Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

September 23, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and thanks for joining today's Patriots chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

I just came back from the locker room. I'd say it was a little quieter today from a media-access standpoint. Had a nice chat with Fred Taylor, which will be part of this week's podcast on ESPNBoston.com and also listened to what Tully Banta-Cain and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had to say. Wes Welker also spoke with reporters.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Will be back in a few to kick this off.

Eric (Weymouth)

I have a problem with the pass defense scheme. I do not think the Ptriots apply enough pressure on opposing QBs. I believe that this defense has enough talent to be a good defense but over the past two seasons teams have been able to pass with ease. The problem is with the coaching scheme which (my guess) is to create a small window for the QB to deliver the ball to the receiver. In the past that ay have worked but in today?s NFL, the QB is extremely accurate and players like Henne, Sanchez and Flacco can hit that small window. Something needs to change! Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

You'll lead us off today, Eric, with the plan to go until 1 p.m. I've actually been surprised with the pressure the defense has been able to create through two games. It looks to me like the coaching staff is allowing the defensive linemen to get up field a bit more. I think the coverage, not the rush, has been the bigger issue through two games.

Alan (Somerville)

What kind of defensive adjustments can be made to account for the poor play of Darius Butler? Is this an issue with the scheme or with the personnel? Can we expect the defense to actually improve or is this what we will have to live with until next season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Alan, I think the main adjustment with Butler is individual in nature. He is often in the correct position, but he needs to play his technique better when the ball is in the air. I would expect him to improve. He has the talent. That was just his seventh career NFL start last Sunday, and I think we saw some of the growing pains that come with young players.

bert (ny)

Do you think the Pats should try to sign Larry Johnson and would he be a good fit?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Bert, I don't see Larry Johnson as a fit. I can't see them going in that direction.

Arjuna (Derry, NH)

Mike, I know there everyone on the team from the players to the coaches are responsible for the road woes. But should we scrutinize Brady and Belichick for this problems, much like we have praised them for the Dynasty?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

I think that is fair, Arjuna. Brady did not play a good second half last week. As for Belichick, the head is ultimately accountable for the final record, and one stat stands out to me: The Patriots have been outscored 116-41 in the second half of their last eight road games (not including London, which was a neutral site). Belichick has to find a way to reverse that slide; that's what coaches are paid to do.

Veeru (Boston)

Mike,with Fins starting 2-0 and Jets beating us last week, can we get over this shaky start and still top the division. Fins are the best in division now. If they beat the jets this week, they clearly have the edge playing pats at home the week after. How do you see this playing out ? Can our offense get over the hump and play well ? Our defense is struggling but definitely showed some good signs in week 1 and 1st half of game against Jets.. Your comments please..

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

It's still very early, Veeru, so I absolutely think the Patriots can still overcome this shaky statr and win the division. Beating the Bills on Sunday will be the first step, because if you somehow lose that game, then lose to Miami, you put yourself in an early 0-3 hole in the division. I expect the team to rebound.

Serena (Newport Beach)

Mike, what's happened to Tom Brady? What happened to "Tom Terrific", the guy who lead this team to innumerable 4th quarter comebacks and who was renowned as the best QB in the league under pressure. Even just watching his press conferences this year, his whole personality seems different. I don't think you can go so far as to blame marriage or fatherhood, but I think you can blame the fact that he isn't around this team in the offseason. Peyton Manning works all offseason with his receivers; he brings them where he is or drives to where they are. So Peyton Manning isn't going to be tossing the ball to one player for half the game because that's the only player he can "trust." Having spent some time around him, do you feel a shift in him at all? Is this still a quarterback who can lead this team to a championship?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

I still see a motivated player, Serena. I still see him a quarterback capable of leading the team to a championship. He's obviously different from when he first entered the NFL, but I don't think his approach is what is contributing to his recent spotty performance.

Jim (New Hampshire)

Why does it always appear that the Pat's secondary is a half-step behind the receiver? It seems like they are trying to prevent the big play, but allowing everything else underneath (we get killed with those 7 - 10 yard plays). Is it technique or by design?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Jim, I don't know the answer. I agree with you: There are times when I'm watching the game and thinking to myself 'Why such a big cushion?' My sense is that it is more scheme in those instances.

Mitch (Boston)

Regarding Darius Butler, is the opinion of the coaching staff that he will become a great corner when he gets his technique together, or are we looking at more of a survive-with-this-guy-until-we-get-more-talent-in-here type of situation?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Mitch, I think they believe Butler can be a long-term answer at the position.

