How do you think the Patriots running back position will shake out? They have Steven Ridely who rushed for 441 yards and a score, they recently added Joseph Addai, and they also have Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen on the roster. Shane Vereen was injured for most of last season, but I see him contributing more if he can stay healthy. That being said I believe Shane Vereen and Steven Ridely are locks to make the roster, and I don't see them keeping 4 capable running backs. Who do you think the odd man out is between Joseph Addai and Danny Woodhead? Do you see them keeping all four on the roster?
Alex -- I would have to disagree with you on the last point. I think they will keep four running backs; that is what they typically have carried. Vereen, Ridley, and Woodhead are essentially locks. Addai may be injured -- he didn't participate in yesterday's OTA -- and so if that becomes something major, then you may see them bring in another veteran. Whether it's Addai, Bolden, or someone else, I see them carrying a fourth running back, even with a fullback (Larsen?) on the roster. (NOTE: This is just a test answer. We'll be back at 2pm with the full chat!)
Good afternoon, everyone. Glad to step in for Mike Reiss this week and answer your Patriots questions up until 3 p.m.
Do you think that the New England Patriots will improve on defense in 2012 with their Draft Picks?
Chris -- I think that some automatically assume that, but every year is different. They've invested many draft picks into their defense over recent years, and outside of Mayo, McCourty, and Chung, none have really panned out. We'll have to see. But I think it's unlikely that we're sitting here in October or November and without some hole on defense or flaw to discuss.
David Zalewski- thoughts?
With the Pats focusing on the up-tempo offense, can you see us going no huddle?Also, have any of the receivers pulled away from the competition besides Welker and Lloyd?
TJ - I can definitely see no-huddle this season. That has always been a part of the Patriots' offense, including when McDaniels ran it the first time around. At this point, we're only talking about 10-12 'live' 11-on-11 plays in OTAs per session, and so it's difficult to say that any receivers have separated themselves. But I would expect Jabar Gaffney to play a large role in addition to Welker and Lloyd.
Mike, welcome aboard. Would you miss @LPetruny?
Absolutely! Lyndsay is great and I wish her the best in her new job out in San Diego.
Which players do you think are under the most pressure to impress the coaching staff this offseason?
Rick -- I would look at a pair of recent second-round picks: Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace. There are few locks for "starting" jobs in the front seven, and therefore room for players like Cunningham and Brace to compete for playing time. I would also say that the team is leaning on the running backs they drafted last year, Ridley and Vereen, to carry the load.
If you had to make a prediction today, which RB will get the most carries for the Pats in 2012?
Billy -- I would pick Stevan Ridley. I liked how he got off to a fast start last season, and I think he is a durable player that the Patriots will rely on.
How much different do you think the Pats offense will look in 2012 with Josh McDaniels back as the OC?
Nathan -- I think we'll see less reliance on the tight ends than last season. Certainly, McDaniels will want to get Gronkowski and Hernandez the ball. But he also went heavy on wide receivers his first time in New England, and with the team adding fullbacks this offseason, we could see other positions incorporated more into the offense. I think we might see more of a screen game as well.
Like every Pat fan out there, ive been trying to figure out the WR situation. What i came to is 1. The pats need to forget about the past a focus on the future, I.E. Cut Branch and Keep Donte, bc that gives you the best chance 2. The Pats will carry more then 5 WR's. My Roster is : Welker, Lloyd, Donte, Jabar, Edelman, Slater, With Ebert on the Practice Squad. I just dont see the need for another year of the Ocho Show, and Branch is only getting slower.
Sam -- I don't disagree with that roster. I think that Branch stands a good chance of making the roster, and it may come down to him or Stallworth. Will be an interesting training camp at receiver.
When is Dennard's court case?
Sam -- no court date has been scheduled yet, to my knowledge.
It seems like people just assume the Pats O-line will be fine, but i'm concerned about the possibility of so much turnover. What do you think?
