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June 28, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Thanks for joining in. On our Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com, chatters were invited to share their thoughts on a potential surprise player for 2012. I went with RB Shane Vereen. We'll sprinkle some of your answers into the chat.

Tim (Boston, MA)

Hey Mike,Do you expect a decision from Waters and Carter real soon?

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Tim, I think Waters will be here. I base that thought on Bill Belichick giving him the excused absence from mandatory minicamp. That, to me, is an indication the team wants him back. And Waters seemed to really like it here, and getting one more crack at the ring is something I envision he'd like to do. I could be way off, but that's my read on it. Carter is a different story, as he has already declared his intentions to play, it's just a matter of him being healthy. He's just not there yet.

Kevin (Boston)

I would say (and hope) Ras-I Dowling is the breakout player this year. He looked great in very limited action last year. It's nice to see a corner with some size on the pats for once. Seems like the bigger, taller receivers have beaten them for years now.

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Thanks Kevin. As we've discussed, the big thing with Dowling is just staying healthy. If he's healthy, I think he will contribute quite a bit.

Justin (Westborough, MA)

We know that Brandon Lloyd is a great deep threat with his ball skills and route running ability, but do you think he will be a big part of the red zone package?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

I do envision that, Justin. When we look at the scouting report on Lloyd, part of it reads, "Competitive, catches the ball well in traffic." There is plenty of traffic in the red-zone. The space gets tight. I think you want Lloyd on the field in those situations.

Kevin (Wellfleet, MA)

Hey Mike, do you see Alfonzo Dennard making an impact on the secondary this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Kevin, was down your way on the Cape recently. Beautiful spot. Enjoy. As for Dennard, I think he's more in the mix/competing for the 4th/5th CB roles if everyone is healthy. So special teams, initially, will be big for him.

T. (Maine)

Random, not very Patriots-related question: The sideshow in New York is always entertaining. There's already websites dedicated to the topic of Sanchez v. Tebow. What is Mike Reiss' opinion/prediction on the starting QB for the Jets, assuming both are healthy, who will be known as the 2012 NYJ Starting QB after this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Sanchez for the next two years is my prediction. I follow the money and that's a lot of money to pay him the next two years to not play QB. After that, it's open-ended.

Patrick (Keene, NH)

My biggest concern for the upcoming season is the defensive backfield. McCourty's a big question mark Chung's is a very good player but injuries are a question mark. After that I see 2nd tier players who aren't proven. Am I wrong?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

I think that's fair, Patrick. I'd just counter with the thought that every team is going to have unproven parts at different parts of their roster. A team that is too "proven" is probably too old. So it's always a mix. The only way to become "proven" is to be given a chance and that's why it's so important to draft and develop talent.

Frank (La Marque)

Who will or has emerged as the Pats No.3 WR?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Frank, no one has emerged at this point, as the true competition will unfold in training camp. But based on what I saw in organized team activities and minicamp, Deion Branch took most of the reps in that role. In the end, I think it will be between him and Jabar Gaffney.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

I don't know that it will surprise a lot of people when Branch gets cut in lieu of Stallworth but with Gaffney in the fold Branch's 2011 role is in better hands. Stallworth offers a little more on the outside; enough to earn a spot on the roster over Branch.It may surprise more people when Sterling Moore is one of the top secondary players in terms of snap percentages when the 2012 season ends. If McCourty continues his downward slide Moore exhibited the ball skills and field awareness to offer hope as a projected starter. Though I think we all hope it doesn't come to that with Devin.

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

You're not alone with those thoughts on Branch, munchkin. I don't share the same view. I still think he has something to offer, both in rapport with Tom Brady, knowledge of the offense, and in the short to intermediate areas of the field. I view him as a more complete receiver than Stallworth.

Jack (Ann Arbor, MI)

Mike, I feel like it has been a while since we've heard anything from Jonathan Fanene and Trevor Scott, which were two moves that the Patriots made early in the off-season that I was fairly excited about. After loading up the front 7 during the draft and afterwards, however, I've become much less sure that either of those guys will make the game day roster. And if they eventually sign Andre Carter, that makes it even more doubtful. What do you think? Will both, or either, Fanene or Scott be around come September, and how much would a potential Carter signing affect that?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

Jack, Fanene will definitely be here. One thing to keep an eye on is his health. His left knee was bothering him a bit at the end of offseason work and he didn't finish. As for Scott, I tend to think he'll be here as well. Saw him with some first-unit reps, for whatever that is worth at this stage. I think the coaching staff has plans for him if he competes the way they project. I think there is space for both Carter and Scott, if the team desires.