Sarah (Bridgewater State University)

Mike, In the off season much was made about the locker room dynamics and lack of leadership. We often saw Kevin Faulk take over and lead by example. With the loss off Faulk, who steps up in the leadership role on the offense? In the locker room? On the road?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Sarah, I think they'll be OK on offense. Faulk still plans to be around the team; he was one of the first players in the meeting room Wednesday morning. Tom Brady and Wes Welker are leaders. So are Matt Light and Dan Koppen. Alge Crumpler is another leader. I don't see a shortage on that side of the ball.

supwithyou (MA)

Can't help but think of 2008 when we didn't have Faulk to pick up blitz. Who is our best blitz pickup, after Faulk? BB kept mentioning BJGE's improvement in passing (esp. blitz pickup) the other day when Pats let go of LMo. Do you think he is the answer?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

I think it's Sammy Morris, but I'd be surprised if Morris gets all of Faulk's snaps. Faulk was on the field for 51 snaps through the first two games and Morris just 16. I think it's too much to ask Morris to take on that full load. I expect Morris' playing time to increase, but also to see some creative uses of TE Aaron Hernandez and maybe even WR Julian Edelman.

Campbell (New Jersey)

Mike - With the revolving door the Pats have had at Off. and Def. Coordinators the last several years, how much is that contributing to their uneven play? Also, why haven;t other successful teams, Colts, Ravens, Packers... had similar issues?

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

I think it's part of it, Campbell. Tedy Bruschi made the point on our weekly podcast on ESPNBoston.com: Just as young players learn on the job, so do young coaches. I'm glad you mentioned the Colts, Ravens and Packers, because all of those teams have had similar issues. The Packers had a first-year defensive coordinator (Dom Capers) last year and they got lit up in the playoffs. The Colts are 1-1 like the Patriots, getting run over in the season-opener by the Texans. The Ravens are also 1-1 and the offense is having some struggles.

Mark (Denver)

Hi Mike! With Faulk sadly out of the game, can we expect more hard-nosed runs from Fred Taylor? Or will Faulk's role be filled by Morris or Woodhead?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Mark, I think you have to be careful taxing Taylor too much. He's played 36 snaps over the first two games and I'd keep his playing time in the 16-22 snap range. I don't think we're looking at one answer here. I think it's going to be a combination.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, have you noticed than Zoltan leads the NFL in the net punt yard category (I know he only has 4 punts in 2 games)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I did MarkJ, but at the same time, I also hang that delay of game penalty on him as he is the holder. That cost the team 3 points.

Rob (Boston)

What is it going to take to make this team play with some fire? They look like a bunch of bumps on a log after the 1st quarter of football. Is that a conditioning problem? An attitude problem? How can Belicheck light a fire under these guys?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

I don't think it's conditioning-related, Rob, but whatever Belichick is saying at halftime obviously isn't getting through. I noticed he has the team in full pads today for the second day in a row, so I think he's really trying to drive the point home that they need to be mentally tougher. Let's see how they respond.

slappy3312 (Orlando)

Mike, obviously Faulk is a big loss so my question is... with a healthy Welker, is it possible to insert Edelman in the backfield on 3rd down? Seems to me like its a great way to get them both on the field.

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Surely, slappy, but one area you have to be concerned is pass protection. Edelman on a blitzing linebacker could be trouble.

Travis (Somerville)

I feel like our offense has not been using all the numerous threats we had been hearing about so much over the offseason. Is the offense as dynamic as you had expected or are you still waiting for more?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Travis, I see signs of all the weapons being used, but it's not consistent enough. This offense is as dynamic as I expected it to be. It can be lethal. It's more a matter of if they can string it together for a full 60 minutes in my view. Fred Taylor's 38-yard run early on Sunday was a good example in my view. That should have never been negated by an illegal formation penalty that didn't affect the play.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

The penalty was the correct call. The mistake by Brandon Tate is inexcusable.

rob (exiled in buffalo)

mike i was looking at the front 7 from last sunday and i liked what i saw. brace-wilfork-warren on d-line, cunningham-spikes-mayo-tbc at linebacker seems like the best combination weve seen in a while. definitely better than what we has last year. think this is the look they go with in the near future? thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Rob, I thought that front seven answered the challenge and played well enough to win. Part of it will be game-plan specific. Last year, Mike Wright played a terrific game against the Bills and I wouldn't be surprised if he's back in the lineup this week. But against a Jets-like team, which tries to beat you with power, I thought that front seven was solid. So I'd expect the Patriots to mix their approach based on the opponent.

