Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPNBoston.com New England Patriots blogger Mike Reiss stops by to chat.
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 (12:58 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Getting set up and will be back in a few to get things kicked off here.
Mike (1:04 PM)
Let's kick things off with a programming note. If you're coming to the season opener in Tennessee, and have interest in catching up, let's do it Saturday night. Buffalo Billiards in Nashville is the location (154 Second Avenue North). I'm told it's the place to be, and they've been gracious enough to open up some space for us. Let's say 7 p.m.-10 p.m. local time.
Mike (1:05 PM)
If it works out, maybe this is something we can do from time to time on the road. The only thing that could alter the plan is if flights get delayed coming into town. I'd just ask anyone planning on attending to monitor Twitter (@MikeReiss) for any late changes. If you're coming, here is what you can expect: Relaxing atmosphere, a few pool tables, lots of TVs tuned to sports programming, and someone who appreciates his work and the people who follow it. So let's have some fun.
Mike (1:06 PM)
Here we go...
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
How do you think that the 2012 New England Patriots will do on DEfense?
Mike (1:09 PM)
Chris, leading off with you this week because you a loyal, faithful contributor to the chat. Thanks for that. We have been making daily predictions on ESPNBoston.com this week and I'm not sure if you had a chance to see, but my thoughts were better than last year -- 17th in yards allowed and 7th in points allowed. Let's see how it turns out. I think they have better pieces than last year to be successful.
Mike (1:09 PM)
Also, a greater focus on sub defense should benefit them (they were in it 63 percent of the time last season).
Shane "Funny Bone" Thomas (Oakland,CA)
What on earth is Greg Salas going to give you on the field that Branch or Stallworth or Gaffney couldn't give you?
Mike (1:11 PM)
Can't say that I'm a Greg Salas expert. If I had to project what the Patriots were thinking, I think it's that Salas runs better than both of them right now. Also locked up through 2014 at cheaper rates. Add it up and those were probably factors in the decision-making. I'm sort of intrigued by Salas, to be honest.
Eddie Elroy (Homestead,FL)
The Patriots pride themselves in making moves to enable them to be the best they possibly can be. My question is why they are allowing Brian Waters to string them along like he is-this whole idea of, "Is he going to play? Is he not going to play?" Due to his absence, the O-line is much weaker, and protection is not as solid as it should be. The Patriots banked on him coming back, and didn't prepare for his possible absence. There were top-notch guards available in the offseason, but now the Patriots have a hole due to the games that Waters is playing. Why didn't the organization do their homework? Seems like a bad personnel decision.
Mike (1:14 PM)
I hear what you're saying, Eddie, and maybe I'm too easy on this stuff. I think they felt like Waters was coming back, but I also don't believe it was a situation where they didn't pursue other options because of it. They knew what they had on their hands with Waters, and that there was some uncertainty there. With a strong-minded, pride-filled player like Waters, who at 35 has been around the block, there is a certain respect that is shown. They let him set the timetable. I thought it was respectable.
Charles Lee MacKenzie (Oak Creek,OH)
Who is Mikr Rivera and what type of production do you expect we will get out of him?
Mike (1:16 PM)
Charles, Rivera is a first-year linebacker who played in college at Kansas. At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, he is a bigger linebacker who projects to the middle (Brandon Spikes spot). He had some good production in preseason and is still growing as a player after spending last year on the team's practice squad. I wouldn't call his roster spot a lock at this point. Developmental linebacker probably best sums up his standing.
Samantha Stormer (Detroit,MI)
Even after all these years BB still unpredictable as ever. The defense has 8 rookies on the 53 man roster with 2 undrafted players (3 undrafted players made the roster altogether). Then when you add up the $6,000,000.00 in signing bonuses the team ate for free agents that were cut: Fanene, Addai, Gonzalez, Gallery, Stallworth, Gaffney etc. What are your thoughts on the defensive youth movement and the 2012 free agent class that was not? Thank you.
