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February 9, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Today's lead-in question is "What area would you target for the Patriots to improve in 2012?" I will lead off with my top three: WR, DB, front-seven stud.

Mike
  (12:01 PM)

We'll go until 1 p.m. today. Going to fill up a coffee mug here and we'll get started in 3 minutes.

Brian Waters (Boston)

Mike, can you explain for the fans why I would think of retiring when I finally got to the big one? If I do retire, how does that affect the draft/ free agency plans of the Patriots?

Mike
  (12:05 PM)

Brian, first and foremost, what a pleasure to cover you this year. You were one of my favorite players to talk with, in part because of your perspective on what you've seen over the 10-plus years of your NFL career. The main thought on retirement is that it's hard to do what you do. It takes a full commitment. If you're not all-in, you just can't do this. I understand why it would be on your mind. As for how a retirement would affect draft/free agency plans, I don't see it as having a huge impact. Paging Marcus Cannon, paging Marcus Cannon -- that RG job is there for the taking.

AJ (Oakland)

Is the Devin Mc. move to safety something longterm or more a desperation move? What does he need to do to regain his confidence at CB?

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

AJ, my view on McCourty is that he moved to safety because of necessity, not because that's where the coaching staff wanted him. Sergio Brown really fell off the map from a defensive perspective. So it turned out that moving McCourty there in sub, and inserting Sterling Moore/Antwaun Molden at CB was deemed a better fit than simply subbing in any of the backup safeties (Brown, Slater etc.). Patriots have to address safety in my opinion, and get some stability back there in 2012. Can't keep having that revolving door.

Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)

Dear MikeDid the Patriots honor their 2001 team this season?

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

I think we could say "slightly" on this one. They had the honorary captains for the AFC title game that had four players who were on the '96 AFC title team and the '01 Super Bowl winning team -- Bledsoe, Bruschi, Brown and Law.

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

But no big celebration of that team.

Dennis (New York)

I know Edelman is a wide receiver but he never get a chance to play but as a DB he is on the field more. Do you think is there any chance the coaching staff give him a shot to win a spot as DB this guy have work hard and change positions I believe he should at least get a shot

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

Dennis, I think Edelman will be a WR first and foremost. While he hung in there on D, it is my feeling that the coaching staff views his best fit at WR, especially with some uncertainty ahead with Wes Welker and his contract status.

John (Detroit) [via mobile]

Simple 1-Welker 2-Defensive Playmaker 3-Deep threat receiver thoughts?

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

Agree on all three John. That defensive playmaker could come from within (e.g. another year of Spikes' development), but I think they need to address that safety spot.

Tim (Clevelend) [via mobile]

As to your lead in question i think a deep threat receiver and either a playmakinp safety or a pass rusher. If there was a chance to get a quality pass rusher or a playmaking safety who do you think the pats should take to help improve the D the most?

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

I'm thinking along your lines, Tim. As for "who", I'm not going to be much help at this point. Just came off a seventh-month sprint from the start of training camp to now and I don't have my free agency/draft files up to date. I'm still cleaning up from the season. Give me a little more time on this and we'll attack it hard.

Philip Berardinelli (Braintree)

Wow Mike, I am just totally depressed after this loss. I just can't seem to shake it no matter how good the outlook for next year. They need to target a safety in the draft. Someone who can contribute right away. I would look at Mark Barron if he is there when they draft or even Harrison Smith from Notre Dame. I do think they need to look at some help for Vince up front too. Then maybe they take a look at Brandon Lloyd as a downfield threat. What do you think should be first?

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

All good points, Philip. I'll focus on Brandon Lloyd, whose name has been talked about quite a bit. I understand why. To me, it will all come down to cost. If you're paying Wes Welker 9.4m on a franchise tag and bringing back Deion Branch on an estimated $2m deal, how much can you really pay Lloyd? And what is Lloyd looking for? I'm not sure if it fits. To me, the best approach -- and it's a hard one to ace -- is going the Steelers' route. Find that next Mike Wallace in the draft, the player who is a challenging projection because maybe he hasn't mastered the entire route tree coming out of college but whose tools are solid enough that you roll the dice he can play big for you.

