Good afternoon from Atlanta, where the Patriots face the Falcons tonight in preseason action (8 p.m.). We'll chat until 1 p.m. or so. I will take a quick timeout close to the start here for a quick interview on SportsCenter.
So do you think that Sam Aiken's tenure with the Pats is over? Considering the talent of the young guys behind him, do they view him as a little expendable, now? Or is he a lock to make the squad?
On the most recent roster projection, I bumped Aiken off the team. It was a tough call, but I kept BenJarvus Green-Ellis at RB and with the three TEs, I had to give somewhere else. I look at Aiken as on the bubble.
Mike, on the possible trades, the Patriots would offer CB, S, RB, ILB(?) and draft picks, and would like to receive OLB, DL and interior OL. In this a fair assessment?
I think the biggest thing the Patriots would be looking for is interior OL. I don't see them going after much else. I see their surplus at CB (Wheatley), S (Sanders), RB (Green-Ellis) and WR (Aiken). So if I had to pick four players that could be dangled in trades, those would be the choices.
Mike, where has Ty McKenzie been recently? We've heard very little about him. Where does he fall on the depth chart at ILB?
McKenzie should play a lot tonight, The Cat, mainly because Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher and Thomas Williams are not expected to suit up. I see him as fourth or fifth on the ILB depth chart behind Mayo, Spikes & Guyton. It was interesting to me to see rookie free agent Dane Fletcher playing over him last week. I'm interested to see how McKenzie looks in extended action tonight.
Hi Mike, any word on the severity of Jermaine Cunningham's injury?
No official word, Byron. I'm going to make an educated guess and say ankle.
Hi Mike. Tedy Bruschi has said that Ty Warren is a very underrated player in the Patriots defensive schemes, and he will be missed more then people know. Do you think Coach Belichick will be able to get the most out of other Patriots defensive players to make up the loss of Ty Warren?
Hi Har. Curious to hear how your trip to Boston went a few weeks back. I think losing Ty Warren is a blow, but I also think the team can overcome it. The concern I would have from a Patriots perspective is how it further thins depth. Now you're potentially relying on Mike Wright for more of a full-time role, and I don't think he is best suited for that.
Mike, at this point of camp, who would you rate Taylor Price's progress? Is he ahead of Sam Aiken on the depth chart?
This one isn't black and white to me, Butter, because I think Aiken would be the choice at WR right now if the team had an emergency situation. So while I'd say Aiken is ahead of him on the depth chart from that perspective, I could envision a scenario where Aiken is cut/traded and Price is kept, because you're always balancing the present and future when making those decisions.
Mike-were there hard feelings in the way that T. Holt left camp with his injury? There seems to be something missing from this story so far.
Not that I'm aware of Peg.
The other day Tom Brady talked up the importance of having a strong running game. We all know Dante is a great OL coach and the Taylor has had great success in this league. But do the Patriots have the talent to have a good running game and be a balanced team.? Can Dan Koppen be as good without Mankins next to him. They talked the talk. Can they walk the walk?
One point I would add to this, David, is the commitment necessary from the coaching staff. I don't think it's solely about the personnel. It's also about creating a mindset, an identity, that 'Hey, we're going to pound this thing at times.' I didn't think the Patriots had that in 2009. While the team still picked up its biggest chunk yardage through the air in the preseason opener, I liked this stat: 35 rushes, 29 passes.
Mike, If the Patriots defensive backfield players stay healthy during pre-season I can see a trade happening with a team like Baltimore who needs help in that area. My question is there a player you would like to see the Patriots acquire in a trade? Also, which player do you think the Patriots have an eye on obtaining in a trade or which position are the Patriots looking to add strength/depth? Thank you
Interior offensive line would be my choice, Dennis. Based on what I've seen from the team's depth there, I imagine the Patriots' coaching staff is concerned a bit. As for specific players, I'm not as aware of others' rosters and who might be available.
Do you know if Welker will play tonight?
I don't know for sure, Justin. My guess is no.
Why is there so much concern about the Mankins hold out. While 2001 was a unique year, they won with street free agents at the guard position. And as for linebacker I think its to early to tell, it looks like there is a dearth of talent, but when you look at how this all started in 2001 the Linebacker core looked weaker that it does now.
I think there are a few reasons, Nik. First and foremost, Mankins is a tone-setter up front. Big, physical and tough. Second, they are down to their third layer of depth at that spot. That's not ideal.
