Good afternoon. One of the nice parts about having the chat today is that it comes the day after the Patriots had media members on hand for an organized team activity. I have my notes from yesterday handy and am hopeful I can answer any and all questions about what we saw.
I think context is really important at this time of year. We saw one practice and I'd hate to start labeling players based on that. At the same time, you get a little bit of a feel for where players might be on the depth chart and how they might help the team. One quick story along these lines...
Fred Taylor really struggled catching the ball. I counted 4 drops (with no defense) and there might have been more. I looked up Taylor's career stats and I think he has 288 receptions over his 11 seasons. Here was the quick Q&A when I approached him after practice.
Q: It's June 2 and you've caught a lot of balls in your career. At the same time, how do you view a practice like you had today.A: "It's always working. You always have to work towards it. That's something I've always tried to work towards, even in the run game as well. I'm going to have my ups and downs, and I want to stay more level in that aspect of the game. It's always something you have to work on."Q: So where do you put today's practice along those lines?A: "For me personally, I take offense to it. Yo just have to keep striving. That's what it's all about. That's why we practice."
I wanted to start there today, because I think one day in June is a small sample of what is to come. But let's let it rip...
Does Nick Kaczur have NFL experience as G? I'm curious and concerned that the depth of OL might be thinner than we've thought.
He has practiced there, MarkJ, but most of his experience in games has come at tackle. I think this is a case of getting your best 5 linemen in there (if Mankins isn't there) and while it's not the same as having Mankins, I think they could win with that combination.
Dan Connolly looked like the sixth lineman on Wednesday, rotating in at left and right guard.
How did some of the new FA's look in OTAs most notably the two big DL, Lewis and G. Warren?
Lewis looked like he was working at right end, while Warren was mostly on the nose from what I saw. Since there is no contact, and those two play a contact position, it's difficult to tell much other than watching their footwork and technique.
Hey Mike. What do you make of the Yahoo Sports report about the growing discontent between Brady and the organization? There have been multiple quotes from Kraft saying how much he wants Brady back and to be a big piece of the organization moving forward. I never doubt Brady's commitment to his team, but do you feel there is some worry on his part that there hasn't been a new contract yet? Could the Patriots be waiting for a new CBA deal or Manning's new deal to set the precedent?
My feeling on that situation is that Kraft and Brady have the type of relationship that I'd believe is open and communicative. My sense is that Brady understands fully what is going on, but some in his inner circle might be a little restless. The CBA uncertainty might be part of it, and Manning's upcoming deal is also a consideration to keep in mind, but I don't think those two things alone are reasons it hasn't happened. In my opinion, this deal can and should get done regardless of those two factors. I believe it will.
Mike - I read the other day that the coaches were "quizzing" Brandon Spikes on the field with calls and formations. Can you verify? And what's your take on this rookie's ability to really accent Mayo and help lead this defense.
I saw Spikes getting coached up like other players, Gabe. He led the huddle at times, playing alongside rookie free agent Dane Fletcher at ILB. Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton lined up at ILB when the defense began drills.
Hi Mike, does Welker's presence at the OTA's mean there is a chance (albeit small) he does not start the year on the PUP list?
I think so, Nick. There is still a long way to go, and I'd still lean toward the PUP option, but seeing him run around like that made me pause and reconsider that timeline.
Hey Mike, can you just expand on your early assessment of Aaron Hernandez? You mentioned that he was in a five-wide package with Moss and Co. Do you think he has a chance to be a major weapon for Brady this season? Also, how did the other TE, Gronkowski look?
I was surprised to see Hernandez so involved in some of the combinations. You look up and see Moss, Faulk, Edelman, Crumpler and ... Hernandez? That was an indication to me that his head has been in the playbook and he's probably a little further ahead than others because Florida had similar concepts in its offense. On Gronkowski, you have to love his size and huge hands. It looks to me like he's working behing Crumpler right now, as both are a similar type TE, where Hernandez has a bit different skill set. Crumpler gets the edge on experience, but in terms of physical skills, I'd give Gronkowski the edge.