Will (New York) [via mobile]

Simple question....Brandon Lloyd or Reggie Wayne who would benefit the pats the most and why

Mike
  (12:15 PM)

Will, I'm voting the next Mike Wallace in the draft. I want to see them do what they did at TE two years ago (Gronkowski/Hernandez) and RB last year (Vereen/Ridley) at receiver. They have really struggled to develop receivers but they shouldn't stop trying. But to answer the question, I'd lean toward Wayne. Strikes me as a more stable pro.

Dave (Isreal) [via mobile]

the two areas i would target this offseason would be a deep stretch the field receives (brandon lloyd comes to mind) and a playmaker in the secondary and to re sign wes welker and to re sign deion branch i think his importance in the clutch was shown on that last drive in the super bowl as with all the talent to throw to to get down the field brady went to branch because that's win he is comfortable with and who he trusts

Mike
  (12:15 PM)

Dave, I think we're all thinking along the same lines.

enjoythegames (Cleveland, OH)

With Dowling coming back from his lost rookie season, can the Pats afford to look past the secondary in the first two rounds of the draft and go for D line help and also upgrade the WR position.As an aside; we would love a chance to lose a Super Bowl here in Cleveland.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

One key point to consider is that the draft is just one part of the process. They could address secondary in free agency or trades. If they do that, it would give them flexibility to avoid it in the draft. As for a Super Bowl in Cleveland, I think that's going to be a tough sell to the NFL. I loved the experience there last season -- great city, nice stadium -- but I can't imagine the league signing off on an early February game there with all the money involved (e.g. sponsors).

Bevan Manson (Santa Monica, CA)

Mike, my question has to do with the "riddle" of Stevan Ridley who showed so much ability and potential this year. Do you think the SB result would have been different if he had been used in strategic ways? Given Gronk's injury, and the various Brady/receivers issues in the game, the offense truly lost the game in the fourth quarter. With Ridley's speed and explosiveness, is it conceivable that some crucial yards could have been gained then? At least it would have given the Pats offense another option. Perhaps this is naive, but having Ridley and BJGE or Woodhead in the backfield simultaneously might have made the Giants guess a bit more as to who was getting the ball. At any rate, the Pats have a great future, and BB did a great job getting them to the SB. Here's to next year...

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Thanks Bevan. It's a fair second-guess, but in the end, I think the fumbles really hurt the confidence the coaching staff had in Ridley. He could have added some explosiveness, but I have to be honest, I didn't leave that game thinking "If they gave Ridley a chance, maybe the result would be different."

Bunk (Baltimore)

Mike, I really am worried about the Reggie Wayne and Brandon Lloyd talk. Wayne will be 34 next year, and Lloyd will be 31. And before this season Lloyd has only had 1 season with more than 50 catches. The Pats' WRs are old enough as is, and Ochocinco should be a lesson about bringing in old receivers whose production is in decline.

Mike
  (12:20 PM)

Feel the same way, Bunk. We are a society that seems to love big names. I endorse the draft-and-develop route and point to the Steelers' model as one to emulate specifically at the WR position.

Nick (Denver)

Mike, he said LOSE a Super Bowl in Cleveland, not HOST ;)

Mike
  (12:20 PM)

Ha! I totally read over it. My bad "enjoythegames." That changes the context!

Marc (Malden, MA)

They don't need a guy to go deep or stretch the field. They just need an outside WR who can get open on 3rd and 10. Heck, Hakeem Nicks didn't beat the Pats deep, yet his 10 catches for 109 yards were so effective just moving the chains and keeping the ball.

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Well said, Marc. I endorse that thought. A difference between a stretch-the-field guy and an outside guy. I view Mike Wallace in both categories, although I can understand why some might not.

