Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

May 6, 11:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:00 AM)

Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium. I am here for media interviews with Alge Crumpler and Fred Taylor, which will begin around noontime.

Mike Reiss
  (11:00 AM)

Usually we have our chats in the noontime hour, but with those interviews, we pushed it up an hour. The plan will be to go until about 11:45.

Mike Reiss
  (11:01 AM)

Overall, I think the team we see on paper right now for the Patriots is probably 95 percent complete. There might be a few moves coming, but I don't sense any major tinkering in the offing. So that gives us a lot to digest -- 88 players on the roster, 76 players under contract. Let's chat...

John (Manchester, NH)

OK, Mike, in your mailbag, you suggest that the NFL and NFLPA aren't likely to attempt to come to a resolution on a new labor agreement until after the Super Bowl. Won't that uncertainty reduce the number of underclassmen in the 2011 draft and thus devalue the draft as a whole? Do you think that hurts the Pats' strategy of picking up more picks next year?

Mike Reiss
  (11:03 AM)

John, I think they will attempt to come to a resolution before next February/March, but I think it will go right up until that deadline. As for that uncertainty affecting the 2011 draft, it certainly could in terms of underclassmen declaring. But I don't see that hurting the Patriots' strategy of picking up more picks next year (Oakland's 1st rounder, Carolina's 2nd rounder). A big thing is that we can anticipate some type of rookie cap. That is potentially huge if that Raiders pick falls into the top half of the first round. I also think those picks add value in the flexibility they provide a team (e.g. the ability to sign a restricted free agent).

_bb (Hungary)

Hi Mike! What are your present impressions about the RDE post? G. Warren - Lewis - Brace rotation, while Pryor and Wright are better at other roles? How much of a chance has Richard and the rookies? It feels like these guys can get the job done, although it won't be the strong part of the Pats' new D, don't you think so?

Mike Reiss
  (11:05 AM)

Good one, _bb. I think we're looking at a rotation, with Gerard Warren, Mike Wright, Damione Lewis and Ron Brace all in the mix. I still see that position as a question mark because Warren and Lewis have not played in this defense, with the specific techniques they will be asked to play. So there is a projection there.

Perry (Jay's Deli)

I am really intrigued with Cunningham. What are his chances on starting at OLB this season? There isn't much depth there, and BB clearly thought pretty high of the kid, selecting him in the 2nd round. I feel that his athletic ability brings a new dynamic to the club, or do you really see a guy like Ninkovich or "All Airport" Shawn Crable stepping in?

Mike Reiss
  (11:07 AM)

I am too, Perry. I actually made the point that while first-round draft choices usually get most of the pub, Cunningham is arguably more important than Devin McCourty based on the team need at OLB. I read that the Dolphins are planning on starting rookie Koa Misi (second round, 40th overall) at OLB. So I wouldn't rule out the Cunningham (second round, 53rd overall) possibility, but if I had to guess, I think we'll see a rotation there as well.

Hoogie (Lexington)

Mike, is this a make or break year for Bill O'Brien? As I remember, McDaniels was the off coordinator without the title for one season and the next year he got the official title. Since O'Brien still doesn't have the title, is it safe to assume that BB was not happy with his play calling last season and that he is, for all intents and purposes, making O'Brien earn the OC title?

Mike Reiss
  (11:10 AM)

I don't think it is safe to assume that, Hoogie. If we go back to the press release in which it was announced that Bill Belichick would be spending more time with the defense in 2010, there were some pretty strong, positive comments from Belichick regarding O'Brien. As for my personal opinion, I think O'Brien is a good coach who gets a bit of a bad rap. I think the better talent on the offense this year will help improve the public perception of his coaching.

Jay (Baltimore)

Mike, can you give us 2-3 potential moves we might see the Pats make between now and training camp?

Mike Reiss
  (11:12 AM)

I'd keep an eye out for any veteran OLB types that might add another layer at that position (e.g. Derrick Burgess). Possibly one more running back should the right player become available. On the coaching side, maybe the official naming of a tight ends coach (likely Brian Ferentz).

Zack (Somerville, MA)

Mike, it's my birthday today, so you gotta do me a soild and answer my chat question: it's about BB's draft strategy and the two TE's. I understand that the Patriots' draft strategy is "best player on the board" and "best value", but when they drafted two TE's, that had to have something to do with positional need, right? If they had Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates already on the roster, for instance, they wouldn't have drafted TE's...I think. Is positional need at least a minor consideration for the Patriots' drafts?