Hi Mike. I remember you as a cub reporter back in the day. Thanks for representing the "MW" so well. My question is, which undrafted FA has the best chance of sticking with the team and being a contributor this year?
Saul, that's where it all started for me in this field, at the Middlesex News and MetroWest Daily News. I learned so much there, with Lenny Megliola as a great mentor. On the undrafted free agents, I'd put Dane Fletcher (ILB) and Sergio Brown (S) as two top candidates to possibly stick. I didn't put them on my final 53-man roster projection today, but I could see a scenario in which they are breaking through.
Hi Mike. Aside from Vollmer, which sophmore players have made the biggest jump from last year?
Patrick Chung. He looks like a different player to me, G-Slice.
The last I heard, the Pats still have no officially designated offensive or defensive coordinators. Is this still the case? What coaches are stepping up in this area to fill the void?
Isaac, there are no official coordinators in title. But I think it's clear that Bill O'Brien (quarterbacks coach) is running the show on offense, while Bill Belichick is handling the installation on game-day, with Matt Patricia (linebackers) taking charge when Belichick is tied up with other duties.
What is the latest information Kazur's back and possible return?
Jim, this is more of a "feel" and "read" on the situation than any concrete information. My sense is that the team fears it's a season-ending type situation, but they are crossing all "i's" and dotting all "t's" before pulling the trigger on that.
do you think the length of brady's new contract will take hoyer contract expiration date into consideration...or would the team want to avoid a Rogers/favre greenbay situation in years to come
I don't see this as a factor, Mike. It's Brady's show.
Going to step away briefly for a quick hit on SportsCenter. Back in about five minutes and we will extend the chat until 1:05. Let's call it a water break, similar to what the Falcons had with joint practices with the Patriots when they went into the "cool zone."
We're back. The questions asked on SportsCenter were about Tom Brady's health and Wes Welker possibly playing tonight. I said Brady's health is good, while I think the chances of Welker playing tonight are slim.
Mike- BB talking up Wheatly lately seems to me like a case of trying to talk up his trade value because they know otherwise they'd cut him. Agree?
I could see that, Brian, but I do think there is validity to the thought that Wheatley has had his best training camp to date.
Do you think te Patriots have a REAL shot at the Superbowl this season or is this a year of transition with all the new young talent?
Absolutely Wendi. It starts at the game's most important position in my view. When you have Tom Brady, you have a chance. Of course, you still need to put the pieces around him, and I think the Patriots have done that.
I keep reading that Moss is more impressive than usual so far. Is this going to be another big year for him and Brady?
Based on what we've seen so far, I'd say yes, Justin. I do think there is something to be said for seeing if he still looks as sharp after taking a little more of a beating in game action, but he's been impressive to date.
Mike, Is wide reciever Tate playing at 100% now after all his knee issues and do you think he will be one of the starting wrs when the season starts? Thanks
Smitty, I think it's notable that Tate has not missed a practice in training camp. He strikes me as a player who has gotten better with each day. I see him as the No. 3 or 4 option.
Randomly thought about Adalius Thomas and was wondering if he was going to picked up by anyone for the upcoming season. Any insight into his status?
He remains a free agent. I think an injury will open the door for him and I'd expect him to play somewhere in 2010.
it is often said games are won and lost in the trenches, and most of the best teams of my lifetime you can point to very solid OL and DL, and even more so of the patriots tenure at the top. Doesnt it seem Belichick has let these areas slip a little and we are too thin? I am anticipating watching a gassed defensive line get beat up in the fourth quarter again.
For Patriots standards, I can see what you are saying, Billy. The lines aren't as deep as we've seen them. But I think when compared to other teams in the NFL, they are still in an average-to-good situation there.
Hi Mike, We haven't heard much at all about "Seabass" Vollmer this Summer...I guess that's a good, right?
Very solid camp for Vollmer. Looks like he's locked in on the right side and I expect some tough running behind him and Alge Crumpler when the team needs to pick up a yard.
Mike, isn't it somewhat counter-intuitive that according to Brady the team is focused on the running game this year and being a better running team and yet the club did nothing of note to bolster the position from its somewhat disappointing showing last year? How can they think it will be any different with the same five RBs as last year, with all of them a little older and a little more worn down?
I see what you are saying, Kristen. To me, part of it ties in to the play-calling approach that was touched upon a bit earlier in the chat. The other part is the new tight ends, who I think will help a lot. But I also think you make a good point -- can you really expect it to improve with the same backs and this line? I believe it can if there is a commitment to it.