Brian (Oxford, CT)

Hi Mike - How does someone like Ryan Mallett - always deactivated - stay sharp as a QB? Can he try playing arena ball in the spring/summer, just to get game-speed reps of ANY kind? (Hey, the AFL worked for Kurt Warner!) But otherwise, it will eventually be years before he steps out on a field "for real".

Mike
  (12:22 PM)

Good question, Brian. Arena ball not an option, as I understand it, and this is where losing NFL Europe really hurts. Best thing he can do is dive head-first in the offseason program and work as closely as possible with the team's receivers. 2012 preseason big for him.

Courtney (Scottsdale)

Mike,In watching some of the replay of the SuperBowl, Brady looked so dejected after the INT to Gronk and then after the game. Do you get any sense that there is doubt on his part re: winning another Super Bowl?

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

Courtney, this guy is the ultimate competitor in my book. The reason he looked so dejected is because of everything he puts into it. I have little doubt of Brady's belief that the Patriots can climb the mountain again. The hard part is that they were just so close to the top and fell all the way back down. As veteran DL Gerard Warren said, "It's like almost getting to the top of Mount Everest and then falling down ... you get to the peak of the mountain and can't take that last step to get all the way to the top, to put your flag up and crown it."

Jeff (cincinnati)

why is it considered worse to take your team to the SB and lose than to get bounced early in the playoffs? My point is, who had a worse year in hindsight, Brady or Aaron Rodgers who had a 15-1 team that most considered the best in football, and lost in his first playoff game?

Mike
  (12:26 PM)

It shouldn't be considered worse, but in my view it gets more scrutiny because there is more attention placed on the final game of the year. Look at the Bills of the early 90s. They are remembered as losers, but is it not better to go to so many Super Bowls in a row and lose them, or not go at all?

MarkJ (Japan)

I am not yet in a mood to talk Patriots, so here's my curve ball: is KC hiring Brian Daball an act of bridge burning by Scott Pioli? I am curious to see how coach BB thinks about it. I am also concerned the mindset of Scott Pioli, who is apparently trying too much to create another Patriots in KC.

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

Great observation, MarkJ, and one I thought of as well. I was surprised at the hire and wouldn't be surprised if Pioli ran it by Belichick before he made the move (given the respect Pioli has for Belichick). The reason I say this is that the whole Spygate deal was sparked by Tannenbaum/Mangini with the Jets, and Daboll had chosen to go with Mangini to the Jets in 2006. So Daboll was linked with them. I haven't had a chance to talk to Pioli, so I don't have any added insight here, but I'll assume he dotted i's and crossed t's with those he felt it was important to as I know how much he values those relationships.

Dave (Elmira)

Mike, Another All Pro season of reporting. Thanks for the great work. Less of a question than a rant; " Gronk disrespected himself," "Brady's legacy is tarnished." A bunch of questions and statements without answer. I understand that it's part of the entertainment value of the game, but what's this got to do with football? I think I understand BB's position better: That's in the past. We are preparing for the next thing.

Mike
  (12:30 PM)

Dave, thanks for the compliment and now I rant...

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

The pictures of Gronkowski and Light at the post-Super Bowl party didn't bother me at all. This is a 22-year-old kid who gave his all to this team this year. People blow off steam in different ways and he's entitled to do whatever he wants (within the law) as far as I'm concerned. I'm more angered that some low-life would take video of it and distrubute it. I find that despicable. ...

Mike
  (12:32 PM)

...As for the legacy talk, my take is simple: Talk to me when their careers are over. We always seem to want to write the ending to stories while they are going on. Why? Why can't we enjoy the journey and then talk legacy? ...

Mike
  (12:34 PM)

I have been having some internal philosophical debates in my head about what media is these days. What are we trying to accomplish? When I got into this business, I thought we were supposed to tell people what they needed to know. Now I think we're trending in a dangerous area where we report based on what will get clicks. It bothers me...