Mike (1:20 PM)
Samantha, my thoughts is that the defensive youth movement is overdue, but with an * next to it. It's not just youth, but also the prioritizing of sub packages. The league has been trending in this direction for a few years now, and I think a case could be made that the Patriots have been a little late reacting to it. That thought came to light to me in the 2011 draft when I felt like they passed on a few athletes on defense who could have helped them playing in space. I feel like they are valuing those types of players more now. I could be way off on that, but that perceived shift is what I think is the key to this defense turning the corner more decisively.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hi Mike - I'm guessing most of us here consider you someone on the absolute inside, and we love your work. So when I see in a blog entry that something was "first reported by" Adam Schefter, or maybe one of your ex-Globe colleagues.....what's the dynamic they have that gets them a scoop regarding roster changes?
Mike (1:23 PM)
It's an interesting question, Brian. A little inside journalism stuf. First, I think it's important to credit someone else's work when warranted. Second, I think the business has changed a bit in recent years and who reports something is less than important than a reporter who can communicate what it means and put it into context. Once the news is out, everyone has it within minutes, it seems. So with that, I think you've seen some shifting in how things are done media-wise. I know I approach the job differently because of it. It's not that I don't want to report news first -- that's still important -- but I personally find it to be less important than it's been in the past. Often times, for me, the risks of being wrong outweigh the reward to me of being first. I'd rather wait and make sure it's correct.
Mike (1:24 PM)
Not sure that answers it, and don't want to bog down the chat with media-based stuff, but happy to revisit down the road.
One thing the Pats do not do, is stick with something that doesn't work. They see someone/something that doesn't work and they cut their loses. You have to respect that.
Mike (1:25 PM)
I think that's fair, Eric. At the same time, I don't think it should spare someone accountability for making a personnel mistake. Otherwise, the same mistakes will keep cropping up. Fair?
hey Mike - thanks for all the off-season work. I see the Salas move like this - fourth receiver (behind edelman) not going to see the field much. not sure his special teams value, but it can't be lower than branch / stallworth. cheaper, higher upside in future after welker leaves (assuming he will). all that aside, i really hope tommy is under center more this year. for some reason, come title games, shotgun protection is just not good enough. thoughts?
Mike (1:27 PM)
Good thoughts, Dominic. The Salas/special teams angle is an interesting one. He's not a burner, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them try him as a returner. On Brady under center, I think the main thing is trying to strike that balance. You don't want to put handcuffs on what can be an explosive offense. At the same time, taking steps to protect your top asset is extremely important.
Will (Worcester, MA)
Does Hoo-man (Our new TE's preferred nickname), have the ability to play FB at all? He seems like a big bulky blocker, that would to open some nice holes behind our line.
Mike (1:27 PM)
Yes, Will, he said today that he's done it before.
Andrew (lone Pats fan in Western MD) (Hagerstown, MD)
After watching last night's Cowboys vs Those-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named game, I am really intrigued by how Tony Romo was able to beat the Defense with a terrible Offensive Line and All-World QB, Tom Brady, wasn't able to do as much. I understand Romo is more elusive and better at improvising when the play breaks down, but what gives? I have to firmly blame the NE Defense once again for the second SB loss in 5 years. I just don't see how a less talented Dallas team fared better than my NE Patriots! Brady is a HOF, best QB in NFL history guy and Romo isn't even a HOFer...I just don't get it. And I'm tired of hearing people say that Brady has only choked in the big moments since Spygate.What are your thoughts?
Mike (1:30 PM)
Andrew, I watched that game last night and like most everything, it was a combination of things. Romo is getting a lot of praise today and rightfully so. But if the Dallas defense doesn't hold at the 2-yard line after Romo's ill-advised interception in the second quarter, we might have a different story. Bottom line to me: It's a team game. Patriots needed more defensive difference makers to help them make the plays that could have closed things out in recent years. At the same time, the offense could have done more at times. I don't think one can place "blame" squarely on one unit.