Mike Reiss
  (11:13 AM)

Happy birthday, Zack. Absolutely had to do with positional need with those two TE picks -- probably more so with Gronkowski than Hernandez. There is always a push and push when looking at best-player-available versus need.

johnnymag (New Hampshire)

Mike, is OLB Shawn Crable healthy this year, and is there any news regarding his physical progress?. This guy seems to be an accident waiting to happen. I would say, it's this year, or he's outta here.

Mike Reiss
  (11:14 AM)

I'd agree with the idea that "it's this year, or he's outta here", Johnnymag. The only thing I saw from Crable was a story from Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald that detailed how Crable was taking part in the offseason program. I don't know any specific details. My stance on Crable is that if you are relying on him after two seasons wiped away by injuries, that's risky business. I think the best approach for the Patriots is to approach it as if anything they get is a bonus.

Rao (Boston)

Hi Mike, With Jets getting tougher(on paper) and dolphins improving, what area of the game do you think that Pats should concentrate more in order to win the division?

Mike Reiss
  (11:16 AM)

I'd focus on the front seven on defense, because I think when you play the Jets and Dolphins, a team has to bring its hard hat and be ready for a physical battle. That's why I'm not surprised a big theme in this year's Patriots draft seemed to be "big", "physical" and "tough".

Adam (Connecticut)

Hey Mike, if you had the size, speed, and strength to play any position for the Patriots what would it be?

Mike Reiss
  (11:17 AM)

I think I'd like to learn the slot receiver position under Wes Welker :)

Evan (Boston)

When do the mandatory training camps start up again? If you had a vet to pick up to play olb would you rather have Derrick Burgess or Greg Ellis? Do you think Maroney is given the starting role or does Fred Taylor get it until he gets injured?

Mike Reiss
  (11:18 AM)

Evan, the Patriots' mandatory minicamp is a week or so into June. You will start to see some news trickle out with organized team activities in the offseason program, but those aren't mandatory. As for the vet pickup, I'm underwhelmed by the choices, but I'd lean toward Burgess because of the familiarity with the system. At RB, I don't think the starter matters much. They'll probably split carries.

Chris (Kansas)

Any signs that those undrafted free agent RBs can bring some explosiveness to the Pats' offense this year? I feel like our running game simply couldn't pick up more than 4 yards last year.

Mike Reiss
  (11:21 AM)

Pat Paschall of North Dakota State had excellent production at the FCS level, Chris, but that's a long way toward becoming an explosive part of an NFL offense. My sense is that BenJarvus-Green Ellis has a better chance to add more of a battering-ram type element to the run game than Paschall has of becoming an explosive weapon this year. One other thought I have on the running game is that I believe this group of backs can get the job done if there is a sincere attempt to develop more of a physical mindset, which starts with play-calling and the big guys up front.

Anthony (North Andover, MA)

How has Tyrone McKenzie been progressing? Is he healthy? Will he contribute?

Mike Reiss
  (11:21 AM)

At the NFL owners meetings in March, Bill Belichick said that McKenzie was taking part in the team's offseason with no restrictions. That competition at ILB should be a good one. We'll see how it turns out.

Nate (Penn State)

So Daryl Richard, is he the starting right end? Didn't BB recently talk about productive late round players and he included Richard on that list?

Mike Reiss
  (11:22 AM)

I'd put Richard in the mix at end as well, and you're right, Belichick did mention him in an interview on sports radio WEEI when discussing the team's late-round picks.

Mike Reiss
  (11:23 AM)

Richard showed loyalty to the Patriots last year. He could have signed with another club's active roster, but decided to stay here on the practice squad. He'll get a fair shake.

Bob K (Worcester)

Last night on the NFL Network they gave the Pats an A minus in the recent draft and the other teams of the AFC East much lower marks. Do you think they are accurate or do they just give Belichick the benefit of the doubt?

Mike Reiss
  (11:24 AM)

I saw that segment, Bob, and sort of wished they talked more about the Patriots. It was almost like they skipped right over them. In that segment, when comparing the Patriots' grades to the rest of the division, I thought it was a bit generous to New England.

Josh (Lehigh University)

Hey Mike, considering the Chris Johnson hold out situation and the Titans history of not paying their franchise players, do you think it would be at all possible for the pats to swing a deal for Johnson? Hes hands down the most dynamic player in the NFL and we do have plenty of high draft picks(two first rounders next year) we could use as trade bait.