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

... I'm not perfect, but when I see a company soliciting publicity for dropping a boatload of Butterfingers in Boston and thanking Wes Welker for his drop -- and then some report on it to give that company exactly what they want (publicity) -- it makes me shake my head. What are we doing here?

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Rant over.

Erik G (Los Angeles)

Love it when you get feisty, Mike. So while we're at it, tell us your thoughts on the post game words by Brandon Jacobs...

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Pathetic.

Dan (Leominster, Ma)

Mike,While I respect your lead in question, I think it is more accurate to ask, What do you think BB and the Patriots will do/target for the Pats. After last year, expert opinins and evaluations mean nothingto me.

Mike
  (12:37 PM)

Fair enough Dan. Reminds me of 2005 when I said, "Who knows what the Patriots will do in the first round of the draft, but at least we know it won't be a guard. They just don't value that position." ...

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

... "And with their first selection of the 2005 draft, the New England Patriots select, guard Logan Mankins of Fresno State." Awesome analysis by me.

cp (reno,nv)

flip side what do you make of Brady's wifes comments?

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

CP, I think she has to know better than to say that. She was wrong. At the same time, I was more angered that someone would incite her in that manner, but I guess I have to accept that's where we are in society today. I just want to know what is in that person's heart. What would possess them to taunt her? Who does these things? Maybe I've been living under a rock over the last 10 years, but when did everyone seem to get so angry?

Chuck (Swansea)

Is Connolly a long-term solution at center or is this a position that will be addressed in the draft? How would you grade his play this year?

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Chuck, I think they can win with Connolly, but I think this is a situation where if they could get a Pouncey-type player in the draft, they would still pounce. I thought Connolly played well this year.

John (New Jersey)

Your thoughts on the Welker "drop"? To me if brady leads him it is at the very least a 1st down completion. Why is the backlash versus Welker?!?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

John, when the play happened, my initial thought was "Brady missed him." So I was a little surprised that it all fell on Welker after the game. In the end, I think it's on both of them -- Brady could have made a better throw and Welker could have made the catch.

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

My Super Bowl analysis is pretty simple: Leading 17-15 entering the fourth quarter, you had to like the situation for the Patriots. But the Patriots couldn't come up with the tough play (Brady to Welker) while the Giants did (Manning to Manningham) and the Patriots couldn't overcome a third-down penalty (Ninkovich offsides) while the Giants did (Boothe false start). Credit to the Giants. They rose up in the critical situations while the Patriots didn't.

AM (NH)

Mike, bravo on the column regarding Welker's potential extension - it's ridiculous that anyone would look at a single drop of a mediocre pass as undoing the unbelievable production he has brought to this team. There is no way the team even makes this past Super Bowl without him.On to the question: keeping in mind that the Patriots are "multiple" on defense, should/does the team lean more towards a 3-4 or 4-3 next year? If a 3-4, where does that leave us at OLB?

Mike
  (12:45 PM)

Thanks AM. Welker will be back, I feel quite certain about it. It's just a matter of if it's with an extension or franchise tag. I'd anticipate more of a base 3-4 next year. Ninkovich, Anderson, Cunningham, M. Carter, A. Carter would be names that come to mind at that spot in a standard base 3-4. Not sure the fit with Anderson/A. Carter is the greatest.

Todd (Boston)

Mike, Please give me your thoughts on Steve DeOssie. No Pats fans want him around anymore after his pro-Giants,/anti-NE speech.

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Todd, Steve is a friend of mine and I value his football analysis. I took his comments at the Giants rally similar to Tom Brady's at the Patriots rally. He was firing up the crowd based on his history with the team. I didn't take the comments personally.

lemon (Mass)

Why is it so hard to get you to answer my questions?? I pre-submitted a beaut, and I don't see it anywhere. What gives?