Hi Mike,Firstly, thanks for all the new and updates. You have been following the pats all off season and now during the pre-season. in which area did you see a major improvement or advancement? Obviously coach Belichik emphasized on red zone offense and defense. Is this one area that where we'll see an imroved performance ??
I think that's a good one, Veeru. The main thing to me is that this is an offense that needs to get back to having a bit more of a physical identity. When they need a yard, can they pick it up? I seldom had the confidence they could do so last year. This year, I see promising signs, specifically in the red zone, where the space gets tight (thinking of BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 6-yard TD run).
Mike what are your instincts about Cunnigham being ready for the opener, and what did you think of Hard Knocks last night?
No great feel on Cunningham, Kyle. As for Hard Knocks, I am fascinated by such an inside look at a franchise. I enjoyed the program.
Hey Mike,Due to the season ending injury to Ty Warren, do you think rookie Jermaine Cunningham will see some playing time this year? Knowing he's a OLB/DE hybrid how do you think the Patriots will choose to use him? Also, his teammate Brandon Spikes saw a good amount of playing time in the first preseason game. Do you think he will live up to Belichick's expectations and have an immediate impact roaming the middle with Jerod Mayo? Could he be on par for Rookie of the Year?Thanks, Greg
Greg, Cunningham and Warren aren't related to me, as Cunningham is an outside linebacker/rush defensive end, while Warren is a pure defensive end. As for Spikes, I see him starting next to Mayo and being an important cog in the middle of the defense.
Hey Mike, it seems that the Pats like what they are getting from Brandon Deaderick thus far? I know that he was a talented kid from Alabama, and he slipped in the draft becasue off field issues. Anyways, where do you think Deaderick would have landed in the draft if he had zero off the field issues?
I'd have to ask someone who was a little more involved in the process than me, Hoogie. Wish I had more on this one for you. Maybe I can come back with the info next week.
My friends and I were arguing about this. I think Moss is still the best reciever in the NFL, they think its Andre Johnson. My rationale is that Moss is the best deep threat and that defenses need to gameplan more around that to stop the deep ball. What do you think?
Sameer, I think I'd have to go with Johnson at this point if we're picking one or the other. Still think Moss is great, but I see Johnson as a bit more diverse in terms of the routes he runs and the different areas in which he catches the ball.
Hey Mike, can you tell us anything about the injuries to Leigh Bodden, Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham? How worried should we be? Any chance one or more of them ends up on the PUP list?
Jeff, none of those players are eligible for the PUP. Bodden said he would be OK. It's more of a precautionary thing at this point. Looked to me like Banta-Cain had an ankle injury and Cunningham I would guess an ankle.
Mike - is it just me or does Sammy Morris look heavier this year? How is he moving out there? Is he on the bubble?
I see Morris on the club. He's been on the first-unit kickoff return team alongside Brandon Tate. That's a good sign for him in my book. I like the way he's moving out there. I think teams need Sammy Morris's to win in this league.
What's the deal with Darius Butler? I kept hearing he was playing well at the beginning of camp and that many expected him to take the jump to elite corner in his second year. After the first preseason game where he didn't play that well and now reading that his play in joint practices with the Falcons hasn't been that impressive, I'm getting a little worried. What's your take? Are you worried at all about his development?
Tremendously athletic, but some bumps in the road over the last two weeks from my view. Part of it might have been the switch to the right side, where the footwork and techniques are slightly altered. I wouldn't be too concerned. This is still a talented player.
Isn't it time for Bob Kraft to just pay Logan Mankins? With the injuries and inexperience on defense, the offense is going to have to carry the team and they are going to need their best offensive lineman.
I don't think it's that simple, Bill. I think I would be a hypocritical reporter if I talked about a lack of depth in one breath, and then said 'Just pay Mankins' right after it. They are related as every time you open the vault for a player, you think yourself out in other areas. So you have to make smart decisions on who to pay and how that affects others on the roster. The Patriots made what they felt was a good offer. Mankins didn't like it. Now they're not talking. One thing I'd say from a team perspective is that I think the focus should be on resolution, not hardball. Get to the negotiating table, clear the air, and don't leave until there is some type of deal that appeases both sides -- whether it's a one-year deal or a long-term pact.
How much do you think the apparent smooth returns of Derrick Burgess and Ron Brace are due to depth issues with the OLBs / DL? They both seemed to emerge from their personal / conditioning issues without repercussions from the team. Are they being treated differently than they might have been if the team was more solid in those spots?
