Good afternoon and welcome to today's Patriots chat.
Just huddling up here and will be back in 1-2 minutes and we'll get rolling.
Here are some of the prevalent issues that are Patriots related: 1) Teams will start assigning franchise tags today and my expectation is that Logan Mankins will get it; 2) The coaching staff and roles should be coming into focus soon, with changes in the secondary (Corwin Brown out), strength program (Mike Woicik to Cowboys), and possibly some other changes; 3) Draft preparation with the combine ahead (Feb. 24-27).
Todd McShay, the ESPN draft analyst, has his second mock draft posted today. He has switched up his picks and gives the Patriots DE Cameron Jordan of Cal at No. 17 and G/T Danny Watkins of Baylor at No. 28.
In his first mock draft, McShay had the Patriots picking Purdue DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan at No. 17 and Alabama RB Mark Ingram at No. 28.
Hi Mike,Thanks for keeping us company in this dreaded off season. Much appreciated!Do you think Steelers will be ready to let go of Woodley for the 28th pick? I think it will be draft pick well spent as he is a great pass rusher and might do great in our system.
Nate, I don't think the Steelers will be letting Woodley go. Their personnel chief, Kevin Colbert, is one of the best in the business in my opinion. I think he knows he has an asset and wants to keep that asset.
Mike, loved your comment about 18 games Sunday. How can fans get Goodell, Kraft, etc. to stop representing the 18-game regular season schedule as something the fans are asking for?An 18-game regular season would take a huge toll on players, and negatively impact competitiveness because of injuries. The commissioner and owners are closer to the lives of the players than fans and they should understand the impact an 18 game season would have.
I think it's our job, as reporters covering the league, to bring that to light when Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft say things like "We hear from fans that they want an 18-game season." To me, that's twisting words. What I hear is that fans aren't crazy about paying regular-season prices in the preseason. So how about we keep the season to 16 games, reduce preseason prices, and then if we have to, raise the regular-season prices a bit higher? Would that be a fair compromise?
Mike, What do you think of Shaun Rogers to the Patriots? He was just released by Cleveland.
Dean, my first instinct is no on that one, but it's only an opinion and not based on any concrete info. When Rogers wants to play, he can be excellent. But it doesn't always seem like he wants to play. That general snapshot doesn't strike me as a Patriots type of target.
In terms of free agent outside linebackers, is there anyone you'd expect the Pats to make a strong push for? I saw on Mike Rodak's free agent report, that Woodley and Hali could be targets. What would you put odds at for getting either one of them?
I think both of those would be long, long shots to join the Patriots, Jay. I see a more likely scenario of the team filling that need through the draft.
What is on the site of the Old Foxboro Stadium?
Chris, I believe it's either a parking lot and/or Patriot Place. The new stadium was built on the same land, just a bit further away from where the old stadium was.
Mike, is conditioning coach Mike Woicik leaving? Well, what exactly is the responsibility of conditioning coaches other than tripping (pun intended)?
MarkJ, look for Woicik to land in Dallas as the Cowboys' strength coach. As for the responsibility of the strength coach, a big part of it is in the offseason with with the conditioning program. During the season, they oversee players' weightlifting etc. It's a very important role on the staff. I remember back in '93 when Bill Parcells was hired, one of his first moves was to hire conditioning coach Johnny Parker because he felt that was a tone-setter for the toughness he wanted his team to have.
Hi Mike, I know you and a lot of others are mocking DE/OLB in the first round for the Pats, but would you be surprised if the pats go heavy on offense in round 1 (Guard, RB, maybe even WR if Julio Jones drops)? The thought behind it is if they can continue to strengthen their high powered offense and keep their 'bend but down break' defense, they could go 14-2 again and hopefully further in the playoffs?
Chris, I wouldn't be surprised if it's offense from a OL/RB standpoint, but would be surprised if there is a WR in the mix.
After the latest superbowl national anthem fiasco, why don't owners like Kraft suggest to the NFL that military bands/choirs take that role in the future?It would highlight much more respect and honor the military rather than have entertainers try to rewrite the anthem.
Good thought, Jim. The Super Bowl is all about the "show" but that type of decision would have more meaning.