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Lemon, I'm aiming to please today, so I'm going back through the 329 questions currently in the queue to find yours. This might be a slight delay...

lemon (Mass)

Mike, both 2010 and 2011 ended on down-notes (and to NY teams). It is unfortunate because in 2010 Hernandez was limited to 1 rec. and 4 yards. In 2011 obviously, Gronk was limited. Do you think that the Patriots need to cultivate other options beyond the 2TE offense so that injuries can't derail the O in the playoffs. Obviously we should add speed on the outside, but what will Josh McDaniels do? I think we need to cultivate an explosive run game out of spread sets. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

There it is ...

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

Lemon, ideally they have the flexibility within the offense to compensate. I thought the Super Bowl really exposed how the Chad Ochocinco acquisition really let them down. They needed more from him this year and with Gronk at about 50 percent, they played Ochocinco 22 snaps. He's just limited in what he can do in this offense that it restricted them in the Super Bowl. So I look for them to replace Ochocinco with a younger, more explosive, all-around option. That would help in this area. As for a power running game, I think it's hard to have it all and that's more of an attitude than anything to me. You have to commit to that from Day 1 and I don't think that's what this offense is all about.

Mike (Boston)

Deion Branch is a veteran's minimum 5th receiving option at this point. He is not worth forgoing a potential playmaker by paying him $2 million. When teams focus on him, he doesn't get open. He has lost the burst out of his break that made him so good. Rookie WRs very rarely contribute in week one (this year being a notable exception). I would guess less than 10% really contribute. They need a guy who can stretch the field and get open. If that guy is Lloyd at reasonable money - do it. Don't forego Lloyd to sign just another guy because he knows the system (i.e. Branch).

Mike
  (12:52 PM)

Mike, I like Branch back as a 2b/3a/4 guy. I think he still has value on the field and in the locker room. I picked $2 as an estimate because they paid Chad Ochocinco $6m this year for a No. 3 role. I thought I was being "generous" to the team on that one.

Mike (Concord)

Maybe I missed the answer on this during the week, but on the safety. Brain cramp by Brady or did he just not know the rules.

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

Mike, I think Brady knows the rules, I think he just had a lapse in discipline/focus there. It was shocking to me because he's such a heady player. I understand the line of thinking that the referee is judging intent, but it's my feeling that a player can't leave that interpretation up to the referee. Take matters into your own hands, especially in a Super Bowl.

Hoogie (Lexington)

Mike how do you see the WR crop next season? Welker? Lloyd? Rookie? Give us your three WR set for next season.

Mike
  (12:55 PM)

Hoogie, I'm thinking along the lines of 2007 ... Welker, Branch, "Mike Wallace (this is a rookie who hopefully develops like Wallace did in Pittsburgh as a third-round pick" and a veteran signing (Lloyd, Wayne, someone else depending on cost).

Kyle d (Charlotte)

Mike, with Matt Light having one of the higher base salaries this upcoming season, could you see him being another infamous Belichick cap casualty? With Nate Solder waiting in the wings and a healthy Vollmer, I could see Light joining Seymour, Milloy, Vrabel in the ranks of semi-early exits. Thoughts?

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

Kyle, I believe the base is $3.4m and to me, Light is worth every penny of it. I thought he played very well this year. Left tackle is a very tough position to fill. I wouldn't mess with it.

Ray Foley (Newton, MA)

Would have used Devin McCourty to return the last Giants kickoff with less than a minute left? He's explosive and a 40-50 yd return could have made a huge difference.

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

Ray, tough one for me, because it's not something he's done all year. I just have a tough time putting a player in that position, in that moment, when he hasn't done it all year.

Matt (Vermont)

Hi Mike,I'd like the Patriots to target a veteran to provide some leadership for the defensive backfield. Any free agent safeties or corners that would be a fit?

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

Matt, we're going to get to that in the coming weeks. My free-agent files aren't updated at this point. Still cleaning up after a seven-month sprint from the start of training camp.