Mike Reiss
  (11:25 AM)

I don't see that happening, Josh, for a few reasons. One, I don't see the Titans moving him. Two, even if the Titans were willing to do so, I don't envision the Patriots paying him the big bucks when they have others they have to take care of (e.g. Logan Mankins, Tom Brady).

Karlvyn (Lake Worth,FL)

hey mike, what are the chance the undrafted RB, makes the roster and surprises his way into a rotation or maybe *gasp* a starting role? as a patriots fan its kills to see since Dillon we've had so many backs come in and out and only have one reliable back (kevin faulk)

Mike Reiss
  (11:27 AM)

Very unlikely, Karlvyn, and one of the big reasons is pass protection. That's a huge adjustment for a player like Pat Paschall of North Dakota State, who is coming from the FCS level. This seems to be the No. 1 concern I sense among Patriots fans. The team didn't draft a running back, and I sense that hasn't gone over too well in some circles.

Dan Mac (LA via Boston)

Can you give any examples of "veteran OLB types" that the Pats might target? How about Chike Okeafor; UFA with superbowl experience as a starting OLB in the Cardinals 3-4?

Mike Reiss
  (11:27 AM)

Dan, I apologize, I should have come more prepared with that information given the team's uncertainty at the spot. I'm going to research it today and I'll make a blog post out of it.

Steelersfan (NJ)

Mike, As a Steelers fan I am looking forward for the Patriots coming to Pittsburgh this year. As of right now, what do you think the Patriots record will be this year? and what 6 AFC teams do you see making the playoffs?

Mike Reiss
  (11:30 AM)

That should be a great night in Pittsburgh, Steelersfan. I had to predict the Patriots' record after the schedule came out and I had them at 11-5. In terms of the six AFC teams making the playoffs, here is my thought for today: Pats, Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Colts, Chargers. If not for Big Ben's suspension, the exclusion of the Steelers would have been a bit tougher from this perspective. For what it's worth, I thought Kevin Colbert had one of the best drafts that few are talking about.

Nate (Penn State)

Does Buddy Farnham really have a shot of making the team? The practice squad seems like a possibility but there seems to be too much WR talent for him to overcome to make the 53 man roster. Would he have to show himself more valuable on special teams than Aiken and Slater?

Mike Reiss
  (11:32 AM)

It's a longer shot, Nate, but history tells us that the Patriots don't always favor one's draft status when making those final decisions. In a blog post this week, Albert Breer of the Boston Globe reminded us of the rookie free agents that made the roster coming out of training camp: Brian Hoyer (2009), Gary Guyton (2008), Matt Gutierrez (2007), Pierre Woods (2006), Mike Wright (2005), Randall Gay (2004). Special teams will be crucial for a player like Farnham. Also, we can't predict injuries.

Collin (Tulsa)

With two excellent TE draft picks (hernandez and gronkowski) with different skill sets, should we expect to see one more than the other or could we potentially see both on the field at the same time. your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (11:33 AM)

Collin, this was the one thought that stood out to me after watching Patriots rookie minicamp. Although it's early, and the real football comes when the pads are on, this TE spot now offers some intriguing possibilities if everyone stays healthy. I would expect both to be on the 45-man game-day roster, with some packages that utilize them both at the same time.

George (Warwick)

Mike - the signing by the Saints of Evans...in your opinion, puts the resigning of Mankins out of reach, and underscores the importance of having resigned Neal, and the development of the Orhnberger(?) and other guards in camp?

Mike Reiss
  (11:36 AM)

George, that was my first instinct. But I then stopped myself and said "How many people really thought the Patriots would pony up the record big bucks for Vince Wilfork?" If the Patriots really want to re-sign Mankins, and they're willing to do it now, here is my suggestion to them: Take the first three years of Jahri Evans' deal -- which is the big money part -- and offer it to Mankins as an extension that kicks in after the 2010 season, thus pushing his deal with the team through 2013. That's a win-win in my book. It gives Mankins some security, and gives the Patriots a "discounted" rate by not having the extension kick in until 2011.

marcus (NY)

simple can chung evolve into an enforcer for the pats

Mike Reiss
  (11:37 AM)

I don't know about enforcer, Marcus, but I do see his playing time rising from the approximate 20-percent clip he had in 2009. He's a hard working player who is giving himself a chance.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Hey Mike, You know Bill Belichick hates to give out too much information and likes to have tight control of his team. How much do you think that the Patriots not naming offense and defense coordinators has to do with them not having to face the media? I know Belichick says he doesn't believe in titles but he hates to give out to much information and never had his coordinator talk to the press before the NFL required al the teams to do so. I think he really dislikes the rule and this is a way to get around it. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (11:39 AM)

I really don't think that's it, David. If that is the case, and Belichick is really making decisions with the media in mind, I think there should be some concern among the fan base. I think the main reason he made the decision -- and this is only my sense -- is that he's managing his staff just like he would his roster.