Mike,Quick question - Scenario - players get locked out FA is on hold, or can players move? If they reach agreement in the summer how would they open the window for teams to sign players
Chris, the main thing is that everything will be on hold. There will be no free agency after March 4, and players whose contracts expire will be in limbo. Once/if there is an agreement, I think we'll see a free-agent period shortly thereafter.
If Belicheck does decide he needs a vertical threat, why not trade a pick for Steve Smith (Carolina)? Unlike Fitzgerald , he might actually be available and I wouldn't expect the cost to be excessive.
Sameer, I can't imagine why Carolina would want to trade him, but if they would, I'd look into it. Smith is a top competitor. But when I look at the Panthers, they have so few assets and Smith is one of them. I think they'll hang on to him.
What happened to Belichick? He used to value the big back...A Smith and C Dillon. Now he prefers these little waterbugs. Has his phiosophy changed, or is it more a result of drafting at the end of the rounds year after year?
I don't know if I'd completely go along with that, Soup. To me, Green-Ellis is more of a big-back type (215 pounds) than the little waterbug. I look at his style as more power-based. That being said, as this offense has become more passing-based from 2007-present, the smaller backs like Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead have played more because the importance of pass-protection from that position has increased.
The lack of production from Taylor and Morris hurt this team, especially come playoff time. At some point, the offense became to finesse. I just don't see how BB can continue to lineup a finesse offense vs smart physcal teams
This is an interesting debate, Mugsy, and I've had it with a passionate Pats fan in my family. He wants to see the Patriots' offense become less Brady-centric. He wants to see the offense go back to the Corey Dillon/Antowain Smith days. I'm not sold that's the way to go, especially after watching the way Green Bay won the Super Bowl. But I think there are merits to the argument on both sides.
Mike, with his athleticism, is there any chance that Darius Butler could be moved to free safety? Merriweather's contract is up after next season, and it's likely that his contract demands will be more than the Patriots will be likely to meet, especially at free safety. Thanks, and keep up the great work!
Jim, I don't Butler as a fit as free safety, where tackling takes on even more importance. Butler's tackling is more corner-like than safety-like in my view.
Hi Mike, I wanted to know what you think the reason Corwin Brown is not coming back? He seems like a BB guy and the safety play was improved. Do you think it is all about money with him and Mike Woicik? I remember hearing that was the reason brad Sealy left for Cleveland a few years back. With brown do you think it was a case of BB giving a guy a chance to get his name back in the NFL ranks after being in the college game? I thought overall the coaching staff had improved. Toughts?
Chris, I don't know the answer on Brown. For now, I'm going with the thought that it just wasn't the right fit. I want to be fair to Brown by not speculating. It bothers me when I see unattributed comments like "he wasn't a good coach" or "players didn't like him". I heard the same things about Josh Boyer last year and it bothered me. Boyer obviously has something going for him because he coached Devin McCourty this year, and McCourty was a top player in the NFL at his position. So which one is it? Good coach? Bad coach? On Woicik, I feel like I have a better read. I believe it had more to do with contractual stuff. I think we'll come to find out that the Dallas opportunity was better for him from a contractual standpoint.
Marino and Faust were great pocket passers that lacked mobility, especially later in their careers...and neither had playoff successes in their 30s. Can we expect Brady to be different considering his age and leg issues?
I saw John Clayton of ESPN writing on the topic over the last couple of days, and he thinks both Brady and Peyton Manning have five championship-caliber seasons left in him. I concur.
Hi Mike, I have a question about our hated division rival... the Jets. I don't like to focus too much on all the off the field "noise" that goes on around that team... but with the headlines about Sanchez this week, I'm starting to wonder -- at what point does this stuff start to hurt the Jets from a competitive standpoint? As a Patriots fan, I'd be happy to see the Jets "distract" themselves to the point of self destruction! What are your thoughts on this subject?
Rob, my main thought on the Jets is that every time I think something like that will bring them down, it only seems to make them stronger. Weird dynamic there.
Mike long time follower first time poster. I have been following your blogs and you are against bringing in a veteran WR because that would stunt the growth of Tate/Price. Isn't it dangerous though going into the season with question marks at deep threat WR? Shouldn't Tate and Price earn the chance to start instead of just being given to them out of necessity? Personally I feel a deep threat vet would be great for this team and Price/Tate should show in practice what they have and if they can beat that veteran wideout good for us. Bottom line you cant just go into the season with question marks and waste another Brady year. No position on this team should just be given it should be earned.