Aaron (Boise, Idaho)

Mike- I know from your articles and blogs, that you, like most every other analyst and Patriots fan in the world, believe that the Patriots biggest concern moving forward is the pass rush and shut down defensive backs. I saw a lot of bright spots toward the end of the year, and thought the defense played well enough to win in the Super Bowl. I look at the three forced fumbles as a big plus; that kind of attacking the football is reminiscent of the Bruschi, Vrabel, Harrison days. My question is this: does Belichick view this defense as fairly complete, just needing a full offseason to work with? Or will he use his four picks in the first two rounds to make a splash? Like many other fans, I've been fairly (greatly) disappointed by the loss on Sunday, especially to the Manning. But I saw some bright spots and some potential on both sides of the football. Looking forward to next year!

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Aaron, I saw the same bright spots, and I think this defense isn't far away. I don't think Belichick is thinking along the lines of "splash" as much as "tweaks" and "development." To me, the best way to make a splash is to draft well and develop those players. Stability with an addition in the back end, a Sheard/Reed type talent in the front seven, and I think you're on your way.

Jon (Adams, MA)

Mike -I'm with Lemon - I asked an awesome question about the Spikes/Mayo relationship and potential. Would love to hear some more about these Linebackers......

Mike
  (1:01 PM)

Jon, I thought Mayo didn't have his best game in the Super Bowl, but he's a player that is going to be a centerpiece of what's to come. And Spikes, I think he has the potential to be special. Wow. What a finish to the year for him. I didn't see that coming. He didn't finish his rookie season with momentum after his four-game suspension, but he surged through the finish line this year. If he puts together a strong offseason program -- and shows the commitment of what it takes to be a pro 365 days a year -- I think we could be looking at a very, very special player.

Erik G (Los Angeles)

I knew it was only a matter of time before you brought up Sheard and Brooks. Can't pass on guys like that this year. Did you see enough of Ras-I to feel like he can make an impact next year?

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

If Dowling is healthy, he's a difference-maker IMO.

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Let's extend this out another 15. Lot of good discussion here.

Nate (Oxon Hill Md)

Mike I think its our offense . Brady Can't go deep and it makes them predictable to a degree. If we can find two players to play outside that have speed and size there will be no stopping this offense. And we need to convince Waters to play another year . Thanks. Thoughts ?

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

I agree on the outside threat, Nate, and I think they know it. That's why they went and got Ochocinco and it just didn't work out. Miscalculation. As for Waters, it would be great to have him back, but I don't think it's a backbreaker if it goes in the other direction. Cannon could be ready.

Fabio, kissimmee, fl [via mobile]

Hey mike, tough loss and something i dont wish to revisit, but lets look ahead to the future? Do you see next season or seasons as potential dropoffs as we try to recover from another devastating lost in the super bowl or will the Patriots be able to contend right away and maybe even stronger adding some pieces via free agency or draft?

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

In my view, they're a contender Fabio. Lot of talent still on this roster.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Help for the defense in 2012 specifically along the defensive front. BB did a good job of scheming with Vince and Carter certainly had his moments but the team needs a playmaker along that front 3/4 that can hold up against the run but also threaten the QB. Deaderick and Love have done a "nice" job but their physical skills are limited. Pryor has shown signs but he can't seem to stay healthy and Wright's health is a huge question mark also. This is supposed to be a deep and versitile defensive tackle class; get Vince some help.I am looking forward to seeing a more dynamic running game next season. Ridley and Vereen should move to the front of the roster class with Bennie and Woodhead as capable fill ins. We need to threaten defenses more out of the backfield; BJGE is a reliable back but the offense could use (needs) more.Mike, will you and Teddy be continuing with off-season Podcasts? What type of coverage do you anticipate leading up to the draft? Thanks for making this blog so relevant. There are some fantastic posters here.