Paul (Taunton)

I cannot remember a player that B.B. has coached on a Pats. team like C. Jones, any ideas on how you see him being used early in his career?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Paul, the guys at Patriots Football Weekly made the comparison to Willie McGinest. That's probably as close as it gets. Off the edge. Long. Disruptive. In one sense, it reminds of one year when Bill Belichick signed a 6-foot-8 offensive lineman, from Notre Dame, solely to play on the scout team to bat down passes in practice.

Jim L. (Macon, GA)

I think Jake Bequette is going to surprise people. I think he is the type of high motor, aggressive D-lineman that all other teams seem to have and we don't. I know some of that is the Patriots style of play but I think this kid is going to be good.

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Thanks Jim. I've heard mixed opinion of Bequette in scouting circles. Some felt the Patriots reached there and that Bequette was stiff in linebacker drills at combine. I'm interested to watch it unfold and see who is right on that one. I haven't seen enough to have a strong opinion.

Frank (La Marque)

Will the Pats keep Hoyer and Mallett on the roster or will one be traded if the right offer is there?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Frank, if the right offer is there (doubtful in my view), I don't think Bill Belichick would hesitate to strike it. That said, I sort of feel like the backup QB situation is a little overhyped right now. Both these guys, I believe, need a strong preseason to prove their worth in NFL circles. I believe other teams view them both as still having some questions surrounding them. No certainties at this point. Let's see how both manage the offense and team in extended work during a game. That's really the only time we can assess them.

Mike (Boston)

Hey Mike, why is it that around this time of year we always hear odd stories of trash talking? Take Ray Rice's comments for example, seemingly out of nowhere he just announces to reporters that Flacco outplayed Brady in the AFC championship game. Do players feel very cocky around this time of year, or is it just a matter of the press not having much to say?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Mike, I'd say it's more a result of a slower news cycle, so things stand out a bit more. Also, players are promoting charitable works or making appaearances for outside-football-business things, and that's why we might hear more from their remarks. As for the contents of their remarks, that's a tough one for me to answer. I didn't hear the actual context of what Ray Rice said, just scanned a headline.

Henry Hero (Boston)

Mike, my question relates to the type of defensive techniques utilized by the Patriots defensive backs, particularly as it relates to when, or even if, the db should look back for the ball. I understand from comments from various media sources and players that the Pats teach the dbs not to look back, but rather play the hands of the receiver, when they are beat in coverage, or "out of phase" in the parlance (e.g. Sterling Moore's play on Evans against the Ravens). However, it appears to me that some of the dbs - and even the linebackers - are always playing the hands, and not looking back even when they are "in phase." This doesn't strike me as a good approach, as I think if the DB looks back when the receiver it gives them a better chance to knock the ball down, pick it off, distract the receiver by getting a hand in the are of the ball, sets them up for better timing on the leap and significantly lessens the chance of PI. I've done some checking of video of the top defensive backs, and they all clearly look back when the receiver does. Do you have any sense of what Josh Hoyer's philosophy is on this particular issue? It's really maddening to me to see a DB in good position, yet refuse to turn to look for the ball as if he were going to turn into a salt statue like in the story of Sodom and Gommorah (that's from Alex Molden btw). Thanks, Mike!

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Henry, the next time Boyer is available, I will try to remember to ask him this. I'd be surprised if the DBs were taught NOT to look back for the ball at a specific time.

Mango (Finland)

Hey Mike! I think the player that will be viewed as the most surprising player will be Devin McCourty, who hopefully will be pushing out of that difficult 2011-2012 season. What are your thoughts his development and possibilities of sustaining good performances?

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Mango, I anticipate a bounce-back year for McCourty. Another interesting choice.