Fair point, Don. Tate and Price should earn it. It shouldn't be handed to them. I can see them adding a receiver, I'm just not a fan of the move in the first round -- or a big free-agent splash -- if all things are equal.
Face it Mike, the Patriots are not tough. First the Ravens, and then the Jets smacked the Pats in the mouth, and the Patriots failed to respond. Most disturbing was how Brady was hearing footsteps after taking early heat in these games. How can this team become like one of those physical teams that have advanced deep into the payoffs?
I think they've showed toughness -- think about the Ravens' regular-season game this year. At the same time, I agree that when the games have mattered most, they haven't won the battle at the line of scrimmage. So I think keeping your best players on the line of scrimmage (Wilfork last year, Mankins this year) -- and then adding more -- is one of the first steps toward rectifying that.
Compared to the '01-'04 Patriots, the current Patriots are a finesse team that gets exposed by the more physical teams, ie. Ravens and Jets. Outscheme vs outpound doesn't measure up vs other well coached teams. Belichick's recent propensity to field smallish,quick players is opposite the the lager RB ground game that earned him 3 rings. Antowain Smith and Cory Dillon were bruisers that could move the pile. Now Belichick prefers to run away from the pile. BB's current defense waits for the opposing QB to make a mistake instead of forcing the issue like back in the day. Wilfork and Mankins seem to be the only two linemen that play with the toughness I see from other playoff contenders. Even with 6 premium draft picks, I don't see the '11 team being ready to be a smashmouth team, especially if Mankins moves on. Am I wrong viewing this team as strictly finesse?
Seems like this is the hot topic today -- finesse vs. power. I see the point, but I didn't really look at the Super Bowl champion Packers and think "Wow, that's a power team." If anything, they were more to the other side. So I think there are different ways to do it. I do think the Patriots need to get stronger up front and that this offseason should be about attitude and re-establishing the line of scrimmage. But I don't think it's all bad in this area.
Mike, the more I think about it one of these first rounders has to be on a guard. It gives them flexibility if they are unable to sign Mankins or Light with Kazcur sliding into the vacant G or T spot assuming he is healthy.
It makes sense to me, Kyle, with the thought that you could get another Mankins there. History shows that's one position where if you hit it right, that player can step right in and start immediately.
Mike:How much of Mayo's tackle totals can we attribute to Vince Wilfork's ability to keep the opposing O-lineman from reaching the second level and keeping them off of the linebacking corps and how much should be attributed to Mayo's abilities as a tackling machine?
They are both factors, but I think Mayo deserves most of the credit for making the tackles. Yes, the Patriots' defense often funnels things to the middle of the field, putting him in position to make the play, but you still have to make it. Mayo most often does.
Can a QB that is incapable of scrambling for a 1st down help his team advance deep into the playoffs. Big Ben and Rodgers have the ability to get the 1st down despite blanket coverage...Brady will throw it away ending a series. The Jets recognized this and flooded the secondary with 7 DBs knowing full well that Brady will never run.
I think a QB like that can win (e.g. Kurt Warner in 2008). I also think Brady is a better runner than he gets credit for. If he didn't run this year, I'm assuming it was because of his foot.
Mike, could you give us your analysis on the labor situation, especially with the news coming out today that talks were cancelled because the two sides are off by a Billion dollars? That's absurd! What is your take?
Keith, I think we'll see this take a few twists and turns before we see an agreement. I do think we'll see an agreement (that's my optimistic side coming out), although it might not come until the spring or summer. I think it's important to note that owners opted out of this deal, so they've created this situation. In the end, I think players will be more challenged to stay unified because there are more of them.
Mike, as mentioned, you're not a big advocate of the Pats breaking the bank for a WR or drafting one early. What about Plaxico? shouldn't be terribly expensive, should be on his best behavior, etc... Possible?
Just don't see them going there, Scott, based on the off-field stuff.
Hey Mike...of the current Patriots free agents, who can they least afford to lose?
They are really well positioned in my view, Mike. I think Mankins is their best free agent, so I'd start there.
If Patricia or Pepper is named DC, will they assign a positional coach to take his place?