Mike:One of the reasons given for last year's locker room discord was that players like Wilfork were heading into the final year of their contract and were not the same leaders because of it. With Mankins, Moss and to a lesser extent Brady in the same boat, does the team need to address at least two out of three to keep the bad vibes to a minimum?
Fair question, Jay. I think they'll be fine with Moss. That's a 3-year deal, with Moss entering the final year. The idea of a motivated Moss -- which he certainly appeared to be -- seems like a good thing to me. As for Brady, I think the Patriots would indeed be better off with the sides reaching an agreement before the start of the season. It would provide a sense of momentum and not allow that to be hanging over the team/locker room. I don't see Brady being affected by it from a performance standpoint, but I do think it would resonate through the locker room to see that important piece in place for the long term. Mankins is a tough one, with the Brady variable in play.
... I think the Patriots management could score some points in the locker room by coming to some sort of agreement/concession with Mankins if the sides can't reach an extension.
... At the same time, no team can take care of everybody.
Mike, who was the player answering the Q and A dialogue you opened the chat with, Fred Taylor?
Yes, that was Fred Taylor.
It seems like BB is always has a reason for doing everything, so I wonder why the Atlanta, New Orleans, practices were scheduled this year. Is Bill ahead of the curve again on this? Is he getting his operation ready for a shorter camp and longer season next year and beyond with a new CBA and 17 or maybe 18 game season?
I think that's part of it, Tom. But it's also the makeup of the team -- 24 draft picks over the last two years. Generating some more competitiveness seems like a good thing to do.
With the news that Wes Welker is ahead of schedule rehab wise,who do you think is now sitting on the bubble receiver wise. As I'm sure given their druthers the Patriots will keep Welker over all but maybe one receiver Randy Moss,who losses a chance too win a job other than the obvious UDFA's who were brought in.
I think the receiver depth chart looks like this: 1. Moss, 2. Welker, 3. Holt, 4. Edelman, 5. Tate, 6. Price, 7. Aiken. Anyone after Aiken would be on the bubble -- which means David Patten, Matthew Slater, Darnell Jenkins, Buddy Farnham, Bryan Anderson etc.
Mike, I've been harping on the fact that I don't believe this team is anywhere near as talented as the team's that won super bowls, but after reading how Brady was getting so jacked up in practice, the inspirational return of Welker, and the new attitude Randy is bringing to the table I'm starting to adjust my outlook for this team. I firmly believe a team that cares how it does as much as they seem to will overachieve. Your thoughts?
I'd caution the adjustment, Nick, solely based on one June organized team activity. Once the pads come on in training camp, the picture will come a little more into focus. With that context in mind, I'd add this: After watching the team work, I didn't change my own belief that the AFC East still runs through New England.
Mike, Any chance the Pats bring in LenDale White?
I don't see it, Craig. I don't think he is their type of player on the field, or worker off it.
What is the early read coming from Foxboro on the RBs? Are we stuck with a healthy dose of Maroney again this year?
We should see a committee, Dave, and it makes sense to think Maroney will lead it. He was their leading rusher last year. Any talk of the run game should probably also include the o-line and play-calling approach. This group averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, which is very good. But I think when we view the stat, it doesn't feel good because they never seemed to consistently power it in there. I'd like to see them make more of an effort this year to that.
The Pats seemed to draft big, physical guys...do you see them trying to really lay the wood early this year? They seem to be at their best when they can smash guys in the mouth AND have Brady go off. Do you sense a more physical game plan coming this season?
I asked Maroney that, Rick, and he said it was too early to tell. I agree about the Patriots drafting big, physical players, although part of that might be more that it was the way the draft fell. If a smaller player like a Dexter McCluster was available, I don't know if they would have passed because they were thinking "We only want big, physical guys."
Mike, can you ever remember BB going into a season with so many holes in his defense? It looks like every position has a solid starter on one side and a question mark on the other.
I can't, Bill. That's part of what makes this season compelling to me. RDE, OLB1, OLB2 and ILB are the four spots that have a ? next to them on my depth chart.
How does McCourty look vs NFL receivers?
Too early to tell, Kasmir. One of the attributes McCourty brings to the field is physicality and run-force skills, but we don't see that in non-contact practices.