Damian (Birr, Ireland)

Hi Mike. My question stems from the 'Bubble Watch' series which is a nice addition in these long days before the start of camp. My question is this, what players on the bubble do you think will generate the some trade interest before they are cut. Patriots are deep at a number of positions and it would be nice to recoup the lost later round picks on Ochocinco and Haynesworth in 2013.

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

Good one, Damian. I'm going to say no one, and here's why: Last year, if I recall, Bill Belichick noted that there wasn't a lot of trades as teams were more content to wait through the waiver process instead of giving up a future draft pick. The one thing that could alter the picture is if a team has an unexpected injury, creating a demand for a player.

Bob (Mansfield)

Mike, I was wondering how you wold compare the players reaction of Spygate & Bounty Gate? Personally i am equally tired of BG as i was of SG. Its time for the players to button up

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

I'm tired of it too, Bob. I think the big difference is that the Patriots' deal happened during the season when games were being played, so we had those contests to divert some of the attention. In this case, there's no buffer for the bounty stuff.

James D. (Your UMass Alum Buddy!) (The Office)

Hi Mike!With all the chatter about a possible Andre Carter return, it got me thinking: Aren't Chandler Jones and Andre Carter both best suited for the right defensive end spot? I don't remember Carter moving to the left much last year. Can either Jones or Carter (assuming he's back) move to the left side?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

James, nice to talk to a fellow UMass alum, as always. Carter was mostly on the right side. Jones is likely best suited for that spot as well. But I'd think both have some flexibility that can be tapped, depending on what the game-plan is that week.

Dave (Ottawa, ON)

I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I see the Jake Ballard signing as indicative of more innovation by Belichick. I think he has realized (always known) that talented TEs are the ultimate mismatch tool. If he can field a roster with four playable TEs, he can send a formation out with four TEs and a back like Woodhead. From there, if the defense stacks the box anticipating run, athletic guys like Hernandez and even Gronkowski can shift out wide, Woodhead can join the passing routes and you've got a formidable passing tree running routes against essentially a goal-line defense. If the defense adjusts to that with more of a pass oriented D the next time that formation hits the field, bring all four TEs in tight and run it down their throats. It's an indefensible offense and with guys like Hernandez who can run it out of the backfield making it even harder to predict, I think Belichick thinks he's found the Philosopher's Stone of NFL offense. Am I wrong on this, Mike?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

Dave, I don't Belichick was necessarily thinking of putting four TEs on the field at the same time when the Patriots claimed Ballard. Instead, I think he was projecting to 2013 and seeing the potential to add an asset at a reasonable cost, at a position that is hard to fill. Like the "Philosopher's stone of NFL offense" line.

Adrian (London UK)

Hi Mike, greetings from Sunny London. I think we might be suprised by Joseph Addai. We all know what a professional he is, and how well he receives and picks up blitz coverage, but if the O-line stays healthy then he is playing behined better blockers than he had during his time in Indy including a legitimate blocking TE in Gronk. Factor in the versatilty that the O is striving for, and teams wont know what to defend - PA will be big, but i see them using the run more, especially for managing the clock.I know you picked Shane Vereen on O, do you have a similar surprise pick or picks on the D we should watch out for?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I do think Addai will make the roster, although not everyone is in agreement. I'm interested to watch that one, Adrian. On defense, for surprise contributor, I'll go with Bobby Carpenter*. The reason I put that * in there is because it's solely based on what we saw in offseason camps. He was on the field a lot. I'm not sure he'll even make the team, but it seems like he has some good things going for him in the eyes of the coaching staff.

John C (Boston)

Mike, love the chats and the continuous Pats news! My pick for surprising player is a little different. I'm going with Brandon Lloyd. Not because he will exceed expectation, but because he will underachieve based on expectations placed on him. He will still have a very successful season, but not the superstar year everyone is looking for because Brady simply has too many options to rely on one guy.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

John, I'm not sure what people are expecting, as his career high was 77 receptions in 2010. Last year, he had 51 receptions, albeit in some challenging circumstances. Let's split the difference -- would 65 catches sound reasonable?