Chris, I think we'll see another position coach added if that happens. One thought I had is that the safeties have had three different coaches in three years. Not ideal. Maybe Belichick re-distributes his role to working with them, allows Patricia/Pepper to do a little more, and they bring in Bryan Cox to fill in the gaps. That's purely speculation on my part.
Hi Mike! I am a little bit tired of "Pats need a vertical threat"-type opinions, partly because they are based on the Jets game. Until that loss the Moss-less offense was great and one single game which was lost for a lot of mistakes made in all phases of the game cannot change the complete image of the passing game. I think Welker will be better than this season (like Brady two years after surgery), Branch will be able to keep this year's level, after one full year Tate can also improve, Edelmann's success as punt returner can boost his performance as well, and let's not forget Price who also has the chance to contribute. So there is no need the spend high draft pick on that position, especially having the tight ends and Danny on board too. The defense must be made dominant as well and we will have the chance to win the big game in Manning's place next year.
That's probably more aligned with my thinking. At the same time, I respect the opinion of others -- such as Brian Billick -- who believe this offense needs that deep threat to "take the top off a defense."
With all the injuries on the DLine late in the season, why wasn't Jarvis Green looked at? He didn't sign with the Texans till mid Dec. Any thoughts?
Greg, his preseason tape was apparently not very good. I had one personnel man say he looked like he was at the end of the line.
You have stated that you think the Pats will address the OLB/DE hole in the draft (which I do not doubt) but why do you think this over a FA signing? I think they will draft a OLB/DE but also sign maybe Kiwanuka or Hali (assuming Woodley is franchised) and like ILB make this a position of strenghth.
Eric, the cost on those signings makes those moves less of a likelihood in my view.
How long will Spikes last? He has embarrassed this team twice with his extracurricular activities.
I think it's early to think along those lines, but if he has a second straight season with similar off-field distractions/issues, I think we can say it with more authority that he won't last long.
Mike, if I become a 50% snap guy, does that mean the defense is in trouble? Am I the best shot of the young DL to become a solid 3 Down Lineman?
Thanks for joining the chat, Kyle Love. I don't see you being a three-down guy at this point. It looks to me like the best fit is at NT behind Vince Wilfork.
Mike, can I improve enough next year to make the pursuit of a high draft pick at OLB a moot point? I mean, if the DL is as good as it was 6 years ago, won't that make me a whole lot better?
Nice to catch up, Jermaine Cunningham. Even if you do improve, and I envision that happening, I could make a strong argument that a young prospect on the other side of you would be a good investment.
Hi Mike. Will I be back with the Patriots next season? If so, who will be my positional coach?
Lot of players today. I like it. I could envision you being back, Jarrad Page, although I'm guessing you're looking for a place where you'd be an established starter. If that doesn't happen, I think the coaches would welcome you back, assuming the price is right. As for your positional coach, I don't know.
Now that it has been confirmed that Pittsburgh and Kansas City are indeed being run by sane GM's and Woodley and Hali will be getting the franchise tag we can consider more rational potential free agent choices such as Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka is recovering from a neck injury which certainly gives cause for concern but at 27 years of age he could be the kind of player that could really help as a situational pass rusher and potentially more. I would like to see what he could do under Belichick's tutelage. Kiwanuka would be an upside gamble; what is your understanding as to his recovery and any long term health concerns?
I'd have to look closer, munchkin, as Kiwanuka is an interesting case in that he's played 4-3 DE and 4-3 OLB. Maybe there is some flexibility there that could fit in the Patriots' scheme, assuming good health. At the least, it's a name to keep on the radar.
Hi Mike,Going back to the extensive discussion that has gone on regarding the Patriots passing on Clay Matthews Jr, I wanted to point out that there has been a bit of revisionist history involved. The prevailing viewpoint seems to be how foolish the Patriots were for passing on this outstanding pass rusher who would have filled an ongoing need. However, my recollection is that no draft analysts at the time were calling Matthews a great pass rushing prospect. In fact, many were talking about his possible contributions to special teams. If you look at his college stats, he only had 5 sacks during his college career (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/player/profile?playerId=168858). I would love for him to be on the Patriots too, but I just think people are confusing what he is now, with what he was then. Any thoughts?