Hi Mike, thanks for chatting with us again. Can you please talk a bit about of fellow German Sebastian Vollmer? It's too bad there's basically no media coverage of the upcoming Patriots star in Germany and I'd love to see and hear more of him and how he's doing. Thanks!
Tom, Vollmer is a rising player who would crack the starting lineup if the season started today. He was at right tackle in Wednesday's practice and that's significant because the Patriots have other experienced NFL players at the tackle position who could be there. He seems to be doing everything right at this point of his career.
Hi Mike! Even on the other side of the Atlantic ocean I visit your blog every single day and I really enjoy it. As to my question, I had Moss, Edelmann, Holt, Tate, Price and Aiken on the opening day roster, but now that there is a pretty good chance that Welker will be there (thanks God!) who will be the victim when cuts come? No. 81 and 83 are locks, may be no. 11 as well, the youngsters can play special team and deserve a shot, Aiken is special team captain. So it leaves Holt, with less spcial team value, in a difficult situation. What's your view on that?
It's great to have the international connection. Thanks for the interest. Assuming good health, I think they'll all make it, and we'll see a reduction from a different position on the roster.
Mike what do you think the front office / Belichick thinks of Randy being so forward with the media about his situation? I can't help but think think they don't appreciate it; do you think it's possible they would trade him before the season starts when it sounds as if he so motivated?
I don't think they'd trade him, Nick. I also think they realize that when you sign up with Randy Moss, you fasten your seatbelt and hold on for the ride. There is no one quite like him -- as a player on the field and how he approaches things off the field. One point that shouldn't be overlooked is that Moss is here, at a voluntary organized team activity. If he was looking to be disruptive, I would think he would stay away. He looked very solid to me on Wednesday.
Hi Mike - what is the possibility that the Patriots trade one of their safeties to Philadelphia?
Steve, I had a little fun with that on the Patriots blog the other day, but it was pure speculation. I'd be surprised if it happened.
Mike, you have often pointed out that BB says players make the biggest jump from year 1 to 2, and it was evident early in Merriweather's 2nd training camp that he had made a big leap. Does anyone from last year's draft class stand out in this regard?
Darius Butler, simply because he was lining up at LCB opposite Leigh Bodden. I think this is a significant step for him.
Hi Mike, do you see Patrick Chung taking the next step in 2010?
Tough to tell at this point, Rajiv. It looks like he might have had an offseason medical issue, as he was wearing a red, non-contact jersey at practice. I didn't see what it was, but Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald noted that he had protection over his right forearm. That might have set him back a bit. I saw Brandon McGowan playing next to Brandon Meriweather most often on Wednesday.
With the Patriots investing so much money in our own players, I kind of don't see the club all of sudden giving Mankins the contract he wants. If this is indeed the case, how would you see this playing out? Is his only option to sign the one year tender or are there other ways this could play out?
Without knowing what would appease Mankins, this is all projection. There are multiple scenarios in play in my view, and here are some that come to mind: 1. He signs the tender; 2. He signs an extension; 3. The sides can't reach agreement on an extension, but he gets a pay bump in 2010; 4. The Patriots agree not to place the franchise tag on him next year.
Mike, I thought ILB would be a strength with MacKenzy and Spikes in the mix?
It could be, George, but those younger players are still a projection at this point. I still say Gary Guyton playing next to Jerod Mayo when I spotted the linebackers in Wednesday's practice.
Chan Gailey and the Buffalo camp denies interest in moving Marshawn Lynch, but I honestly can't see them paying Lynch this year with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the fold. Let's end the Laurence Maroney experiment and send one of our 2nd round picks next year to bring him in. What do you think about Lynch playing for the Pats, and do you see this as a possiblity? Thanks Mike!
Dylan, like LenDale White, I don't think the Patriots would view Lynch as their type of guy.
Mike, Why wouldn't the Patriots look at Westbrook? Faulk isn't getting any younger and Westbrook is a Faulk type of player in that he can catch the ball and block.