JK - I think that's a legitimate concern. I'm fairly certain that we'll see Mankins and Waters back by training camp, but Sebastian Vollmer continues to be hampered by injury problems, which is concerning. The offensive line was good last season, but had its share of troubles.
With the position of safety not being completely solidified, do you see the Patriots bringing someone in via free agency such as Jim Leonhard, or do you see them going another route by moving Devin McCourty or Sterling Moore back to the position. I know they recently signed Steve Gregory an acquired Tavon Wilson through the draft, but I believe that Tavon Wilson will need time to mature back there at safety, and I just don't see Steve Gregory taking the majority of the snaps. What do you think?
Alex -- I don't see them adding any outside players in free agency, although James Ihedigbo may return once he recovers from shoulder surgery. I also don't see McCourty or Moore returning to safety in any significant capacity. Chung and Gregory are your two starting safeties if healthy, and Wilson should also see significant time. Another player to look out for is Will Allen, who appeared to move to safety for practice yesterday.
What are the chances that Andre Carter ends up back with the Patriots?
JT - I'd put it at 50/50 at this point. Carter is 33, and coming off a major injury. I'm sure the Patriots have legitimate concerns about how effective he would be, although I think they would value his locker room presence greatly.
Which other team do you think will give the Pats the most trouble in the AFC East?
Bill -- I think the Bills are the top threat to the Patriots this season. No doubt they have their Sept. 30 matchup with the Patriots in Orchard Park circled on their calendar. That will be a tough game for the Patriots, coming off a Sunday nighter in Baltimore.
How much did the team's foray into the world of Anthony Gonzales cost them? At what point going forward would it have cost them more? Glad to see you have a full time gig. You've done a great job.
Munchkin -- Almost nothing. He most likely earned at least part of his offseason workout bonus, and perhaps a stipend for OTAs. But we're talking miniscule amounts here. Fraction of percentage points towards the salary cap.
For a first round pick, I am starting to get concerned by all of the talk of Chandler Jones being a "project". Do you see him that way? How much is Jones likely to see the field this year?
Willy -- I think that's a fair scouting report on Jones. It would be unrealistic to expect him to step in right away this season and be an 8-10 sack player. He'll certainly see the field, but if someone like Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, or Rob Ninkovich proves more capable in the short term, the team won't hesitate to play the best player.
With Dont'a Hightower notably taking reps at Middle Linebacker (Seemingly indicating a 4-3 alignment) and Rob Ninkovich working exclusively as a Defensive End, as noted Greg Bedard, how do you think our linebackers will look next year? One of the most interesting offseason moves to me was having Pepper Johnson return to coach that position, which makes me think that Bill is trying to inject some passion into the crew. Last year's 4-3 looked like this: Ninkovich (Strong Side) - Spikes (Middle) - Mayo (Weak Side), and a 3 -4 having Mayo bounce inside and bringing in either White (as in Super Bowl) or an "elephant." We seemingly have many elephants this year on the team, and with Hightower's ultra versatility, I was just curious to hear your take on the position.
Matt -- on Hightower, I've seen him as a linebacker in a nickel package in OTAs, but I haven't noticed him at MLB in a 4-3 yet. But regardless, I would expect Hightower and possibly even Bobby Carpenter to play a considerable role in the linebacker unit. Spikes and Mayo are your top two 'backers, and Dane Fletcher is also an important part of that unit. Overall, it's still very early to see where everything will shake out, and something I'm keeping a close eye on during OTAs.
Mike - Who will be wearing #85 for the Pats this year?
mpc12pats -- I have a feeling Ochocinco won't be on this roster come September. So, possibly no player will wear No. 85.
Give me you best guess at Llyod's final stat line. I think he's going to really help the Pats.
MDK -- Because of the wealth of options for Brady, I'm not sure that Lloyd will have top receiving numbers. But I think there are 70 catches to be had for him.
Hi Mike R! (See what I did there?) I see Jermaine Cunningham on this blog as a player to watch and couldn't agree more. Based on your hunch, whom do you pick between him and Trevor Scott? Thanks!