Jason (Denver, CO)

Mike, I listened to your podcast with Tedy yesterday,and it was fantastic. During the podcast you mentioned something briefly that has been plaguing my mind for the past couple of days; Brady's knee injury came when Faulk was out on suspension. Not that there is any reason to think something so drastic would happen again, but isn't it reason enough to be seriously concerned with the blocking situation we have been left with? It was actually Sammy Morris who blocked Bernard Pollard to the ground in that game, and it is Morris who is expected to get a serious spike in reps with Faulk on IR. Do you think Morris is at all concerned?

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Thanks for listening Jason. Those podcasts with Tedy are a lot of fun. He demands that you bring your A game. The Patriots obviously lose something without Faulk in a pass-protecting role, but I think Morris is capable.

Alvin (Boston)

Hi Mike, Do you think the Bills will try to run all game long to expose our defense and keep Brady on the sidelines?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Alvin, the Bills should try to establish the run, but I think the Patriots are a tough team to run against. One area to watch is the sub runs -- when the Patriots have nickel and dime personnel on the field and the offense runs. Vince Wilfork was saying this week that is an area the Patriots defense has struggled.

Justin (Brookfield, WI)

Was Julian Edelman's limited role @ the Jets a matter of preserving his ankle injury? I feel like he should be on the field more with Welker creating a dual threat, especially inside where we could not get the ball to guys in the second half.

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Justin, I think it was more of a matchup situation, as the Patriots went heavier with TE usage and a bit lighter on the WR side. Edelman played just 10 snaps. I would expect that to increase this week.

Justin (Brookfield, WI)

Hey Mike, why do you think Green-Ellis got the start above Sammy Morris in the rotation? Are we likely to see more of the same this week vs. the Bills? I didn't really like our personnel groupings and how they were utilized in the second half of the Jets game. At times we had Green-Ellis lining up wide right as a WR. Why would we be doing that?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Justin, I think the coaching staff views Green-Ellis as the No. 2 back based on the way they used him. When Green-Ellis is split wide like that, it could be a way for the offense to get a feel for the defensive coverage before the snap. I remember they did it in the past with Heath Evans, and based on the player who lines across from him, it would give Brady an indication if it was a man or zone coverage scheme.

Corky (Destin)

Hi Mike: You are probably getting overwhelmed with Kevin questions, but here is another one...With Kevin hurt could the team go back to the old short passing sceme we had a few years ago- dump offs and screnes using the young tight ends in place of Kevin, running Hernadez out of the backfield could be deadly??

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Corky, I am expecting to see Hernandez line up in the offensive backfield at times. As for how Faulk's absence changes the scheme, the biggest thing I am looking for is the shotgun usage. The Patriots use the 'gun a lot, and it's usually with Faulk on the field. I think they will have Brady under center more often.

Ken (Ct)

Mike, forget about the financial implications and draft picks they receive for a second, how much better do you think the defense would be if Seymour and Vrabel were still on the team? I think the defense although young and talented lacks that veteran leadership that I think is important in developing young players.

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

I think they would be better, Ken, although it's probably fair to say Seymour would not have been on the team this year (2009 was the last year of his contract). Also, Seymour was inactive last week for the Raiders (hamstring). As for Vrabel, he has declined as a pass-rusher, but I still think he has something to offer as an edge-setter against the run.

Scott (Mansfield MA)

In one of your posts, you say that Moss has dropped 4 passes this season. I am curious the difference between an incompletion and a drop? I guess a drop faults the receiver and incompletion faults the QB, though incompletions include drops?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Scott, a drop isn't an official stat. It's open to interpretation by whoever is keeping the stats. In this case, ESPN has a group called Stats & Information that charts that stuff. I am not sure the criteria they are using.

Josh (Ithaca, NY)

Is there any chance the Patriots would bring back Jarvis Green or sign a veteran interior lineman I.E. Justin Hartwig?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Josh, from what I understand, Jarvis Green was viewed as a player who really declined in Denver. I'm not sure how much he has left.

Craig (Sarasota Fl)

Is there a reason Tate isn't getting the ball more? I thought in the loss to the jets that Tate and the tight ends should have been more involved i know hernandez had a good game but even him and gronkowski should have been targeted more.