Tim (Brighton, MA)
Hey Mike,With Britt out due to suspension, do you think this changes their defensive strategy going into this one? Perhaps keeping more guys in the box (I'm thinking at least 7 up close to set edges against Johnson), and staying away from the nickle and dime a bit more? Or do you think it has very little impact?
Mike (1:32 PM)
Tim, I think they feel confident in their ability to play the run in their sub packages. That said, I expect the No. 1 priority to be containing running back Chris Johnson and seeing if Jake Locker -- while confined to the pocket -- can beat them. So then the question becomes how do you do that? If it means putting more people in the box, absolutely you do that. I align with your thoughts here.
Mike, do you think Bill will make a concerted effort to have his team run the ball so Brady doesn't always have to carry the offense? Do the Pats have the personnel and offensive coordinator to make sure Brady doesn't have to have his A game every week and to minimize the hits he takes? As good as Brady is, I'm thinking he could minimize injury risk and prolong his career if the offense isn't based on him dropping back 40 times a game. Think John Elway toward the end of his career.
Mike (1:34 PM)
Liam, this has sort of become cliche, but I wouldn't say it if I didn't believe it -- the way they're going to play is going to be based on the weaknesses of the opposition. For example, I think they have an advantage against the Titans with their pass-catchers against the Tennessee cover-men. So I expect plenty of passing Sunday because of that. The key, in my view, is going to be if they can protect Brady. If they can't, then you adjust. I think this is the type of scenario we'll see play out on a week-to-week basis. What is the opposition's weakness? And that's what the Patriots will attempt to exploit while maintaining some form of balance.
Sean (New Haven, CT)
I'm not sure what to make of the Patriot fascination with collecting TE's. Wouldn't the roster spot be better served providing depth at another position?
Mike (1:37 PM)
Sean, here are the key points: 1) Their base offense should have Gronkowski and Hernandez on the field about 8 out of every 10 plays; 2) Because of that, you want depth behind both players so you don't have to readjust the offense in the event of injury. If you don't have depth, you see what happens (Super Bowl last year) 3) Hernandez could, in some ways, be considered a receiver anyway; 4) One move, Jake Ballard, was made with the future in mind; 5) Visanthe Shiancoe's injury altered the picture; 6) Tough position to find so when you think you have an opportunity, not a bad idea to pursue it when you utilize it as much as the Patriots do.
Will (Worcester, MA)
Predict who will lead our team in sacks this year!
Mike (1:38 PM)
Will, let's go with Chandler Jones. 8 sacks.
Hi Mike, will Shane Vereen get on the fields this year? If so will he make a positive impact?
Mike (1:40 PM)
I thought Vereen was coming on before hobbling off in the third preseason game. This is a setback. Unfortunately I don't have any concrete information on his status to add. I certainly don't expect to see him this week.
Hey Mike, can I get your thoughts on Joseph Addai leading up to opening day?:)
Mike (1:40 PM)
So excited, heading to Nashville tomorrow, any suggestion on place to meet up with Pats fans .... or yourself?
Mike (1:41 PM)
Mike, we're going to have a blast. Buffalo Billiards, Nashville, 7-10 p.m. local time on Saturday night. I'll be there and they are reserving space for us. I have no idea if it will just be you and me, or if we'll get a big crowd. But why not? Let's do this and see how it turns out. Spread the word.
Mike, I am really concerned about the kick returner situation. Demps is now on IR, Woodhead scares me (SB fumble and looks slow) and McCourty and Arrington, our top 2 corners, can't be taking unnecessary hits. What are your thoughts and how can this improve with players already on the roster?
Mike (1:42 PM)
Maybe Salas, Dave? Just a hunch there. Felt like Demps was an exciting option, which makes the injury disappointing for the team.
Greg Silvia (Chico, CA)
Hey Mike, what your predictions on the rookies Chandler Jones and Donte Hightower's production this year?
Mike (1:44 PM)
Greg, hope the studies are going well as you pursue that journalism career. Thanks for the help back in training camp. Day 1 starters. Jones is a three-down player right off the bat. Hightower looks like a base defense guy, coming off in sub. Expect them to help a lot.