Great point, Matt, and throw me into that group as well. I talked to one scout this week and asked him to go back on his notes on Matthews, and one of the concerns his team had was the USC program and what was going on there. His team just didn't feel great about any of the three USC top defenders that year -- Matthews, Cushing, Maualuga. The Patriots certainly weren't alone. I think the point is that if the Patriots knew then what they know now, they probably would have drafted him. But that's the challenge of the draft.
Mike, what are you hearing in terms of coaches that could be brought in from outside to help round out the coaching staff? Josh McDaniels seemed like a natural to return, but maybe O'Brien is ahead of him at this point and their skills are redundant. Seems like at the very least they need to find a new d-backs coach.
Rob, I think we'll start to hear more about the staff in the coming days/weeks. On McDaniels, I think the feeling there was that he wanted to go out on his own.
Mike do you see the Patriots putting the franchise tag on Logan Mankins and then doing what they did with Vince Wilfork last offseason working out a long-term deal?
I do, Anthony, and here is why: If they place the franchise tag on Mankins at one-year, $10 million, why not just extend him out at $8 million per year over a six-year deal? It seems like the smart decision in my view.
Mike,Thanks for still doing this weekly. One aspect I haven't heard discussed is obtaining hungry veterans in free agency. The past championship teams, were very veteran teams for the most part. We have a great influx of youth, and some great leadership from Vince, TB, and Mayo. However, with young guys there is the sense of looking up to and learning from the leaders. I think this team needs to bring in some hungry veterans, who haven't won who will give everything to win (Roman Phifers, Pleasents, Harrisons) and probably cry on the podium because they have been waiting so long. This aspect seems to be lacking from the last couple Patriots teams. Your thoughts?
Great thought, Mike. Maybe a few more Alge Crumpler-types, if they can be found.
How far apart are the Pats with Mankins? It honestly seems like they were maybe $500k apart per year. But somehow that amount got blown up into an emotional chasm.
Jason, I think they were a lot further apart than $500k last year. I'm not sure where things are at this point.
Have you seen this guy Aldon Smith, defensive end for Missouri? Looks like a perfect fit at OLB in the Pats 3-4 scheme and seems like a real freak!
Mark, Smith is one player I'm really interested in seeing more of, because of his skill set and the need he could help fill. Still learning more about him at this point.
Hi Mike, thanks for the chat. I can see your point that the Patriots need to focus on OLB/DE in the draft, but I think I would agree with the thread that OL is as important if not a bit moreso. Looking at the past three playoff losses, Tom Brady was pressured and harrassed more and had an off day. Much of those struggles belong to the OL. If you fix some of those problems, I think the Pats will go much further in the playoffs. Your thoughts?
Makes sense to me.
Do you see the Patriots making a strong push to land Nmandi Asomugha?
I don't see it, Scott, based on the cost and other needs trumping that potential investment.
Let's go for another 5 here...
Come on Mike!! Me and BB will be awesome, Tom Brady will love having me as receiver, Bob Kraft too. I actually thinking in rename my TOcho Show to TomOcho, Can I get a shot from you on being a Patriot this year!!
Ocho, it would have to be a trade and I just don't see it happening. If you were a free agent, I could see the possibility as being stronger.
Hey Mike, how come it seems your incapable of giving a straight forward answer in regard to some of the first round prospects in this years draft? Did you just look up the names, positions, and colleges and feel like you've learned enough? I mean, c'mon man, I do research as a hobby and I could answer questions better than you
Bill, I don't want to be one of those people who just passes off information as my own without doing the work. The right way to do it is to watch the prospects, talk to them at the combine, and then come to a conclusion. This process is just getting started for me over the last few weeks. I could spit out a few words that sound nice, but I don't want to deceive. I want to do the work and then come to the table with some meaning.
Mike - Pat Chung was great at the beginning, but later I thought teams picked on him in pass coverage when he returned from injury. Was this something you or the coaching staff picked up on? I thought it was strange because you noted he was the slot DB in those packages...thanks!
John, I wouldn't say Chung got picked on, but I did think he struggled a bit later in the year, and I wonder if his knee was bothering him more than he let on.