Alex (Wilmington, MA)

With the additions to the front 7 in Jones and Hightower, does that make the Pats front seven better against the run or the pass?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Alex, I think they should be better in both. They look deeper and more athletic to me at this time, but as we've seen, depth in June sometimes looks differently than depth in November. So it's still a little bit of an unknown.

Matt (Cambridge, MA)

Mike, do you think it's more likely to see Vollmer or Chung franchised next year (assuming neither signs long term prior)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

A guess would be Chung because of the more reasonable cost.

Pete (Vermont)

Hi Mike Has Markell Carter landed anywhere yet ??

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Pete, he's working out for the Steelers today. Nice timing on this one.

Mike (North Adams)

Hey Mike, I like Shane Vareen also, but my pick is Trevor Scott-with all the draft picks on defense..he and Fanene have flown under the radar...2 questions too.. How is Fanene? have you seen him at the facility working out? and why is Mike Wright still listed on the roster on this website? maybe a hint of his possible return? Hope the guy is healthy regardless whether or not he plays football again..any news on him..did he retire?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Mike, greetings in Western Mass. Like the Scott choice, too. Fanene had some lingering soreness in the knee, and I'm not sure where that stands now. As for Mike Wright, I'd be surprised if he plays again. If his name was on the roster, my guess is that would be an oversight.

RAMB (BOSTON)

Hi Mike... I posted many questions, never saw that on post..Hoping this one I might get your attention.. I always read you saying Patriots Playbook is tought to digest, my question is then why always we look WR for free agency.. Wont it be a good idea to draft for some WR and make him learn patriots play book.and grow their own crops.. My point is when you are old and proven learning nw things will always be a lazy than some one from Draft . They will be more eager to learn and perform as they need to prove their career.. I believe this will help Brady also to excel more than where he is... every year it is challenging for him also to trust his WRs..

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

This is one I've shifted on a bit, RAMB. Used to think it was crucial to draft and develop at the position, and they've tried (e.g. Taylor Price). But it seems as if veteran receivers want to come here, and are willing to do so at reasonable cost, probably because of Tom Brady first and foremost. You always want to be careful of getting too old, but I think the approach has worked at WR. It's a tough position to evaluate coming out of college, where there is less press coverage, so sometimes focusing on the veterans eliminates that unknown and can be good business when looking at that spot.

Louis (UMD)

Mike, with the shift in the NFL to pass-heavy offenses, do you think the Patriots took a preemptive strike in drafting versatile players like Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard and picking up Steve Gregory and re-signing Ihedigbo, with thoughts on running a "Big Nickel" (3-safety) look? I think that was the term used in a very interesting piece you referred to a couple months ago. Great job to you, Rodak, and Field on the blog!

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

Thanks Louis. I do believe the idea of the "Big Nickel" was part of the thinking with Tavon Wilson. Colleagues Mike Rodak and Field Yates bringing it strong on the blog!

jblackburner (ATL)

Mike, does Edelman's value to the 2012 Pats really boil down to his role as KR? Pats are improved at DB, and Branch/Gaffney/Hernandez can play the slot if Welker goes down. If the Pats find another KR, could Edelman be a surprise cut?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I still see Edelman as having value, not just this year, but future years (with Welker uncertainty) assuming he's re-signed. Would it be a shocker if he's cut? No, but if I was making a 53-man projection now, he'd be on it.

Stewart (wellesley)

Hi Mike,Whats the deal with Myron Pryor and Ron Brace? Are theses guys healthy yet? It ssems every year they make the club and then get hurt. Do you see either of them contributin in 2012?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Stewart, Brace is healthy, and Pryor is still working his way back. Big years for both of them -- year 4 of their careers.

Trip McNeely (San Diego, CA)

Mike,Which rookie has excited you most thus far and which player are you most excited to see the kind of impact they make? Thanks!Your boy, Trip

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Trip, in terms of the rookies, I'd start at the top with Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. I think both can help ... and quickly.

Dan (Jacksonville, fl)

Mike, If you had to take a guess, who do you think leads the team in sacks at the end of the season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Let's go with Trevor Scott at this early juncture.

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

But one thing about sacks, they are sort of overrated in terms of measuring pressure. Hurries would be good to chart as well.