Peter, any RB the Patriots bring in would be No. 4 or 5 on the depth chart and I think he'd have to have special teams value to make it work. I don't see Westbrook as a special teams factor.
How does shawn crable look? On tv he looked in great physical shape
Chris, I saw him running with the scout team defense at the start of drills, which was a reminder to me that he has a long way to go to earn a roster spot.
Who do you see making the 53 man roster for the QB position? I'm assuming Hoyer will be the backup again but do they keep a #3 and is it Mike Teel or rookie Zac Robinson?
At this point, I don't think they even know, Joseph. That backup QB spot is unique in the sense that you really need the preseason games to best evaluate it (one trickle-down effect of a reduced preseason would be how it affects developmental QBs). Right now, I see Robinson getting reps over Teel, but that might be because Teel just got here.
Hey Mike, Any word on Pat Chung's physical condition? Word is he was practicing with a forearm splint and wearing a red jersey.
Shouldn't be a major factor going forward, Scrapster. The fact he was on the field tells us he's headed in the right direction and should be ready to go. One lingering question is how it might have affected his offseason to this point.
Hey mike do you think the pats could get dillion type production if they signed lendale white, even considering his current pending suspension he had a 1100 and 800 yard seasons before being beat out by chris(no shame their) and was looking like things were only going to get better. I think this could be a steal for the pats young,proven and runs hard then as our stable ages him and maroney could be our feature backs.
I'm not a big White backer, Marcus. He's the type of player that I've seen put up big numbers when he was seeking a contract, but then slip back once he wasn't playing for something. I also think his lack of concentration in key moments has produced some costly mistakes.
Hi Mike! About the new coaches: Did Brown look comfortable? Was Brian Ferentz working with TEs? I feel they might have a big impact this year, as the TEs and the Sec were struggling parts of last year's team.
Too tough to tell at this point, _bb. Ferentz was working with the TEs once again.
Saw Bill Simmons got the Pats going 8-1 before meeting the Colts in Nov. Thoughts? (and week 6 vs Ravens should be interesting)
I think that would be a great start, obviously, but I might put another L or two up there at that point.
I have heard some people talking about torry holt being used as a slot receiver this year, surely what the pats need from holt is for him to play on the outside, and if at this point of his career he can't do that, then why with welker and edelman on the roster is he here?
He can play on the outside, Brendan. I watched the Pats-Jaguars game from late last season over again, and you see Holt on the outside being productive (good matchup with Bodden). In practice, Holt was working the middle areas of the field in the intermediate passing game. He strikes me as the type of player who will be where he is supposed to, and that's a huge thing in this offense.
Mike:Will Mankins and Gaskowski be UFA's next year if no CBA is in place? thxs
A CBA of some kind will have to be in place for there to be football, but I think I get the question, Mike. If the rules remain the same as this year, Mankins would be a UFA, Gostkowski would be an RFA.
I followed news about Brandon Tate after the 09 draft and was upset that I barely saw him on the field in the 09 season, but remained optimistic for 2010. I remember analysts saying that he would have gone much higher than the 3rd round if he hadn't had the injury. My question is if you've noticed that talent beginning to show itself or if he is still on a learning curve. Also, anything on Cunningham? Out of the linebackers, Spikes and the bubble players seem to be getting all of the press. Is Cunningham just playing average, nothing-too-special football? Or is he more on the back burner.
I think it's still a work in progress on Tate. You watch him, and then watch Torry Holt, and it's not hard to tell the polished veteran from the potential-filled youngster. So I think Tate's still developing. As for Cunningham, that position is tough to judge right now because there is no contact and a big part of the OLB position is banging. Cunningham looks athletic when dropping backward, and he seems to be keeping up with the playbook. I think we need more time. For what it's worth, Mel Kiper, in his latest ESPN Insider piece, puts Cunningham in his sleeper category.
Mike: I don't see how the patriots could possibly part ways with Randy Moss after this season. Despite his age he continues to be the among the top 5 WR in the league from a production standpoint. He was for the league lead in TD receptions with Larry Fitz this past year despite claims that he was taking plays off etc.Also, I think one indication of just how vanilla the Pats offense was last year was the lack of trick or gadget plays run by the patriots. Obviously you wouldn't want to rely on this sort of thing too much, but I can only remember one gadget play (flea flicker) for the entire 2009/10 season. Do you think this is something they could incorporate more this season to keep defenses on their toes and regain some of their missing offensive swagger?