Chris -- I haven't seen much of Scott yet in minicamp. Word out of Oakland is that his knee injury from two seasons ago really hampered his production last season. If it continues to linger, then Cunningham is my pick. More upside than Scott.
Hi Mike. Happy with the WR competition, but would love to see some young blood infused into the position. What are the chances of Edelman and Ebert sticking, and any young free agents you'd take a look at?
Chris -- For his special teams value, I see Edelman sticking. Ebert faces an uphill battle, especially not participating in OTAs due to graduation rules. I don't think they'll add any young free agents at receiver.
Hey Mike, with all these once great still good receivers on our roster do we see two WR's go for over 1000 yards?
Dylan -- It's certainly possible, and I would pick Lloyd as one of those players.
Do you see Hightower or Jones as starters from Day 1 this season?
Vic -- In the base defense, I'm not sure either will have a starting role. I think both will play a major role in sub defenses, though, which these days is akin to being a starter.
Hey Mike, Referees are big topic of discussion with NBA right now, with the Celts getting hosed..by King Phony, Flopper Wade, & company..what is the deal in the NFL? Do the refs have other jobs during the season? or is NFL refereeing their full time gig during the season? Usually you get what you pay for.....unless Guido is making an offer they can't refuse.. Nothing worse than having a ref determine the outcome of a game.
Mike -- The NFL referees are actually in the middle of a contract dispute with the league right now, and there is a possibility there will be replacement officials this season. NFL referees typically have full-time jobs during the season, another point of contention (some argue that being an official should be their full-time job). In the case of one NFL official I have spoken with, he flies to NFL cities on Saturdays, officiates on Sunday, and is back in his office for his regular job by Monday morning. By Monday evening, the NFL officials supervisor has already sent him a spreadsheet grading his performance on every play in the game, which he needs to review.
Will Wes Welker be a Patriot in 2013-14 given the contentious nature of the recent negotiations/
Tony -- It's a tough call, just because these situations change so quickly. The Logan Mankins negotiations were contentious too, and he signed a long-term deal last summer. I would say the Patriots are fully prepared to move on, but next spring may bring a clean slate for negotiations.
Hey Mike (Rodak), How has Solder looked in OTAs from a physical standpoint? I know his goal has been to put on more bulk, something he has struggled with, and I was wondering if it looks like he's achieving this goal!
Tron -- I haven't noticed anything significantly different with Solder, even with pads off. The biggest changes I've noticed have been with Shane Vereen getting bigger and Josh Barrett slimming down.
Mike,With a yearr in the system and now OTA's and training camp I'm really interested to see how Ochocinco does. Lets say he gets on the same page with Brady and has a good camp. You see any way he stays with the team?
Ernie -- I think there's certainly a chance he stays with the team. But there's very little chance that the Patriots allow him to do so in the same fashion he did last season. He will need to earn it.
Mike, how much fun is it to cover this team right now? seems to me we are pretty lucky with this brain trust we have right now, given some of the woeful years we had in the past, seems to me that you guys are right in the middle of a pretty special team and the atmosphere must be pretty cool ,no?
Jason -- certainly, and I feel privileged to cover this team. The Patriots aren't the easiest team to deal with as a reporter, but the excitement around the team makes my job fun.
Mike: Which UDFA do you think has the best chance to make the roster?
Matt -- So few signed, so this may be the year when none make it. But if I had to give one name, I'd say Brad Herman. I'm interested to see how this tight end position shakes out.
What is the likelihood that both Gronk and Hernandez will re-sign with the Patriots?
Doug -- this reminds me of the contract situation surrounding Seymour, Warren, and Wilfork a few years back. Most realized that there wasn't any way the team could afford both. Next spring, I think the top brass for the Patriots will take a hard look at how much they value the tight end position, and what dollar amount they would put on having two of the top-paid players in the NFL at that position. It most likely won't be enough to keep both. The Colts drafted two tight ends this season, and there are plenty of other teams out there trying to copy the Patriots' two tight end system. One will undoubtedly open their wallet to get a hold of Gronk and/or Hernandez.