Pascal (New York)

I think Brandon Spikes will be the surprise player. That D totally changes when he's in there and his knack for making plays is obvious. His forced fumble in the SB could have made the difference if not for the 12 men penalty.

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Thanks Pascal. He had a great Super Bowl.

Justin (Westborough, MA)

After the Pats drafted Nate Ebner, I immediately started watching rugby highlights and he looked physically amazing. He had incredible speed and great intelligence in pursuing tackles. Do you think he will make the 53 -man roster. If so, do you think he will be a big contributor on special teams this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Justin, I'd project practice squad for Ebner at this time. But like everyone else, he'll have a chance to prove himself in training camp, when the true competition will unfold.

Alvin (Amherst, MA)

Rob Ninkovich will surprise in 2012. He had 6.5 sacks in 2011 and no evidence of slowing down. Given the uncertainties of Andre Carter, Chandler Jones & Jake Bequette he should get the nod in starting the opener at the very least.

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Alvin, Ninkovich played 82 percent of the snaps last season as one of the front-line guys on the D. I wouldn't be surprised if that number comes down, but if his production increases.

Gary (No VA)

Mike, I liked your piece on the Super Bowl losers, but one factor that you may have overlooked is what I will call "the Sam Wyche plan" for making the playoffs. During the mid-to-late eighties, the Bengals would have a bad year, producing an easy schedule the following season. With the easy schedule, they would have a good year. (This produced their second Super Bowl appearance.) While many playoff teams have wilted the following year with a tough schedule, the Pats have proven over the last ten years, that they can play any schedule thrown at them. With the mindset Belichick has established, do you think the Pats will be better prepared to put aside external expectations this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Gary, that's one thing the Patriots under Bill Belichick have been pretty good at -- managing those external expectations. I wouldn't expect much of an issue there.

Brandon (Slamhurst)

Hey Mike, weekly reader, love the chat. It in my mind the WR battle comes down to branch and stallworth at the end. Stallworth has to be the better choice because its more likely he has something left in the tank(a year off does wonders) and while both receivers have experience playing with brady, stallworth can offer value on special teams. I think when considering the 4th WR role this is a no brainer. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

I see the logic, Brandon, I guess I just view Branch as a more well-rounded, polished receiver than others. It's cool to have a difference of opinion. I just think Branch was overused last season (in part because of Ochocinco's struggles) and that he wore down at times. He shouldn't be on the field as much in 2012, which should keep him fresher and maximize what he does have left.

Tyler (Peterborough, NH)

Was there anything to glean from voluntary workouts or mini-camp about who will be returning kicks this year? Is there some resistence to having Edelman return kicks and punts because of his receiver and DB contributions? Are the Pats loathe to put all their returner eggs in one basket, so to speak?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Woodhead, McCourty and Stallworth were a few players back returning kicks, Tyler. I still think it's early.

Shimon El Tigre (Miami, FL (roots in Maine))

Hey Mike,Hope all is well with you and the Cover-2. We utilize that same scheme in my household! Enjoy each moment cuz they go by quickly!As for player to surprise... I'm going to go with Rob Ninkovich. I think he will be even more explosive with less playing time and get 10 sacks this year. I also think he will get a couple picks. I'm hoping McCourty "surprises" us by returning to his rookie form - or even surpassing it.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Thanks Shimon. The cover-2 scheme is indeed effective. Just finding it tough, when in the back end of the field, to keep everything in front of me. I'm not as quick as I used to be.

Dave (RI)

Mike, Rodney Harrison was honored at "The Tradition" last night. Even though he was only here for a hand full of years, where do you rank him in Patriot history?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Dave, I think Harrison is a Patriots Hall of Famer. I'm not a good "ranker", but I can say this, when Rodney talks, I listen. I really enjoyed his remarks at "The Tradition", some of which are transcribed here on our ESPNBoston.com blog: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4724480/leftovers-from-rodney-at-tradition#comment

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Zack (Milton, GA)