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Good stuff, munchkin. To me, you can never have enough talent in the front seven. The Giants are a good example of that. So I'd never shy away from addressing that area if the right opportunities are there. As for what we have planned ahead on ESPNBoston, we're going to attack it hard. But in terms of specifics, I don't have anything I can pass along right now because we're still in "clean-up" mode from the season. Let's revisit next chat.

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

I agree we have great posters on the blog. I had the chance to meet some of them in Indy -- Clark12to81 and "Jim from Work" to name a few -- and it's pure passion. Awesome.

Ryan (CMASS)

Do you have a similar outlook? BJGE has been a nice player, but it's time to pass the baton to actual big-play-ability backs in Ridley and Vereen.... even if they might fumble a few times a season?

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

I like Green-Ellis. To me, it's more of a cost issue. If the numbers are right, I bring him back. If another team breaks the bank for him, I am probably moving on because I have Ridley/Vereen in house ready to take over. Can't pay 'em all.

Rob (Borough of Manhattan)

Hi Mike - Before I answer your question, I just want to say thanks for another terrific season of coverage! I am constantly visiting your blog during the season and I really appreciate the even-keeled temperament you bring to your analysis. On the area I would work to improve - I would say, "let's fix Devin McCourty". We know that DMC is a ProBowl caliber corner - he did it last year. I have no idea what caused him to fall off so hard this season, but with a full offseason to work on technique, I would be focused on working hard with him if I were the coaching staff. Getting him to play up to his potential would almost be like adding a top notch defender to the secondary - without the hassle of signing a free agent or drafting another player at the position.

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks Rob, and great point.

Geoffry Rodgers (Burlington, Vermont)

Mike, that was a crushing loss, but I love this team going forward. Not only do I love the core group in place, but I think we have real chance to take this team to a different level with the draft and free agency. Here are some free agents that I feel would fit on this team regardless of any scheme, Mario Williams, Cortland Finnegan, Calais Campbell, Corey Redding, Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne, Tyvon Branch, Laron Landy, and Sione Pouha. And then, there are a number of players who might be only suited for a 3-4 of 4-3, (such as Robert Mathis) but could absolutely fit the patriot way. Now, obviously alot of this could change with franchise tags, but I havent seen such a deep unrestricted free agency pool before, and I am very excited. Might be a very interesting offseason

Mike
  (1:09 PM)

Thanks Geoffry. Some good names to consider. Gravy fries from Nectar's on me the next time I come to Burlington.

Joe (Woodridge, IL)

Mike, I know this is going to be a provocative question. The Pats run of success over the past decade has been consistently tied to the performance of Tom Brady. When Tom plays at an elite level, the Pats generally win. When he has an "off" day, they generally do not. While Brady had another good year this year, there were times where his trademark poise and decision-making were questioned. There used to be a time when the pundits would say "you can't leave Brady 57 seconds at the end of the game" - now they say it about Eli, Rodgers, etc. At 35 next season, do you see Brady being able to recapture this magic? Or are we seeing the "new" Tom Brady - puts up great stats, but is now hit or miss in the clutch.

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Fair question, Joe. And I agree that Brady's decision-making hasn't been as good as I remember in the big games. That said, I am riding with Brady as long as I can. Special player, special guy, and while he might not be pulling through in the clutch like he once did, I think there's still magic in there.

Tim (Boston)

Mike, The olb/de position is still as high of a priority as anything to me. Mark Anderson thrives as a third down specialist, and I hope he's back next year in that role, but he's not an ideal three down option. Rob Ninkovich does make plays from time to time, but he's out of position or blocket out of the play far more often. He's definitely a "Patriot's Way" type of guy, but let's be honest here: if he had darker skin and wore any number other than 50, his name would never be used in the same sentence as Mike Vrabel. This has been one position where Belichick been willing to give out significant contracts (Colvin and Thomas), and unwilling to spend draft picks, so I'm excited to see what he does. I think the offseason moves will definitely tell us what he thinks of Jermaine Cunningham and Markell Carter.