I don't sense that Burgess' situation was related to the thin depth at OLB. I do think Brace's situation is somewhat tied to the depth issues on the DL. I could have envisioned the team starting him on the non-football injury list for the first six games, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Ty Warren's injury sped up that process.
With regards to the Mankins situation, wouldn't it make sense to try and trade him now (assuming they don't up the offer) as opposed to later and have time to integrate the player they recieve back (assuming it isn't more draft picks)? Do you think there would be takers for Mankins who are willing to pay more the Pats' offer? What positional compensation do you think the Pats would want if they target a player as opposed to draft picks?
It's tough to say, Sean, because a team wouldn't just be trading something for Mankins, they'd also have to agree on a long-term big-bucks deal with him. I don't see too many teams, if any, willing to take that plunge given the uncertain labor forecast.
Hi Mike,What kind of formations do you see the Pats using this season to get Welker and Edelman on the field at the same time? Are both going to be used exclusively in the slot or do you think either will be able to line out outside opposite Moss?
Great question, Kent. I am going to link up to a story on this, with comments from Tedy Bruschi.
Should I buy my Patrick Chung jersey now, or wait a couple more years?
Buy it now, Eddie. I think his emergence this year will make that Cassel/Vrabel trade look a bit different, as he was the player selected with the 34th overall pick acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hi Mike - thanks for the great coverage of training camp and preseason. The Pats are obviously a little thin on both lines and at outside linebacker, and it wouldn't surprise me if they looked to upgrade one (or more) of those spots with a trade, like they did with Ted Washington. My question is if they did that, when would you expect them to make the move? The longer they leave it, the less time the new arrival would have to fit in and learn the new scheme. The Ted Washington trade was done on August 20th (2003), and we're at a similar point of the preseason now. Do you anticipate any trades in the near future, and do you think there's a cut-off point after which they'd be better sticking with their current guys who might be less skilled but who know the system?
Dan, I think the date to keep in mind is Sept. 4. That's the roster reduction date when teams must get to 53 players. I could see a move for an interior OL happening before then, but most teams like to get through three preseason games -- and assessing depth -- before dealing a player. What you don't want to happen is trade a player, then have your starter get hurt the next day and wish you had that layer of depth back.
Hi Mike. Could Ty Warren's injury be career threatening?
Warren himself said that shouldn't be the case, Clark.
Can you do us all a favor and tell Brady to get a haircut already? He looks like a cross between Zac Efron and Justin Bieber. I've gotten enough crap from my friends about this. Please Mike, help us all out!
Lee, I stay away from that stuff. Thankfully they don't ask me to write about Gisele either. I get to focus on the football. That's the way I like it.
Mike, Kind of a different question for you. Is it true that most sports reporters don't actually have a favorite team they root for? I find that hard to believe although I understand you need to be unbiased and somewhat neutral in order to be a professional. Come on Mike be honest. Do you secretly have a favorite sports team? Thanks
I'll be honest, Smitty, I root for players, coaches and personnel people that I've come to respect and like. Not so much teams. These people put a lot into what they do. So, for example, I root for Wes Welker to make a healthy return to the field because I know how much football means to him. I don't think that affects my coverage of the team. If Welker makes a mistake, I'm still going to report it. If Welker says something negative, I'm still going to report it. If I have to be critical of Welker, I will still do so.
Hi Mike. Why is there concern of Mike Wright playing more of a starter role? He had one of his best years last year, and I believe had 5 1/2 sacks. Jarvis Green was very underwhelmign his last 2 years here, and Ty Warren is a great run defender but pretty lackluster at rushign the passer. Perhpas more of Mike Wright is needed. What do you think?
Jared, I think it's one of those things where Wright could wear down. I sort of put Tully Banta-Cain into the same category. Some players, to me, are best in a spot-start role, and then they stay fresh when called upon in sub packages/special packages.
Who is the surprise veteran that gets cut this year?
Guys I'd keep in mind for cuts/trade are: S James Sanders ($2.3 million salary), WR Sam Aiken; CB Terrence Wheatley; DL Damione Lewis.
Mike I just can't see Wheatly having that much value on the trade market. Do you? He has done well in pre-season and in camp, but Whilhite to me would be more trade-able because he at least has game experience. Your thoughts?
I think it would be the type of deal where you're getting a conditional seventh-rounder in return, if anything.
As the depth chart has started to come into focus a little more, what do you think are the one or two positions we should be watching tonight that remain the most competitive in terms of finding a starter?