Jay (Canada)

Mike, do you think the Patriots would be a signifigantly different team now if they didnt loose thier 2008 first round draft pick given BB's drafting strategy? I am guessing they would have turned that one into 4 or more additional picks by now. Which would have been really valuable during this draft.

Mike Reiss
  (11:42 AM)

I don't know if I'd go as fat as to say "significantly" different, because that pick was 31st, if I recall. But it would have been a valuable chip that could have helped them. If you look at past 31s, there is some good quality there. One example is Greg Olsen, the TE from Chicago (2007 draft, 31st overall). Given the team's needs in that area entering this draft, that's probably a good example of how that 31st pick in 2008 could have helped them.

Joe (NC)

Mike, can you tell us you think happened with Shawn Springs and his lack of playing time last year? Was it health issues, or he just didn't impress enough?

Mike Reiss
  (11:42 AM)

A mystery to me, Joe.

Nino (Virginia)

Hey Mike, Do you see this offseason as a good one or a bad one for New England in relation to The Jets and Dolphins offseasons?

Mike Reiss
  (11:43 AM)

I think it's a good one, Nino, because I believe they have gotten their house in order and returned to the basics. Now let's see how it turns out. I know I thought Joey Galloway was a good pickup last year, so that's a sobering reminder that as much as we talk about these things and they look good on paper, it's really a lot of hot air until we see it on the field in a pad-crunching environment.

_bb (Hungary)

Hi Mike! I think the Patriots All Access video of the team's draft room was invaluable, though one thing surprised me: I saw not one bit of Floyd Reese. Is he not the great evaluator who was expected to have a greater role this year? Also nothig about Ernie Adams's role could be discovered, although it was not surprising :)

Mike Reiss
  (11:44 AM)

Terrific insight, _bb. I also did not see Floyd Reese in the draft room footage on Patriots All Access. He handles contracts and apparently isn't intimately involved in personnel.

Tom (Portsmouth, NH)

(AGE QUESION 1) All the articles about age go by average, where a couple old players (Holt, Crumpler) easily skew the results. Why isn't median age used? That would better gauge the age of most players on the team, and make a lot more sense to me.

Tom (Portsmouth, NH)

(AGE QUESTION 2) Why when articles about age come along, it is universally assumed that younger is better? By that rationale, a team that dumped all it's vets and was comprised entirely of rookie UDFAs would be the best team in the league. The former dynasties (60's packers, 70's Steelers, 80's/90's 49ers), were great partially becasue they could keep older, effective players after their rookie contracts without losing them to FA.

Mike Reiss
  (11:46 AM)

Tom, I think given the dynamics of a 53-man roster, and how different players contribute at different levels, age is a challenging stat to interpret in a meaningful way. I think the best answer is that it needs to be a mix. Bill Belichick has traditionally favored an older roster.

Nate C. (Foxborough)

Hi Mike, I've been trying to read up on Gerard Warren, who I don't know much about, but I am intrigued to see that he was picked 3 spots ahead of Seymour in 2001. Seymour is someone who easily lived up to expectations for a top 10 pick, but what about Warren? Did we pick up a Seymour level talent? If thats the case, why would the Raiders pay so much (1st rounder) just to swap players? I think you have to project Warren as the starting RDE at this point, but how big of an impact do you see him making? I'm trying to temper my expectations, but a Warren-Wilfork-Warren line just sounds cool...

Mike Reiss
  (11:48 AM)

I'd be careful on this one, Nate. One thought is that Warren has never played these techniques. Another thought is that 31 other teams could have signed Warren and did not, which is probably a sign that he isn't viewed as a first-round caliber player at this stage of his career. His contract in New England is modest. I still see him, and that RDE spot, as a question mark.

Shane (Los Angeles, CA)

MR: As with most any team in the NFL, the quest for the AFC East title rests on Brady's arm. I think if the Jets lost Sanchez, they would still finish with about the same record (as with him), given their rush attack and top NFL defense. Do you think the Jets have passed the Patriots in terms of a complete team?