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Craig, my sense is that Tate is still developing a rapport with Tom Brady. Even Brady made the point Wednesday that one of the things the team loses in Kevin Faulk is a player who can be trusted, and that's who Brady will look to in the critical situations. Brady doesn't have that same feeling with Tate in my view.

NOLApatsfan (New Orleans)

If Tom Brady was targeting Randy Moss too often in the second half against the Jets, would that be more a matter of the plays Bill O'Brien was calling or the reads/decisions Brady was making on those plays?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

I'd say the latter, NOLA.

KT (Boston, MA)

Mike, Times have changed and the long pass to Randy Moss does not appear to be as effective as it was in 2007. Do you think Brady begins to recognize this and adjust or do you think they continue to throw the deep ball with limited success? If they do not target Randy as much - does he begin to shut it down, aka the Carolina game last year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

I think Brady went back over the tape and realizes he missed some opportunities to get the ball to other players. I expect him to rebound this week and better distribute the football. As for Moss, I think he's done everything right to this point, even with some of his early struggles. My crystal ball is cloudy on if that will continue.

Matt G (Boston)

Hi Mike - thanks, as always, for the chats. Some readers have brought up the disparity with past Pats teams, in that this pre-season, they were "buyers," rather than "sellers," trading away draft picks for players, rather than stockpiling them. It seems clear that the Pats have done this more in 2010, but isn't this a function of having brought on 25 new, young players in the past two drafts? Much of the team has turned over, and another 10-12 draft picks now might just serve to crowd the roster. (Keeping in mind, of course, that they have 4 early picksa?) Though competition is good, do Belichick & Co. see the next few years as lighter on the draft/more on free agency if the need arises?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Matt, that was a point I had made on the "buyers" vs. "sellers" and I think part of it is that they had an early run of injuries (Kaczur, Bodden, McGowan, Warren) and the contract standoff with Logan Mankins. Those are five players who would have been on the 45-man game-day roster. Some could view the trades for Jarrad Page, Tracy White and Quinn Ojinnaka as a sign that Bill Belichick would do anything to improve the team. Usually you don't see the team giving up draft picks for players like that, and that's why I asked the question if it was an ominous sign.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Mike, I have to disagree with you on the play of the LB's on LT's 2nd half runs. Yes, Ninkovich badly missed a tackle in the back field on LT's long run but on two of his other longer runs Mayo and Guyton could not disengage from their blocks and LT had a gaping hole into the 3rd level. Granted, the Jets have a good O-Line but we need to get more consistent play out of the LB's for this Defense to top caliber.That being said, I agree it was the offense that let this team down in the second half. Brady has to make better decisions.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Fair point, munchkin. Those two sub runs by Tomlinson, which totaled 25 yards, really hurt the team. Up to that point, the base 3-4 defense had held the Jets to 36 yards on 12 carries.

Chris (Charlottesville, Va)

Now that we are a couple games in, and have lost a game, I was wondering how much of an effect Mankins not being on the team has been. It seems to me last week even with Mankins we lose that game, as QB pressure didn't seem to be too much of an issue and our running was not bad either.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

I thought the running game let them down a bit in the second half. Would a player like Mankins have made a difference? Tough call, Chris. He's obviously a top player, but I'm not sure I could definitively say a left guard would have helped that running game on a few of those early-down runs in the second half. Overall, I think the pass protection has been good.

Jerry W (Boston)

Mike, can you explain to me the fascination the Pats have with Shawn Crable, when you consider he hasn't stepped on the football field in 3 yrs? Does he have that much potential?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Jerry, I think it's the physical package that intrigues them. To me, the big question with Crable is what's inside.

Jeff (Cambridge)

Have you heard anything on the Mankins situation? Do you think we'll sign him or will he eventually be traded?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Jeff, no movement there from what I understand.

Dylan (San Francisco)

Mike, I was wondering what you thoughts were on the Brandon Merriwether situation. In the offseason, i thought he was going to be a major impact player and one of the best defensive backs in the league. But through the first two games, I've barely seen him play. Do you know why that is?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Dylan, Meriweather is not starting when the team is in its base 3-4 defense. Meriweather said it is because he was freelancing in practice and needs to play more within the scheme.

Kerry (palm beach , fl)

Mike , what do you think of Edelman and Welker on the feild at the same time? More options....more success??

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

I like it Kerry. We saw it in the Jets game in a bunch formation to the right side. I expect to see more of it.