How big a part of the success of the defense this season do you see tied into the health of Ras-I Dowling?
Doug -- I wouldn't tie too much success to that. I think the team expects Dowling to play a bigger role this season, and to stay healthy. But a player like Wilfork or Mayo plays a bigger role in the success of the defense, and the team.
Does Donte' Stallworth have pictures or incriminating evidence on every GM in the league? How else do you explain this guy continually being picked up with minimal production at best during his NFL career? Do you think this will change for the Patriots in 2012?
Tony -- I think teams saw Stallworth as a great physical talent coming out of college. Specifically for the Patriots, even though he only spent one season here in 2007, I think he is a player that Belichick, Brady, and others respect as a person.
Hi mike, are we going into training camp set at safety, or could there be more personnel activity?
Marc -- I'd say James Ihedigbo would be the most likely addition. Other than that, I wouldn't expect any movement.
Mike ? I think the Welker contract situation is a lot like the situation for David Ortiz and their lack of getting long term contracts. Ortiz does not play in the field eliminating him from half the teams and, although he is the highest paid DH in MLB, there is not a great NEED for a DH. Not many teams have the money or the positional need to invest in a DH so in reality, Ortiz needs the Sox team more than him (no one else has the payroll or an empty DH position for $12 mil/ yr). Welker is in a similar position because he plays in the slot primarily due to his lack of height and outside speed (as opposed to great quickness and cutting ability) which prevents him from being paid like a Megatron or Mike Wallace. Welker is a great slot receiver (he would not be as successful if he had to line up outside game after game) who is greatly aided by the system and his quarterback. The team and him need each other however, other teams have to evaluate the things that make Welker a great receiver: chemistry with a Hall of Fame QB in a system he has played in for years. That team then needs to decide whether Welker can offer them the same intangibles. Can a 31 yr old WR be as successful in another system with another QB throwing to him? Probably. Is it worth 9+ mil a year? Unfortunately for Welker, the answer is probably not worth it. There are Edelmans and Amendolas to be found out there for a fraction of the cost. It?s bad news for Welker.
Great observations, Eric.
How many LBs, DEs and DLs do you think the Pats will carry? For a 53 man roster, most likely 25 players from the D, with 9-10 DBs. That leaves 15 or so. 4 DLs are locks: Wilfork, Love, Fanene and Deaderick. 3 LBs are locks: Hightower, Spikes and Mayo. 4 DE/OLBs are locks: Jones, Bequette, Ninkovich and Scott for a total of 11. That leaves 4 open spots for Tarpinian, Carpenter, T. White, Fletcher, M. Carter, Brace, Pryor, G. Warren, and Cunningham. Do you see the same breakdown?
Eric -- It may be too early to get into that detailed of a breakdown, but I don't think I would put Scott as a lock. I would put Fletcher as one, though.
There's been a lot of talk about the Pats needing to regain that "nasty" edge. Which players both on offense and defense do you think will be responsible for that this season?
Doug -- That's a legitimate point. Offensively, that job falls to Brady and Mankins, in my opinion. On defense, Wilfork and Chung, if he stays healthy.
Do you think some of our core STers from last year, such as Brown and White, could end up losing out on roster spots this year? If so, who beats them out?
Matt -- No doubt that's possible. I was somewhat surprised to see Nate Ebner playing on the first kickoff return team in what may have been his first day practicing yesterday. He could be one. Malcolm Williams may be another, although he was on the roster late last season.
If Vollmer's injured who's starting RT? Cannon or Gallery?
Marc -- Cannon would be the RT. Gallery has been playing guard in OTAs.
How many touchdowns does Gronk score this season?
Doug -- 12, 15 maybe. I don't see him being stopped any time soon.
Mike, given that Woodhead, Edelman, and McCourty got all the kick return reps yesterday, is that a sign that the job is theirs, or is it still possible that the Pats will give someone else a look, like Vereen, Dennard, Wilson, Ebert, etc?
jblackburner -- I would say that they'll give Woodhead and Edelman a chance first. One thing on Woodhead was that he hasn't returned many kicks since high school, and that he improved late last season, although he did have a critical fumble in the AFC Championship. Out of those four players you listed, I haven't seen any return kicks yet.