I enjoyed the podcast yesterday. But now that Matt Light is an ESPN analyst what are the chances we see him on the show?
Mike (1:45 PM)
Thanks for listening Matt. I think we'll be able to get Matt Light on the podcast. A big part of it will be if he is around that day. Busy guy, but a great guy. Plan on it, but we just might need a little time to pull that one off.
Nigel Corrington (London,England)
I keep hearing that Brian Hoyer's playing style is much more like Tom Brady's style than Ryan Mallett's is. Can you please explain what exactly this means? Thanks and keep up the good work.
Mike (1:47 PM)
Nigel, I think that is in reference to Mallett having a strong arm, being a taller quarterback, and one who is still evolving when it comes to reading defenses and making the necessary adjustments. Might not be able to sense pressure and be as light on his feet as Brady, with the ability to avoid the rush while remaining in the pocket, although I think he is growing in that area. Those are areas that Hoyer had exhibited a bit.
Frank Bianca (Beverly Hills,CA)
Question about the Rob Ninkovich position change to DE. Is this his role this year or is he going to be playing both OLB and DE? I know Bill is a D genius and I do trust in him, but Rob was the third most productive linebacker last year next to Mayo and Spikes.
Mike (1:48 PM)
Frank, I think we'll see him in both roles, depending on the injury situation. It's part of the built-in flexibility of the scheme and Ninkovich himself being a "tweener."
Tron (Waltham, MA)
Hey Mike, Last night's game made me a believer that in order to beat defenses like the Giants the Patriots will need to commit to running the ball. The Cowboys running attack was less than stellar in the first half until Murray ripped off that huge run. Nonetheless the commitment to the ground seemed to slow down the Giants pass-rush and allowed Romo to pick a part the G-men secondary in the second half. It also helps that Romo is more mobile outta the pocket than Brady and has more weapons on the outside. What were your thoughts on last nights game and how the Cowboys approach could be copied by the Patriots?
Mike (1:50 PM)
Really respect this post, Tron. I buy it. My view of that game was that the Dallas line was really on its heels. That Giants front is tough to handle. But they hung in there, and the willingness to stick to that run sort of helped them establish a little bit of forward momentum that led them to becoming a bit steadier as the game progressed. There are going to be games when the Patriots will have to do that. Can they? Fair question.
Seems like the Pats were incredibly vanilla on both offense and defense this pre-season...What do you expect to see from the offense against the Titans?
Mike (1:52 PM)
Thought about this a little bit, Hoogie. I don't know if it can be a pin-our-ears-back no-huddle from the get-go. A controlled no-huddle might be more like it. Given the first-game aspect of things, coupled with the heat, pacing and stamina are going to be important. As always, they'll work to achieve some balance, but I think the matchup that favors them is the passing game -- if they can protect Brady.
Matt (Elon NC)
"oh oh ma NAY wa NOO ee" is right, I think... right? Let's just go with Oh-Oh (I know one of the blog regulars suggested it). Anyway, what kind of TE is Oh-Oh.. is he more of a blocker, a receiver, a mix...? And what kind of impact can he have on this offense?
Mike (1:53 PM)
Matt, he said today that he prides himself as a combination TE. I think that's fair. If we remember back to the 2010 preseason, he made a one-handed catch against the Patriots that was impressive. Not the type of stuff you see from a pure blocking TE. But he has some size where he can hold up at the point of attack.
Why have the Patriots not signed Jeremy Ebert to the practice squad. They have been signing other marginal receivers. He must have some perceived value if they drafted him. Why not sign him?
Mike (1:54 PM)
Scott, my personal belief is that Ebert still needs time to get himself back to 100 percent (hamstring). Wouldn't be surprised if it happened down the road, depending on how things unfold.
Hi Mike, well, it starts for real this weekend. We seem pretty thin at linebacker since we let go Carpenter, do you see him coming back or bringing up Tarpinian of the PS? Final score sunday Mike? I got them winning 38-21.