Outside linebacker -- Burgess, Murrell, Ninkovich & Woods should get plenty of time with Banta-Cain and Cunningham not playing. Otherwise, looks pretty set to me.
Hi Mike, with depth becoming a bigger question, what's the word on Rob Ninkovich? He had shown some ability as a sub package rusher last year. I might, for the first time, be interested in watching some MSNBC (Mayo, Spikes, Ninkovich, Banta-Cain)...
He could be on the bubble. He was with the top group at OLB on Day 1 of camp. Haven't seen much of him since. Like the MSNBC reference. Clever.
Mike, Long time reader here, and big fan. Love your work. Like a lot. Do you think that the defensive line (or lack there of) will benefit from what seems to be a bolstered linebacking and defensive backfield corps.
Thanks Garrett. Bill Belichick always makes the point that those two areas are intertwined. I think the linebackers/defensive backs will be improved this year, so yes, I think the d-line will benefit from this.
It looks as if relations have irretrievably broken down between Logan Mankins and the team so do you think it is time to bite the bullet and start shopping the player for either a player(s) or draft picks?
I don't think the door is closed, Damian. I wouldn't move on just yet.
Hi Mike. We've heard about the Patriots looking to stretch the field more this year. Other than Moss, which receivers do you think can help with this based on their performances this preseason? Tate is supposed to have speed, but has that shown on the field? What about Price and Hernandez? Or are they more possession-type receivers? Thanks.
Tate, for sure. He is fast and can threaten the deep third of the field.
Hey Mike. How does Brace look? Does he look like he's in better condition than last year?
Tonight will be a better barometer. He looks the part physically. I think the better judge will be how he fares against a tough right side of the line in Harvey Dahl (RG) and Tyson Clabo (RT). Those two OL are big and nasty.
Let's go for another 5 here...
What defensive players are assiming the Bruschi/Harrison type leadership role?
JD, Wilfork was one who comes to mind.
Mike, did you catch John Hannah's comments on Bill Simmons' podcast? Even though he held out in the 70's, Hannah completely disagrees with guys like Revis and Mankins holding out nowadays because they are entitled to free agency, whereas Hannah wasn't. What are your thoughts on that?
I haven't heard them, Seth. I'll have to go listen. Thanks for pointing it out.
You are pretty sure that Brady's apparent finger injury is a non-issue, correct?
Yes, I believe it is a non-issue at this point. I believe Brady when he says, "I feel great, as good as can be. I have no concerns."
hey mike, does dev mccourty have the kick return job? he showed some explosion, and i dont know if tate has that type of exposion. special teams is a crucial factor in close games
I still think it's Tate, Tyler, although it wouldn't surprise me if McCourty got a chance tonight to see if he could do the same thing against first-stringers. His big returns were against the second-string.
how much can we assume the starters will play tonight?
I think into the second quarter, depending on how the game is going. Falcons are planning for 18 to 20 snaps for their top guys.
Will Aaron Hernandez make an impact starting in the Bengals game, or will we have to wait for him to "earn" playing time? Can't wait to see the red zone production from our new TE's...
I see a big-time impact, in a variety of spots, for Hernandez.
Hey Mike - The AFC East schedule is really tough - with alot of important games to start the season. Jets vs Ravens, Patriots vs Bengals, then Jets vs Pats in week 2. Who would have more pressure on them, the patriots or Jets if they started 0-2?
Jets, for sure. Expectations seem to be higher for them than the Patriots.
With Maroney scoring 2 Tds in last weeks pre season game, will he get the start tonight, and what do you think the depth chart looks like at rb
Hi Bill. I think we'll see more Fred Taylor of tonight early in the game. I think the depth chart looks like this: 1. F. Taylor; 2. Maroney; 3. Morris; 4*. Faulk; 5. Green-Ellis.
Hey Mike, why so tough on McKenzie? you previously predictions had him not on the roster? This kid was a 3 school Div I player, who is praised by Belichick.
Kyle, I put him on the roster in the latest projection. I think his camp has been a bit up and down. He looks like No. 4 on the ILB depth chart to me, so special teams will be important for him. He is also coming off a knee injury, so we need to see more on how he is running.
All things considered (Opponent, Weather, Game Time, Atmosphere, tailgate/food) what away game is the most appealing for you as a fan?
Let's end on this one, Greg. Most appealing road game to me would be San Diego on Oct. 24.
Thanks to everyone for chatting. Always great. We'll be on the scene tonight for the game, with video and text-based reports. Looking forward to another game to dissect.