Who do you think the Patriots will carry for wide receivers? I see Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gafney, and Matthew Slater as locks. I believe them carrying only 6 wide outs who do you think will make it among Ochocinco, Jeremy Elbert, Matt Roark. Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte Stallworth? I believe Elbert and Roark are long shots to make the squad.
Alex -- I think that's a fair analysis. Edelman and Branch are my picks for the last two.
Do you think Jake Beguette will develop into that Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel mold of pass rushing DE/OLB the Patriots have lacked in recent years/
Tony -- Bequette is a player who I'd like to see more of in OTAs, because he hasn't received too many reps yet, from my vantage point. He has the size (6-5, 274) to be an edge player like McGinest or Vrabel, and he was a very productive player in college. But he will obviously need to see the field first.
When seeing Ninko at End or Allen at Safety how much of this is cross training vs trending towards an actual positional switch?
Jason -- I think this is more of an actual position switch. There's only so much time the coaching staff has with players, and with so much competition on the roster, they will try to maximize each player's chances of making it. For Allen, that may be at safety. Ninkovich's case intrigues me, just because he has seen so few reps (again, from my vantage point) in OTAs thus far. He played a major role in the defense last year, but it may be different this year.
From what I have been reading, Branch isn't helping his detractors with his OTA play. Sounds like he's catching balls but is showing NO burst. That is a problem. I was hoping Branch could be a contributor but it sounds like he could be a veteran cut...
Eric -- I haven't followed Branch closely enough in OTAs to confirm that observation, but there are certainly legitimate concerns with him losing some athleticism late in his career here. His durability is a concern, and the team may have over-worked him last season, leading to his decreased production later on. With so much competition at receiver, these two things may be what keeps him off the roster, despite his excellent rapport with Brady.
Mike,Just had the thought today with all the complaints about the pro bowl from fans that it's not worth watching because they players are trying not to get hurt not trying to win. What do you think about an alternative the players still get the trip to HI but they do more of a skills competition instead. Less of a risk of injury and still worth the TV time. If I remember correctly they used to have things like that on tv back in the 90's
Mike -- I remember those as well. I think the biggest thing from the league's perspective is the financial benefits of having the Pro Bowl. If it is profitable, and more profitable than a skills competition, that is what they will go with. This will of course be tempered by the NFLPA's input on player safety, but in the end, if the game remains profitable, then I think they will play it.
Does Marcus Cannon's role expand this season, and will he see more time at tackle or guard?
Matt -- He has played exclusively tackle up to this point in his NFL career, and I don't see that changing soon. With Sebastian Vollmer out of OTAs with an unknown injury, he is the starting RT at the moment. When Vollmer returns, Cannon is still a valuable reserve player, and also the likely the OL to come on the field in 6 OL packages.
Here's a teams arguement against signing Welker: Do you want to pay a 31 yr old slot WR who makes his payday going over the middle of the field? Do you want to give that same WR 9+ mil/yr? Are you convinced that you can get the same production out of him after paying him big money? The easy answer is that Welker is the a unique player that has thrived off of the Patriots system and with fantastic chemistry with a HOF QB. Welker's a great player no doubt but there are cheaper options out there that would be better "value."
Eric - I tend to agree with your assessment, especially when it comes to Welker's age. But let's flashback to the Baltimore playoff game in January 2010, one week after Welker went down with his knee injury. The offense was different, and on third down, Brady didn't have his go-to guy. I was surprised the Patriots didn't select a wide receiver in the draft in April. You have a bunch of 30+ receivers, and you can't help but look at team with the Giants, and what they were able to do with younger receivers like Nicks, Manningham, and Cruz.
Is there any reason that the linebackers that BB drafts tend to have scouting reports that say they have poor lateral movement? Spikes and Hightower both come to mind. Does BB have something else in his defensive scheme to cover up this weakness?
