomed. Maybe they could have found someone like this in the 5th or 6th round?
Mike (1:24 PM)
A few thoughts on Mallett vs. Garoppolo from this viewpoint: I think Mallett entered the NFL with more natural physical gifts, but Garoppolo is more advanced in the areas the Patriots particularly value -- accuracy, decision-making etc. I do think it is fair to ask the question -- why not wait until the late third round and grab someone like Tom Savage and use the late second on a player like Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz or someone else? In the end, I think it just comes down to if the Patriots like the player or not. They obviously really like Garoppolo and didn't feel that strongly about anyone else in that range.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Isn't it likely the Pats never receive any cap relief from the A. Hernandez situation? His $7.5M hit is this year, and at this rate his trial won't happen until 2015.
Mike (1:25 PM)
Gary, my understanding is that nothing will/can happen in terms of relief until there is a verdict.
Mike (1:26 PM)
We're about halfway through the chat and now seems like a good time to ask a question that was broached in the Patriots blog -- if you were the Patriots, would you have given Oregon TE Colt Lyerla a look? On-field talent not the question, but off-field questions loom. I say no. Curious what you have on the topic.
Eugene Espartero (Philippines)
Hi Mike, the Pats cannot give Lyerla even a try-out especially with his conspiracy theory claim about the Connecticut shooting. But I agree with my fellow Pats fans that we should do something about our Tight End situation. Who are the unsigned tight ends from the draft who could possibly help especially as an F (move)? Unlike other fans, I'm confident this will be the year Gronk will play healthy in the playoffs so I'm not concerned about his insurance policy. I hope you can answer my question this time. I haven't had any luck in you answering my questions in previous chats. Thanks in advance!
Mike (1:27 PM)
Eugene, I think Dustin Keller, if healthy, is your guy. I'd also endorse the in-house possibility of giving WR Mark Harrison (230 pounds) a consideration.
Mike (1:28 PM)
But one thing I also want to mention is that D.J. Williams was pretty highly touted coming out of Arkansas in 2011. Was a fifth-round pick. Maybe the light goes on? Probably wishful thinking, but he has a heck of an opportunity to prove it right now.
Mike, it does sting to see a team like Green Bay sign Colt Lyerla. Patriots take a shot on injured players this year but stayed away from the players with off the field issues. Colt was busted for cocain possession. After the situation with Hernandez, I understand why they didn't sign him. Can he be relied on in a big game, or will he point shave! I just wish the Patriots used some late round picks to move up from the third round to the second for a tight end. We stress, but BB always has a plan and sometimes it develops late. At this point we are looking at free agents with significant injuries and its a risk as well.
Mike not Colt Lyerla but somewhat curious why they have not given Joe Don Duncan a look in ..
Lav (Wistah not Worchester)
Hey Mike, definitely No on Lyerla. Too risky.
Colt Lyerla? Pass. Let's not chase bad decisions with more bad decisions.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
No way on Lyerla.
max (my cube)
Mike, how different is the Colt Lyerla situation from the Reche Caldwell (who was recently arrested)? Did Caldwell have a similar history when the Pats signed him?
Mike (1:31 PM)
Max, I don't think Caldwell was as extreme.
Mike (1:32 PM)
Good stuff on the topic. Let's spread it around a bit now...
Justin Sane - Bridgewater State Hospital [via mobile]
Hi Mike, seasons warming up! I love the potential of UDFA TE James Jones. What type of an impact do you see him making this season, or will he bust like Sudfield did last season?
Mike (1:33 PM)
Justin, all I have to go on with Jones now is the physical traits/measurables. He looks like a basketball player. So that's intriguing. But as we know, there is a lot more that goes into playing football. Excited to see him on the field to have a better feel.
nathan (northampton, ma.)
It seems a lot of people are upset the patriots spent so much of their draft on offensive lineman. However, people seem to forget that the main reason their offense is ever truly stopped is because opponents have been able to pressure Brady. This is especially true when the interior offensive line is dominated. It has less to do with who is catching the ball in my opinion. With a change in coaching and a weakening interior line the Patriots focused on a real need with some solid, experienced college prospects. Am I wrong in thinking that they actually had the right plan when approaching this draft?
Mike (1:35 PM)
Nathan, I think they were intent with coming out of this draft with at least one offensive lineman. They hadn't drafted at the position in 2012 and 2013 and when you think of what it means to build a team with the salary cap in mind, and how rookie salaries are most easily absorbed on the cap, I don't think it would be responsible to go a third straight year without drafting at the position. Have to keep feeding the pipeline and keep that salary-cap integrity. Now it's just a matter of if they got the right picks.