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Thanks Tim. Everyone's bringing their "A" game today.

myersandy (North Carolina)

Mike, I'm not really ready for this. But I'm doing my best to just go for it...In the SuperBowl, the defense "bend but not break" finally caught up to them. And that didn't happen until the very end. So we need to address that. I don't even know where to start. We used to be all screaming for pass rush and then they started cutting everyone in the secondary. But I'd say both. Our line isn't terrible and our line backers are good. So pass rush and secondary.The other thing would be wide receiver. I think more than the defense, the lack of a deep threat hurt us because Gronk was injured. If he was not injured, I think the Patriots would have for sure won because he would have been a force in a few critical drives.

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

Good stuff, myersandy. I saw your tweet on Twitter. With time, I think it will be easier to appreciate what the '11 Patriots accomplished.

Joe (Woodridge, IL)

Mike, great work this year and it was fun seeing you at the tweetup at Blu. Great photo on the blog post! While the defense played generally well in the Super Bowl, I feel the Patriots biggest area of improvement is 3rd down defense - i.e. getting off the field with a big stop when you have to have it. We really only had one "star" this year on defense that you could count on - Vince Wilfork - Do you see anyone on the current or projected roster joining him as a consistently elite performer next year?

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

That was awesome, Joe. Thanks for coming to the tweetup. Mayo and Spikes were two to come to mind. Spikes flashed "special" at the end of the year.

JeffJMerritt (Twitter)

Everyone seems to be writing off Ochocinco. Do you think he gets cut soon, or do we bring him back to camp this summer and give him the chance to prove he can really contribute? I still consider him a talented WR, just had trouble truly being comfortable in the system. Thoughts?

Mike
  (1:13 PM)

Jeff, I'd be surprised if he's back. At this point, "it is what it is." He had a full season to get it down. That should have been long enough.

Clark (Muncie,In)

Hi Mike. I want to thank you again for taking the time out of your busy week to meet us fans. Even though we didn't get the outcome we wanted, Super Bowl week will always be a favorable memory for me. I owe a large part of that to you. Thanks again.As for the lead in question, I feel we will see multiple players drafted for our front 7. I see a legitimate six or seven 3-4 OLB candidates. Another 6 or 7 3-4 DE candidates. 2 legit NT's. We are not talking about DeMarcus Ware and Richard Seymour, but in this draft the talent level is much better than what the team currently has to work with. By early estimates, there really isn't much of a talent drop off from the latter part of round one, until the early part of round three. So trading down for more 2nd and early 3rd round selections would actually make me happy.

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Thanks Clark. Fun for me too. Thanks for coming to the tweetup and writing the great blog post from Media DAy. Like the thoughts on the team going forward.

Doug (Arizona)

Although a little frustrated right now, I consider myself lucky that I am a Pats fan. The blame game is in full swing, the media, the fans, and even some former players. Mike, does this hurt the team? Do players go home and build up some resentment toward another player or coach?

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Doug, I think the thing that hurts coaches and players more was that they were 15 minutes away and had a great opportunity they couldn't convert. All the other stuff, it's noise to them. As time passes, I think they will be re-charged and ready to try to climb the mountain again.

Eddie (Deltona, FL)

I know that you're supposed to be unbiased here, but did this loss hurt for you too?

Mike
  (1:17 PM)

Let's end on this one, Eddie. The main feelings I have is for players like Wes Welker. I like him. And to see how hard he was taking the drop, that hurts to see in any form.

Mike
  (1:18 PM)

Thanks to everyone for a great, lively chat. There was a lot of material that didn't get included in the chat, and I have to figure out the best way to get it on to our ESPNBoston site.

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

In the meantime, I've got some family time to catch up on. We'll continue our weekly mailbags (Tuesday) and chats (Thursday) on ESPNBoston throughout the offseason. I'm open to all your suggestions/comments/feedback as well.

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

Thanks for your participation and we'll catch up with you next Thursday.