Hi Mike - could you comment on the inability as I see it of the Pats to adjust in the second half vs. the Jets. One thing the Pats were legendary for in the past is mixing it up and adjustments. I thought for sure we'd see a no huddle to start the second half, or something to change the rhythm of the game. We saw none of those things. Does that speak to play calling, Belichick? Who takes the blame for that? I never thought I would say they were outcoached, but they were...
I agree, Jeff. I thought the Jets' coaching staff had the upper hand in the playoffs. At the end of the day, it comes down to Belichick. He's calling the shots. I'd also point out that in this competitive league, a coaching staff isn't going to win each week. These are some of the best coaches around. It's competitive.
What do you think are the chances that NE actually uses BOTH first round picks? I'd say less than 10%. I'd say they'll use one and then trade the other one for more picks.........
Scotty, if they can pick up a first-rounder next year and add an additional pick this year, I could see them trading the No. 28 spot, knowing they have the No. 33 spot coming up a few picks later.
I agree with all the areas of need listed above for the draft, but wouldn't you say a DE trumps all? The fact that are line consisted of nose guards and that BB had to move Wilfork around constantly based on matchups I felt took away from his disruptive force up the middle. Seems like alot of retreads and backups there.
Zac, I think a solid DE in that 3-4 alignment -- someone who could stay on the field on third down by reducing to tackle -- would be ideal. They do have a lot of numbers. I think how much quality is there remains up for debate.
Mike, who the hell is going to give me a chance that I'll actually want to play for?? San Diego?
Maybe the Jets?
Do you take any creedence into the theory floating around that a drafted QB needs 3-4 years under the wing of a veteran QB as a backup before being mature enough to play at a very high level (ex: Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana to Steve Young etc.)? If so, should the patriots be looking to use a top draft pick in this or the next draft on a top flight QB in anticipation of Bradys contract expiration and increasing age?
I heard Michael Felger mention that on The Sports Hub on Tuesday. My opinion is that we're still 2 years away from that line of thinking here in New England. I also like Brian Hoyer, the current backup QB.
Any chance Larry Fitzgerald becomes a Patriot, either through trade or FA after next year?
I think it's a long, long shot, Sam.
Mike Pouncey looks like next best interior linemen since... his brother Maurkice. Do you think the Partiots could snag him with the 28th pick?
Cole, I think he'll probably go between 17-28. If the Patriots want him, I think they'd have to use their initial first-round pick.
Mike - without knowing what the deal is for next year - who would be your prime candidates to be cut/released? Sanders? Kaczur? Banta-Cain?
I think it would be a mistake to cut Sanders, but all the players here have higher salaries -- Sanders ($2.8m), Kaczur ($3.4m) and Banta-Cain ($2.3m, I think) -- so it wouldn't surprise me.
Mike, besides covering the Patriots last year during the off-season you covered the Red Sox a few times. I do not want you to stop or slow down covering the Patriots but will you be coming down to Florida for any spring training games this season or are you permanently assigned to covering the Patriots?
Dennis, I have to admit, I would have liked being in the press box for last night's Bruins-Canadiens game. But right now, it's all about football. There are no plans to cover other sports at this time. If there is a lockout, that could change.
Hey Mike, If the Pats do franchise Mankins, is that the final straw that signifies we have gone past the point of no return for signing him? It seems like if we realy wanted to get a deal done, step one would be not to franchise him to show him we are dealing in good faith. How do you see it?
I don't think so, Phil. I think they can franchise him and still get a deal done. It all comes down to $$. I would have thought the same thing with Wilfork at this time last year, but we saw how that turned out.
Who would be a better fit for the Pats; JJ. Watt or Ryan Kerrigan?
I'll go Watt, as I think he's a safer projection. Seeing Kerrigan in linebacker drills at the combine could alter the picture.
Mike...would you like to have a sit down with Bill from Charlotte?
Let's end on this one, John. Maybe we'll lower the steel cage for that one. Just kidding. I think it's good to bring different points of view to the table, and it's healthy to be challenged. I learn a lot from these chats because I think a lot of those who contribute are extremely well informed, and I don't have all the answers. That's one of the reasons I like doing them. Bill from Charlotte brings the passion, which you have to appreciate.
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. We ended up having 358 questions submitted for the chat, which reflects to me the great interest and passion for football and the team. That's why when people ask "What do you do in the offseason?", the best answer is that there is no offseason.
Let's chat again next Thursday.