Mike Reiss
  (11:49 AM)

I don't think the Jets have passed the Patriots in terms of complete team, Shane. I do think the gap has been closed, however.

Alex (Atlanta)

What do you expect from Brandon Tate this year? Do you think he will play a significant role in the pats offense, atleast early on in the season with Welkers availability still in question?

Mike Reiss
  (11:50 AM)

Alex, I view Tate as an intriguing wild card. He has to stay healthy, but if he does, I think he can bring a dynamic playmaking element to the offense that is needed. He looked pretty good to me, in limited action, with the ball in his hands last year.

ChristianMijatovic (Waterloo, Ontario)

Lets say the Raiders pick ends up being a TOP 6 pick in next years draft, what position do you think the Pats address with it?

Mike Reiss
  (11:51 AM)

That's a tough one Christian, without having a better feel for the talent available. Best pass rusher/defensive lineman available is the first thought that came to mind.

Todd (Boston)

I like your idea on the Mankins contract but wouldn't it be a better idea, from a cap perspective, to pay him a large amount in this uncapped year?

Mike Reiss
  (11:52 AM)

I need to study up on that a bit more, Todd, but my sense has been that teams aren't structuring deals that way because there is a feeling that a salary cap in 2011 might account for deals signed in 2010. But to be honest, I don't know the answer on this one.

Mike Reiss
  (11:52 AM)

Let's go for a few more minutes here...

Bruce Davis (Foxbouro,Ma)

Hey Mike,whats the chance that I get some playing time,and do you think I even make the team,I was a former 3 round pick?

Mike Reiss
  (11:53 AM)

Bruce, I'm always flattered when players value my opinion. You're a darkhorse candidate at OLB, who right now I'd say is on the outside looking in. However, injuries are always a factor so keep putting the time in and you never know what could happen. Good luck with it.

Lisa (Sudbury)

Hi Mike--Now that you mention him, any thoughts on Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis' ceiling and role? Will he make the roster this year? He's carved himself out a nice niche, and I personally like him, but he hasn't had the ball in his hands much.

Mike Reiss
  (11:54 AM)

Lisa, good thought on Green-Ellis. I think given the fact that Morris, Taylor and Faulk have contracts that expire after this season, he'll be given the benefit of the doubt because of the long-term thinking.

Jeffrey G. (Canoga Park, Ca.)

Ha! Finally caught one of these early morning chats. If we are going to be showing more 4-3 looks on defense why not make the push for Hanesworth during the draft? Please no comments about current players, just about him.

Mike Reiss
  (11:55 AM)

I don't think the Redskins were serious about moving him, Jeffrey.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, on the current roster, who's the FB in short yardage situations?

Mike Reiss
  (11:55 AM)

Maybe an OL like Dan Connolly.

Anthony (North Andover, MA)

Side note with Buddy- Its great to see a local kid get a shot. I played against him for 3 years, and he torched us every time. This area has a few guys in the Pros now. Him, Zak DeOssie (North Andover born/ Phillips Andover) and Jon Goff (PLayed at SJP, I think hes from Wakefield) are guys that come to mind. There may be others. Good stuff though.

Mike Reiss
  (11:56 AM)

Always appreciate the local stories like this, Anthony. Buddy Farnham will have a lot of people pulling for him from Massachusetts, for sure.

Dennis (WPB, FL)

Mike, when do the Patriots finally sign Brady? Also, am I the only one nervous about Brady playing in a charity flag football game. The Patriots cannot afford another Robert Edwards unfortunate incident, especially with Brady!

Mike Reiss
  (11:57 AM)

Dennis, I'd be surprised if the season begins without a new deal for Brady. If it's not done by the bye week, I'd have concern.

Clayton Weisuhn (Norton, MA)

Mike,Have you given up on Shawn Crable, obviously this is do or die for him. If he's healthy he has the ability to bring a situational rush from the outside which is something we'll need help with unless Cunningham emerges early

Mike Reiss
  (11:58 AM)

Let's end on this one, from Clayton Weishuhn (come on, Clayton, you have to get your last name spelled right!).

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

I haven't given up on Crable, but I take my cue from Tedy Bruschi on this one. The feeling is that it's a little tough to rely on a player who has missed the last two years because of injury. So I just think it's risky business if the Patriots are really relying on him. To me, the better approach is to take the anything-we-get-is-a-bonus approach.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Thanks to all for joining the chat a bit early today. We'll get back to the regular time at noon next week.