Mike,Many people think that the patriots defense is "bad", however, i just think they are misunderstood by most. Think about it, teams like the patriots, saints, giants, and packers all had low ranked passing defenses, however on the offensive side, they all had high powered passing attacks that scored them a lot of points. I think when the patriots pass and score, opposing teams feel the need to pass and score. The patriots clearly wont stop passing, so why would other teams? The patriots simply just get passed at more than most teams so they allow more yards. Looking at the stats, opposing teams attempted to pass at the patriots 619 times, 4th most in the league. Teams passed at the packers 637 times, most in the league. As you know the patriots ranked 31st in passing defense and the packers ranked 32nd. These 2 teams ranked last in pass yards, but also were among the top of the list of how many times opposing teams passes against them. Heres another stat, the Packers had the most interceptions in the league last year, the patriots had the 2nd most. The more teams throw the ball, the more picks they will throw, true? The patriots ranked 15th in the league in points allowed per game. Thats definately not "bad." It shows that when opposing teams were threatening in the red zone, we got big play interceptions. Now, I'm not saying the patriots defense doesn't need to do some work, im just saying we aren't as bad as people think. And if we go to the super bowl this year, i'd even say our defense will make plays that win the game. What do you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Zack, I appreciate the detailed thoughts here. I judge ultimately by points scored. They weren't "that bad" in that stat. But like you say, there are areas that can certainly be improved (third down, for one).

Alex C (Watertown)

Who is your surprise cut this year when getting down to the 53 man roster?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Too early for me, Alex, until we see what happens on the field in training camp. Can I circle back on this one in August?

Thiago DF (Brazil)

Hey Mike! Have been following you since the Globe! Really appreciante your work and dedication. Mike, with the kickoff being less and less important, how many roster spot do you see going to STs only players(or mainly STs players)? Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

Thanks Thiago. The one thing about special teams players is that there is more than just the kickoff. There's punts, punt coverage, field-goal block etc. So I could still see the same focus placed on special teams as we've always seen in terms of coverage players.

RBF (Chicago, IL)

Hi Mike, I think the player that will surprise this year is Brandon Bolden. Not only do I see him making the 53 man roster, I see him being the big back that BB likes to have for short yardage situations.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

If Bolden is in, that could mean Addai is out. Will be interesting to watch. Thanks RBF.

James (Derry, NH)

Hey Mike, As for the player that will surprise this year I gotta go with Hightower. While Mayo maybe the defensive captain, he is a quiet leader. I think Hightower has a chance to be the emotional player that fans in New England love. I think his selection by the Patriots raised a few eyebrows and had some fans scratching their heads, but anyone who is ?the heart and soul? of the best college defense in the country last year can play for me any day. Now, how does practice squad eligibility work? I know rookies like Ebner and Bolden are eligible (if they don?t get picked up by another team), but how does it work with older players like say Wendell or Kopa? Thanks and as always keep up the great work.

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Wendell does not have practice squad eligibility. Kopa does, I believe, but he would have to clear through waivers.

Travis (The Cape)

Mike, what's up with the condensed pre-season schedule for the Patriots; three games in ten days? I feel for the rookies and free agents who are going to lose reps, since they can't possibly suit up for all three games with such short rest in between. Do you think this is going to make evaluating the bottom-tier of the roster more difficult?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Travis, the 3 games in 10 days is tough and will affect the way Bill Belichick manages his roster, for sure.I actually think it could help rookies and young players, who will probably play more. I don't think Bill Belichick will want to risk his vets by pushing them too hard there. TV is a big reason why -- when you have a nationally televised Monday night game the second week, it packs things in there pretty tight.

Robert (Belchertown)

I actually missed the news of the Patriots waiving Anthony Gonzalez. What was the reason? And my surprise player for the coming season will be Jake Bequette. I don't believe he will be an All-Pro in his 1st season, but I believe that he will make some big plays this year which people will remember.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

We assume injury, Robert, when it comes to Gonzalez. On Bequette, he is the majority choice of chatters today. Thanks.

Casey (Plymouth, MA)

Mike, from 2001-2003, a veteran guard retired either right before or during the preseason (Joe Panos, Rich Tylski, and Brenden Stai), which led the team to shuffle the deck and work with the hand they had leftover. I know all reports are that Brian Waters never attended voluntary sessions with the Chiefs, but I just get a bad feeling this is about to happen again...if Waters were to hypothetically retire, what would you expect as a starting line in Tennessee for week 1? Throw in the fact we don't know if Mankins will definitely be ready, too...