Mike (1:56 PM)
Kenney, here is the one point I'd make on the linebackers: It looks thin when you keep the "DE" next to Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich's name, but as end-of-the-line players, some of their responsibilities are linebacker-like anyway. So the perception isn't necessarily the reality.
hey mike, great to have football back. With you and your collegues agreeing the Patriots are really looking for a Fullback, why havent they given Jacob Hester a call? He is a proven runner who NEVER FUMBLES and blocked for LT and Ryan Matthews. Seems like a good player to me. Better than what they have.
Mike (1:58 PM)
Charles, not sure the situation with Hester. The amateur GM in me said he would have been a good fit in the roster spot that went to Lex Hilliard. Maybe it's a matter of finances.
Spaulding Smails (Bushwood)
Any update on the released players like Branch, Hoyer, Gaffney? Can we expect to see any of them back? Thx!
Mike (1:59 PM)
Gaffney reportedly visited Miami and Oakland. Otherwise, quiet. Do think the door is open depending on injuries.
Dave (Greenbush, ME)
Do you like the running back by committee approach used by the Patriots? I'd really like to see them come up with a game changing RB, like a few years ago when Corey Dillon rushed for 1600 yards. I don't expect much from fragile Shane Vereen and it's hard to imagine Ridley gaining more than 800 yards or so, which isn't much in a sixteen game season.
Mike (2:01 PM)
Dave, Belichick had a good take on this a while back. Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet asked about the bellcow back and Belichick basically said if he had another '04 Dillon, he'd do it. Belichick is open to anything that helps the team win. I think his point was that the '04 Dillon is more the exception than the rule. So you go to the next best thing -- committee and spread it around.
everyone seems to think this is going to be an easy win but id be surprised if pats won by more then a touchdown on sunday wat are your thoughts?
Mike (2:02 PM)
Brandon, I think the Titans are the type of team that if you sleep on them, they'll beat you. I don't think the Patriots will sleep on them. Patriots 24, Titans 17.
Tron (Waltham, Ma)
Mike, I keep reading that Hightower is a base defense guy (see above). But I thought he was drafted to place 'in space' and be a sub package alternative to Spikes.
Mike (2:03 PM)
In time, that could be the case. But Spikes is playing nickel right now, based on preseason. Maybe with a little more time, he can see that role expand. Starting him with this one piece and will grow from there.
Matt (Western Mass)
Is there any validity in the fact that the Patriots have yet to release Brian Waters? Bill Belichick is not the type of coach that is going to reserve a roster spot for anyone.
Mike (2:04 PM)
Matt, Waters isn't on the roster. He is on the did-not-report list, so he doesn't count against the 53. Belichick isn't about to release him so he could go sign with another team, one that could potentially be competing with the Patriots for the AFC title (Houston, for example).
Jim Bob (Oregon)
Mike, I want to commend your post "Who had Salas over Branch". Great writing and insight. I imagine its tough to "blog" as well as put together a well written piece. That one was great. Keep up the good work.Now my question: I am actually glad that the Pats cut all those old WRs. Who was truly excited about Stallworth 2.0 anyway? But I really wish the Pats had some young raw talents on the practice squad or back end of the roster. And Greg Salas isn't really the burner I had in mind. Does BB just not value speed and size at the WR? Have the past failures at devlopping guys like Price, Underwood, Stanbeck, and Chad Jackson just soured him on the WR position in general?
Mike (2:05 PM)
Thanks Jim Bob. Let's dig that one up and pass it along because of the nice compliment. Then I'll attempt to answer the question...
Mike (2:06 PM)
Mike (2:08 PM)
I do think Belichick values speed. Bethel Johnson would be a good example of that. Johnson was overdrafted because of that speed. But I think straight-line speed only gets you so far, as Johnson showed us. So what the Patriots look for in a receiver is a combination of speed, smarts, agility, good hands etc. It's tough to find the complete package, which is what made Randy Moss' 2007 season here so special. He had it all that one year.
LSCII (Boston, MA)
With stories surfacing about Branch's locker still being intact, what are the odds Branch or Gaffney make a return to the team after week one when their money wouldn't be guaranteed?