FanSinceThe60s (San Diego)
In thinking about the depth chart at LB and DL, I constantly wonder it's just my imagination, or whether Rob Ninkovitch was really more of a playmaker when he was playing OLB than he has been as a lineman. I know there's not great depth at DE, but would the defense be better served by moving Nink back to OLB (solving the LB depth problem and putting another playmaker at that position) and signing another Andre Carter type to rotate with Smith at DE until they can draft/acquire another top-notch DE to go with Jones?
Mike (1:39 PM)
There's a lot to digest here, and the topic probably warrants some further exploration. When I look at the Patriots' defense, and the role that Ninkovich and Chandler Jones play, I mostly consider it an "end-of-the-line" position. It's not really a DE vs. OLB type set-up. So I still see both of those players doing some OLB stuff at times. Maybe not as much as when we saw a pure 3-4 defense, but still part of the scheme. I do think Ninkovich adds some flexibility to the scheme with his ability to play linebacker, but even if he was at that spot, I think his best fit is on the line.
Mike (1:39 PM)
Not sure that all comes through the right way, so maybe something we get into it in some more detail in weeks to come.
Michael (Cologne, Germany)
Mike, I still can't wrap my head around the fact that we will be paying our 5th best cornerback $4m this year. I know you think Arrington is a good "program fit" but that should be worth an extra $20,000, not $2 million.
Mike (1:42 PM)
Michael, Arrington's base salary this season is $2 million. Projects to me as the top option in the slot.
Mr. Scratch (Here)
On Garoppolo vs Savage, Tom savage is a 24 year-old rookie with an extremely limited college resume. Savage needs to play quickly just to see if there actually is anything there. Garoppolo is 22. There's more of developmental curve to ease him into the NFL That just beyond simply liking (perhaps) one QB over (th what degree?) another. As far as Fiedorowicz, I don't think TE was ever as big of a need to them as to the fans. I think they're over the TE thing. let's not forget, the McD offense roundly ignored them until he had Gronk/ AH. McD always ran a WR centric spread.
Mike (1:44 PM)
Thanks Scratch. Always appreciate the insight. I still think they'd like to bolster the TE spot a bit, just to keep it as a viable option in the offense (BB views it as a matchup-buster position if the right players are there), but they won't force it if the personnel doesn't dictate it.
Is Sudfeld no longer an option? We forget was a camp and pre-seaspn sensation, opened the year at the starting TE as a rookie who obviously still had stuff to learn, but now...he's a ghost. How was he so quickly forgotten? He is still a 6'7 TE who can run and catch right?
Mike (1:44 PM)
Sean, Sudfeld is under contract to the Jets, so he is not an option at this time.
My question is on Michael Buchanon? Have you seen him at the facilities, and if so does he look bigger. Hoping he can be the outside pass rusher the Pats need
Mike (1:46 PM)
David, check out this link. Good shot of Buchanan, as he's been at the facility: http://www.patriots.com/media-center/videos/Exclusive-Patriots-get-to-work/eb24db48-f47d-4014-b272-a40a8784d6c0
Mike (1:48 PM)
My feeling on Buchanan is that while the physical development is important, it's more about mental discipline. When we go back and look at the Bengals and Jets games from early last season, you see him losing rush-lane integrity on some key third-down plays. Just rushed straight up the field, opening up a lane for Andy Dalton and Geno Smith to run through for the first down. Get that squared away first, IMO, and he has a chance to help.
I'm a little worried about the RB situation only because I think it reflects what little importance the Pats place on the run game. They've been wildly sucessful during the regular season chucking the ball all over, but when we face the better defenses in the post season, the one dimensional game really hurts. Is it just an afterthought to Mr. McDaniels?
Mike (1:49 PM)
I don't think so, RIPatsFan. I'm very interested to see how the influence of first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo plays a role in the running game. I think they still want to be able to pound it.
Why would the Patriots pass on Brandon Coleman, a huge wide receiver from Rutgers? Does he lack something? Do you know of him? He was not drafted and seems like a great fit for them to try. Why wouldn't they have just tried? We need big guys.
Mike (1:50 PM)
Chris, I assume something was going on with Coleman for him to fall out of the draft. We often don't have all the information in the media.
Is Easley expected to come in and start right away? Are his knees healthy enough for him to play? When is wilfork expected to be full go again?