Doug -- While I think it's hard to make generalizations about their scheme as it relates to lateral quickness, I've heard that criticism before. Traditionally, Belichick has preferred larger, stronger, more durable players to stock his 3-4 defense. Times have changed, though. Still, I don't see him starting to draft faster linebackers that you'd see in a Tampa-2 anytime soon.
It was asked previously in the chat about the running back situation. Ridley and Vereen are essentially locks. Woodhead has added some solid contributions and Addai comes as a well rounded experienced back who can contribute in the running, passing, and blocking game. I know you think both Woodhead and Addai will make the squad. Did you consider, with the abundance of wide receivers, linebackers, and defensive backs who can contribute more towards the team than Woodhead and Addai combined, that one might get cut. Save a roster spot for someone who can contribute more, and only keep 3 rbs (maybe one fullback/running back hybrid) while having Aaron Hernandez as a change of pace type back. He looked good there in limited use, and I'm not offering up a full time RB role for him, but as a fourth option he might be more useful than woodhead or addai to free up another spot. Does Hernandez's play there last year affect the running back position at all, and if so, who makes it our of woodhead and addai.
Joe -- I think the team would like to keep that extra body around. Almost every season they seem to get into a position where injuries force them to dig a little deeper down the depth chart at running back. Likewise with other teams, so keeping one (who is practice-squad eligible) on the p-squad can be tougher, as running backs tend be poached more from practice squads.
Based on what you've seen so far, does Ras-I Dowling look like he still has that 4.4 speed?
Doug -- It's very tough to gauge that in OTAs, especially considering his 40 speed is a straight-line speed and on most plays in OTAs, Dowling is backpedaling and then jogging since it's just a dummy passing route.
You mentioned you saw Cunningham get extra reps in OTAs. How did he look? Is it more a physical/skill problem with him or an understanding the playbook problem? Or both?
Tron -- It's tough to gauge. As Ron Brace reminded me on Wednesday night, it's just passing camp, so it's not the most exciting time for defensive linemen. They're not in pads, so gauging any improvement in his pass rush is tough. Last season, I would say his hamstring injury was a big problem.
Why doesn't Belichik draft at least one WR with his top picks instead of recycling older guys like Branch, Gaffney, Stallworth etc?
Tony -- I think Belichick would have drafted a receiver is the right one was on the board at the right time in April, and he would have had that receiver compete against the veterans. But it didn't work out that way, so he seems to be just going with what he has. I think he has a comfort level with familiar faces like Gaffney and Stallworth.
Mike:Is Tarpinian out there? How does he compare physically (size, speed) to Mayo and the other middle linebackers? Does he have a shot at making the roster?
Noodle -- I'd say Tarpinian has a good shot at making the roster. The coaching staff seemed to be impressed with him last season, before his injury. Physically, he is a little taller than most linebackers at 6-3, but not the bulkiest player.
Do you have an opinion on Tavon Wilson?
Russell -- Wilson looks like a solid, well-built safety. He's flown somewhat under the radar in OTAs so far, but he's definitely someone I am keeping my eye on in practice.
Mike: We did take a WR in the draft (Ebert).
Matt -- I meant more of a Day 1/Day 2 pick. Someone with the potential to take over for Welker if he departs next season, or for Gaffney/Stallworth/Branch within the next season or two.
a lot of people forget that mayo played outside linebacker in a 4-3 in college. I think spikes plays middle and hightower and mayo lock down the outside. If we can just get some push from the ends this year and give our corners a better shot in coverage this may be one of the best defenses weve had in a while
Mooch -- Mayo played Will last season (OLB in a 4-3), so I don't think anything will change there. Spikes played the Mike, and will likely continue there once he returns to the field. The Sam spot is one to watch, between Ninkovich, Hightower, and even Carpenter.
Thanks everyone for your questions. That will wrap it up! I will be at Brady's Best Buddies football game at Harvard Stadium tonight, so expect some coverage of that on the blog this evening.