Mike (2:10 PM)
Did any of the receivers on the roster get injured? I think that would be the key, LSCII. I could be way off on this, but if the Patriots released Branch because of finances ($925,000), that doesn't make any sense to me. That's a drop in the bucket compared to some of the other less-productive players they've invested in.
Who plays the nickle back? Will it be Dowling, Cole or Moore? Or will Wilson or Ebner come be called to play it?
Mike (2:11 PM)
Good question, Eric. My thought would be Dowling entering the game as the fifth DB, with Arrington moving inside to the slot. When they go dime, it's safety Tavon Wilson as the sixth guy.
Mike (2:11 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
New England will surely try to take away Tennessee's best weapon, Chris Johnson, this week. With Kenny Britt out, who do you think can be an X-factor against the NE defense? Belichick was talking up the TE Cook. Thanks for all the insight, Mike.
Mike (2:12 PM)
Kyle, I like the Cook thought. If you're the Titans, you're trying to keep it as simple as possible for Locker. If not Cook, how about rookie WR Kendall Wright?
Dennis (WPB FL)
Mike, a few quick questions, are you going to provide an updated win/lose Pats games predictions before the opener Sunday? Anything on Waters to report, besides locker still there? Which Patriot player will surprise us this year?
Mike (2:14 PM)
Dennis, I'll stick with the 13-3 prediction. Here is the link: http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/7823284/mike-reiss-game-game-predictions-2012-new-england-patriots
Mike (2:15 PM)
As for Waters, locker still set up, but no sign of him. Patriots player to surprise -- Nate Ebner was first to come to mind.
Milk (The fridge)
Why didn't you drink more of me when you were younger?
Mike (2:15 PM)
LOL. Just didn't like you. Nothing personal.
How worried should I be about nate Solder and the O line? should I be reassured that with a healthy Vollmer and Mankins this line is back intact and able to protect TB?
Mike (2:16 PM)
Fair concern, Mike. Very thin up there. Protection in the preseason wasn't great. Can't ignore the obvious.
I think you should start a contest right now for the best nickname for Hoomanawanui. We need to call him something and how ever that is pronounced, wont be it.
Mike (2:17 PM)
Dan, he said today he has nicknames Hoo-man and Uh-oh. Those could work. Neat guy.
enjoythegames (Cleveland, OH)
who-man-a-wan-oowhee.That out of the way, The o-line really looks like the weakest link in the chain right now. How do you see this working out as we go forward? Do you believe that players now on the roster are up to the task or do you see a move or moves being made here?
Mike (2:18 PM)
Pete, I don't see the alternative as being any better than what they have now. So for now, it's stick with what you have and coach them up.
Roberto (via Mobile) [via mobile]
Mike, tight end Michael (Ho-oh-MAN-na-WAH-a-new-e) looks like a slam dunk on paper. Any chance he stays healthy enough to make a Roster 5.0 projection?
Mike (2:19 PM)
He'll be on there, Roberto. He has to stick for at least 3 weeks because he was signed off another team's practice squad.
Have you seen anything in the coaches film that leaves you to analyze that this defense can get off the field on 3rd down?
Mike (2:20 PM)
TK, not the coaches film, but the presence of Chandler Jones should help. That's where I would start.
Mike Superbowl Predictions? Season is 1 game in time to talk the talk!!!!!!!!!!
Mike (2:20 PM)
Cher, on our Patriots podcast, I went Packers over Ravens.
gene (nashville, tn)
With Vereen looking iffy, what kind of workload do you see for Ridley?
Mike (2:21 PM)
Would think he would be the lead back, gene. Maybe 18-22 carries.
CAN'T WAIT FOR SUNDAY!!! ...that is all
Mike (2:22 PM)
Likewise, Jeff. And with that, let's sign off. Thanks to everyone for a great chat. Enjoy the weekend. Tedy Bruschi will chat Monday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPNBoston.com. Then I'll be back on Thursday for our next chat.