Mike (1:51 PM)
Rob, Easley projects mostly to sub packages (67 percent of the snaps last season) from my view. To simplify it: "Rush the passer, son." Positive reports on the knees, but they'll obviously take it slow with him as they bring him along. On Wilfork, I don't think he'd play today if the season was starting. But still a long way to go.
I just kvell over the Revis and Easley additions - as Pats advanced in the playoffs, turnovers were harder to come by and they have to win their one on one match-ups in January.
Mike (1:52 PM)
Good word: kvell. Usually more kvetching in this chat. LOL.
Tom B. (Encinitas, CA)
If the Patriots decide to go more "11 personnel" with 3 receivers, do they have enough depth at WR right now? How 'bout a chat every day?!
Mike (1:53 PM)
Tom, won't you get tired of me every day? I see plenty of depth at WR, and that's without seeing some of the youngsters like Jeremy Gallon to get a feel for if/how he might help.
DJ (Ann Arbor)
Everyone talks about Sudfeld as a bust, but I disagree. Worst thing that happened to him was playing too well, too soon. If he flies under the radar then he's on the practice squad and we're all excited about him making the 2nd year jump to be the #2 TE. Not to say that he does it, but we've got hopes for Harrison there -- and he hasn't even played the position!
Mike (1:53 PM)
DJ, I absolutely agree on this. I think he surprised the Patriots themselves with how fast he started.
Mike (1:54 PM)
On Harrison, I asked BB and he said there were no plans to move him there.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Does The Great Wilson-Bequette Experiment end this August? Does our rugby star remain?
Mike (1:55 PM)
Bequette looks to be standing on shaky ground to me, Tman. Wilson maybe a bit safer, but I wouldn't call him a lock. I'd put Ebner on the roster today if making a projection.
Marc (Malden, MA)
When BB was asked about Easley, one point he made was that he liked that Easley played against top competition...then he drafts a QB from a DIaa school?
Mike (1:58 PM)
LOL, Marc. In defense of BB, he didn't say playing against top competition was a requirement. It's a nice plus, though. As we've seen, good players come from all over. Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) is the classic example.
Don Von Handburger (Boston, MA)
I have a terminology question. Why call something that is used 65-70% of the time the "sub" package? Shouldn't the personnel used 35% be the sub package?
Mike (1:59 PM)
It might be time to start flipping them, Don, with the Easley pick leading us in that direction. To me, it's a reflection that BB now views defense more from the sub-to-the-base than the base-to-the-sub perspective.
Mike (1:59 PM)
Let's take a few more...
The running back situation boggles my mind, Mike. People brushed off Blount's leaving as if it's no big deal, seemingly forgetting why he got the playing time he did. His loss is as impactful as gaining Revis. The run game may not be emphasized as much in the NFL these days, but it saved the Pats' season last year and they go into this one with a severe shortage of dependable talent. Blount's loss for short money is going to irk people more than Woodhead's.
Mike (2:00 PM)
Paul, I wrote something similar on Blount (comparing it to Woodhead). But I wouldn't go as far as to put it in the Revis category. I think the loss could hurt them. Here is that link: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4760908/quick-hit-thoughts-around-nfl-patriots-22
Hi Mike,This year I think you need to talk down the player that is performing well so we have a better chance of stashing him on the practice squad a la Sudfeld. What do ya think?
Mike (2:01 PM)
Mike, I have the line ready to go, Parcells style, "Hey, this guy looks great, but let's not get the bust ready in Canton just yet." What do you think?
BoSoxJulian (Hiding Inside A Cake)
What do you think of UDFA TE Joe Don Duncan as a possible fit?P.S. Happy Birthday, Edelman!
Mike (2:02 PM)
Lot of interest in Joe Don Duncan in this chat. I'll reach out on him and see what's going on there, if anything.
Mike [via mobile]
Mike, do you think the reason the Patriots didn't go after a tight end is a move away from 2 te packages? If you make the assumption that it'll be more of a 1 tight end offense, tight end does not seem to be much of a need and would explain their lack of drafting one. We've got 3 on roster plus develin, which is more depth (not co7nting UFAs) than other positions. With all these receivers expected to imorove, a move away from 2 tight ends makes sense. That was more a Gronk - hernandez special connection/situation
Mike (2:03 PM)
Let's end on this one, Mike. I don't think it was a conscious decision as much as it was a case where the supply didn't meet the demand. Not a lot of TEs this year. Sometimes it's like that -- a position just comes up a bit dry.
Mike (2:03 PM)
So let's end it there. 250-plus questions asked, so my apologies that I couldn't come close to getting to all of them. Appreciate everyone's interest. Let's do it again next week.