Kevin (NY)

Mike, the Pats not being able to move the ball in the second quarter looked an awful lot like how they looked against the Saints last year, a lot of time and nowhere for Brady except for that time Taylor got the better of him. Draw plays, wideout screens, simple 43 Power. What can the Pats do to combat the rush 3 drop everyone back?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Kevin, the first thought I had was the Jacksonville playoff game from a few years ago. Remember when the Jaguars went with a similar plan and Brady was 22 of 25, or something like that. Usually when Brady has time to scan the field, he's money. He's not yet dialed in this year, his accuracy off and his decision-making questionable at times. He's the key in my view.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

adkjani (Fargo, ND)

mikeI thought Cunningham played well considering not having been on the field much the last few months. Did you think he had a good game? Will he be on the field more against Buffalo?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I thought Cunningham played well. I gave him one of our "ups" after the game. I do expect that he will play more.

Keith (Billings, MT)

Should the Patriots be regreting the fact they let Maroney go, especially since theynow are without Faulk and it looks like Maroney may be in for the Broncos this week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Keith, this one is a good debate. I had the debate this morning with Mike Rodak, who contributes to our Patriots coverage on ESPNBoston.com. I said they pulled the trigger too early. He disagrees. We had a steel-cage match to decide who was right and he won.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Seriously, though, I thought the risk of giving up the depth wasn't worth the reward (a fourth-round pick).

Frazier (Philly)

Mike, please briefly touch on why Gostkowski is struggling? He is now 1-4 on FGs with the Jets miss being a huge missed opportunity to put points on the board

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

I don't think it's as bad as it looks, Frazier. One of the misses from was 56, the other from 47. It's nothing physical or mechanical. He just needs some more opportunities with his new operation.

Ned in NC (Greenboro, NC)

Hi Mike - can you confirm that it was Tate who covered the tight end on Fred Taylor's 38 yard run? Phil Simms called him out after the play and showed the formation from behind the middle linebacker, but before the play, the sideline camera angle seemed to show Hernandez split wider than Tate and well in front of him - covering the tightend.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Ned, I'm pretty sure it was Tate. I asked wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea about it and with his answer, he basically confirmed it was Tate.

The Buck (NE)

How do the Pats look so good one week, and then look like a bunch of dead corpses the next? They moved like they were slathered in BBQ sauce. I am hoping they keep it fun this year, and win 10 to 11 games. Smile NE.

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Probably the same way the Colts could look as bad as they did in Week 1, before rebounding in Week 2. Or vice versa for the Ravens. It's the NFL. Who would have thought the Cowboys and Vikings would be 0-2 and the Chiefs and Bucs would be 2-0?

Rick (CT)

Mike,This might take some research but I would like to know how the Pats rated Clay Matthews ans why they didn't draft him? I know that they don't like drafting OLBs but they spend a 2nd rounder on Cunningham. Considering how Bulter has looked, I'd really be interested in what their thought process was and how they rated him when compared to those they drafted.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Rick, I think the question the Patriots had with Matthews was if he would be sturdy enough to set the edge in the running game. That's a different scheme in G.B. and it looks to me to be a case where the player and scheme and a perfect fit.

Brad (New York)

Mike, do you think the Pats regret not making a play for Jason Taylor last spring? Seems odd that they didn't even bother.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Brad, I'm determined to get to the bottom of this one at some point. It is puzzling to me as well. I think they probably did, but the price got to a level where they weren't comfortable going.

Billy (Norwood)

What did you make of Brandon Meriweather's remarks the other day? you know the ones i'm talking about. Very disturbing.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Bizarre.

Joe (RI)

Mike, Help me out here. If your an NFL player and you drive drunk and kill someone (Dante Stallworth) you get suspended for a year by the league. But if you drive drunk and are lucky enough NOT to kill someone (Braylon Edwards), The NFL looks the other way and the player has to miss only the first play of one game? Thats pretty messed up.

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

I agree, Joe. Sometimes it seems like the NFL makes it up as they go along.

Grant (Columbus, OH)

Hey Mike, Do you know if the Patriots were one of the seven teams that inquired about Vincent Jackson?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Grant, I do not know if the Patriots were one of the teams.

Jim (Winchester)

Is it possible that Brady's being upset about the fans leaving early is because his new contract gives him a percentage of the concessions?LOL

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Well done, Jim. Thanks for the chuckle. Let's end it there. Thanks to everyone for chatting. I'm now going to put together this week's Bruschi's Breakdown for ESPNBoston.com. Will look forward to our chat next Thursday.