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Casey, good memory on the veteran guards retiring back then. Starting line projection: LT Solder, LG Mankins/Gallery/Wendell, C Koppen, RG Connolly, RT Vollmer. Still depth there.

Matt (Bristol CT)

Hey Mike, my picks for surprise player are CB Sterling Moore and WR Julian Edelman. Moore showed a lot of improvement over last year and, barring a McCourty-like sophomore slump, could be a solid piece of the secondary. Edelman I could see making a mark on special teams and maybe earning a few more snaps on offense. (I think Shane Vereen will impress too.)

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Thanks Matt. Maybe bump into you in Bristol sometime.

Bo (Brooklyn Ct.)

Love the competition that will take place this year in training camp....Back Ups on the OL, DL rotation, LB rotation, CB, Safety and WR. I have not seen so many potential "good players" with the chance of being cut on this team in a long time.

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Bo, as owner Robert Kraft said in a piece on SkySports.com, the team looks better on paper in 2012. What that means, time will tell.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, Florida)

Hi Mike I have a question about Nate Solder will he make the second year jump or will he struggle like Devin McCourty did in his Sophomore season?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

I wish my crystal ball could answer this one, Anthony. Solder does everything the coaches could want in terms of work ethic, approach, dedication etc. But that's a big job. I still have it in my mind that Solder was replaced at the end of the second quarter of the Super Bowl. So it's something to watch. I'll say he'll ultimately get the job done, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see some growing pains.

Rich (Watertown)

With no more BJGE who do you see as the goaline back and would you put it past Bellicheck to think about lining up Gronk in those situations in the backfield sort of like what he did with Hernandez last year only this is strictly in goalline situations?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Rich, I don't think we'd see Gronkowski carry the football, but lining him up there and motioning him out could be a possibility.

Zach (Florida)

Is the plan with Mallet that he eventually becomes the next franchise QB? Is he willing to wait that long? Seems like he would have been the 2nd best quarterback in the draft last year without the off the field issues.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Zach, I'm not sure the Patriots view it that way. I think the big thing with Mallett is to keep developing him and then you see where you are in year 2-3, and how that correlates with where Tom Brady is at that point. If Brady is still going strong, which he is now, you don't move away from that. That's my view of it, and I believe that's how the Patriots see it as well. So much can change on a week to week/month to month/year to year basis in the NFL.

Big Ern (Iowa)

Mike, I keep telling Roy and the rest of the guys down at the bowling alley that Shane Vereen has a huge upside in this offense if he stays healthy and can pickup a blitz. People lable him a 3rd down type back, but he is a 3 down guy and was a stud at Cal....lockout really hurt him and injury last year....your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I agree, Big Ern. I think Vereen is more than a three-down back.

Brendon (Portland, ME)

I don't know if this has been asked already, but have the Pats signed Dont'a Hightower? I have heard no news of this and view him as a big part of the defense this rookie season

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Not yet, Brendon, but I still see it getting done by when it truly counts -- the start of training camp.

Al (Newark, NJ)

Mike, what are your thoughts on the NFL Network's Top 100 list? Do you think Brady deserves to be higher than #4?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Al, I'm terrible at rankings. I would have put Brady at 2, for what it's worth.

Sean (Quincy)

Does the fact that Tavon Wilson was an unknown on draft day and could have been picked later in the draft suggest how desperate the pats are when it comes to the secondary?

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

I don't think so, Sean. I think it's more a result of the Patriots valuing Wilson higher than most other teams. If you have a chance, check out this piece I wrote. It sort of sums it up from my view. http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/7865727/tavon-wilson-reach-round-2-not-bill-belichick

RON (LONG1957)

Last year Vince Wilfork was moved around with the pats going back to a 3 man front do we see him back on the nose more

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Ron, I think he'll be on the move, depending on what the Patriots play on a week to week basis.

RAMB (BOSTON)

Hi Mike , 2012 -- Who will be most toughest opponent for patriots ?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Let's end on this one, RAMB. I think the toughest game will be Week 3 in Baltimore. Tough environment to go play, early in the season, after last year's AFC title game.

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. I always enjoy it, and hope you do too.