I see the point, MikeD, and my feeling is that the Patriots will be in the mix but it will be a situation where the market dictates. I think they're open to the possibility, but it's not a front-burner issue right now. On the trick/gadget plays, I lean in the other direction a bit. I think they could benefit from more two-back type sets with the idea of smashing the ball in there and allowing those linemen to develop more of a physical identity. Then maybe the trick/gadget plays play off that.
Let's go for another 5...
Regarding the Moss situation, doesn't it seem smart to take a "wait-and-see" approach to his contract situation. Its tough to determine what kind of asset he is as a player at this stage in his career. He could rack up 1,500 yards next year and no one would be surprised - or he could miss out on 1,000 yards and I don't think many would be surprised either. Do you think NE is taking this approach? Are there certain numbers (rec, rec tds, yds) that Moss needs to approach in order to get an extension?
I think you are right on, Rob. The Brady and Mankins contract situations, in my view, trump Moss right now.
Hi Mike. At what point during the OTA's or preseason do the Pats put on pads and start hitting? I can't wait to hear how some of the new players on defense--especially Spikes and Cunningham--play with full contact. Keep up the good work.
They don't Ted. The pads and hitting starts in training camp.
Any indication on how Kaczur can/will handle filling in for Mankins if that position becomes a longer-term issue? What are the key deadlines, as far as Mankins' contract negotiations are concerned?
It's not the preferred option, but I think Kaczur could fill in there, Matt. On Mankins, the next date is June 15, to see if he signs his tender and reports to mandatory minicamp.
Hey Mike, after hearing a lot of players like Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady talk about their dissatisfaction with last season and the way Randy Moss has seemed to be fired up about the 2010 season, is it too soon to start getting excited for what the Pats might do? Honestly, I can't help but feel like they're a really motivated team that isn't going to settle for 6 loss season/early playoff exit.
I tend to be an optimistic person, Jeff. I'd get excited about the Patriots. I think reports of their demise have been premature. I think this is a good team.
Going to an away game this year, debating between Chicago and San Diego, thoughts? Chicago in December could be fun and San Diego we can potenitally play them ever year, or more than the bears
I'd go Chargers, thinking quality of game. The Bears could be one of those teams playing out the string at that point.
Also, you always get a lot of solid West Coast Patriots fan representation in S.D.
Ive read a couple of storys that say TE Aaron Hernandez is picking up the offence very quickly and hes already shown more at practice than R. Gronkowski. Do you think it is possiable that he could have a role kinda like Dallas Clarks, and is Rob Gronkowski more of the Daniel Graham big strong on-line blocking TE ? I kinda feel like Hernandez is a big upgrade over Ben Watson already just because of his pure athletic pass catching ability and RAC.
There were a couple TE questions in here today, Russell. I think Hernandez could be like Clark in terms of style of play -- potentially like a third receiver. The question, then, is how high a level could he play. That obviously remains to be seen. As for Gronkowski, I think he can also be a big factor in the passing game. This isn't a block-only type of TE. I think it's just a matter of him getting up to speed with the playbook. I see him as superior from a physical standpoint than Crumpler, but Crumpler might have the edge now based on experience.
Have you had the chance to give the rookie Pat Paschall a look yet? I viewed him on college film and although he doesnt have breakaway speed, he is phenominal balance and side to side motion.
Saw him working special teams drills Wednesday, Dave, and thought to myself: "If he's going to make it, that's where he'll have to distinguish himself first."
Top three games to go to at home: Colts, Vikings, Jets...can you disagree?
Great home schedule this year. That Packers game looks good too. Dolphins in the finale for the division title? Ravens? I think the Bengals are a solid opening foe too. So many to choose from, but if I had to go with three, I'd go this way: 1. Colts; 2. Jets; 3. Ravens.
Fun question to end with. Thanks to all for chatting today. Let's do it again next week.