Good afternooon and welcome to today's chat. A reminder that Patriots LB Brandon Spikes is scheduled to chat at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.com.
As always, impressed with your interest and dedication. Sleepy time on the NFL calendar and I enter the chat to see a full queue of questions. Thanks for that. Here we go.
What game on the schedule excites you the most in the upcoming season? Also, what needs to happen in order to bring Andre Carter back this year?
Robert, the game that excites the most: Week 3 in Baltimore. From being around Tedy Bruschi, and hearing him talk, there is nothing quite like going into a visiting stadium and quieting the crowd. That could be one of the most electric road environments in recent memory based on what happened in the AFC title game, and I'm interested to see how the Patriots handle it. I look forward to that greatly. As for Andre Carter, the first thing is getting him to the point where he can pass a physical.
Any word if Welker will have a new deal by Monday will Hightower be signed on time
Chris, my sense is it's a longer shot at this point, but you always leave the door open because a deadline like this can lead one side to come off its line to spark a compromise. Still a possibility. On Hightower, I believe he will be signed in time, yes.
Do you think that the 2012 New England Patriots will be like the 2007 New England Patriots, but this time win the Super Bowl?
Chris, I don't think we'll see a duplication of the '07 Patriots, and some of the records that team set. But in terms of Super Bowl hopes, I view the Patriots as one of the NFL's best, so I would pick them right now (with the understanding that health/injuries, and how the roster evolves, is impossible to predict right now).
Hi Mike. Belichick typically hates dealing with the media and publicity of any kind. This usually hold true for his players as much as it does for him. How do you think he feels about Gronks offseason media blitz? As long as his production continues I'm sure it'll be tolerated, but what happens if there's a drop off? Thanks for taking my question.
Right on, Dave. I made this point on a radio spot Wednesday. The Patriots just signed Gronkowski to a contract extension through 2019, and if they had any concerns at this point, you'd think they would have been addressed before that deal was consummated. So I think they are fine with it, as long as he's putting in the work and doesn't "damage" the Patriots brand.
Mike, Patriots have hired three scouting assistants whose names happen to be Simms, Groh, and Lombardi. I am curious to know 1) what exactly duties of scouting assistants are and 2)how the hiring process usually goes. Are they going to hire someone like Reiss someday?
Mark, the scouting assistants are at the entry-level. Their work can vary -- some scouting, some assisting the coaching staff in compiling data etc. Our own Field Yates, on ESPNBoston.com, held that role with the Chiefs and I think you see in his "Scout's Notebook" series that it's pretty impressive stuff. As for the hiring process, I'm not privy to that information, but I would imagine networking and connections are very important. As for hiring me, there will be no application sent in from this address. Married, great wife, two kids I want to be around as much as possible. Tough to do that in that business. ... But if they're looking, I'd heartily recommend Mike Rodak. He's going places!
Hey Mike, Seems like outside of the Patriots, the AFC east will be stacked with strong defenses. From a season-long prospective, do you think this could benefit the Patriots? My line of thinking is that going up against strong defensive teams on a regular basis will give the coaching staff and Brady a lot of film and preparation so that come the playoffs (if things goes as planned) the offense will be more comfortable against strong fronts like those of the Giants, Cowboys and Ravens. What are your thoughts?
Tron, when I think of defenses in this type of scenario, I look at it a little differently. The main thing I look for is where are the matchups that could hurt you, and how does the strength of the opposition's defense tie-in to your weaknesses. The Steelers are a good example to me. Historically, they've been a tough defense. But for whatever reason, the Patriots' offense has had its number in my view. Good matchup for New England. In the end, I do think being battle tested helps. The Giants of last season are a good example of that in my view.
Hi Mike - been out of the loop for awhile - hope all's well on your end. With training camp right around the corner, I was wondering what the various dates are for roster cut downs? With all the talent that Pats accumulated in the offseason the cuts will be interesting to watch. Thanks.
Welcome back to the loop, Neil. The roster cut from 90 to 75 is Aug. 27 (after third preseason game). The roster cut from 75 to 53 is August 31 (after fourth preseason game).
Mike, there are a number of pundits calling for the Bills to supplant the Patriots as winners of the AFC East. Granted, they attach the label of "surprise" pick to that choice but it reeks of wishful thinking to me. If Brady stays healthy this year the Patriots offense is going to be very difficult to defend. With the proven weapons they have at WR and TE and a backfield with the potential that Vereen, Ridley et al. offer, it will be very difficult for any team to outscore the Patriots. Buffalo has put together some very nice pieces on defense but I don't see them outscoring the Pats. Stevie J, Freddie and CJ are nice pieces but coupled with an inconsistent Fitzpatrick they will not be able to put enough together against an improved Pats D. This, of course, is a very biased opinion. Yet one that I believe is rational. The Pats are going to score a ton of points this year. There will be no let up games.
Munchkin, I'm not buying the Bills' hype. I do think it's good for the league when a small-market team like the Bills is good, and spending time there and seeing what that franchise means to the community, there is a part of me that would feel good about their success. But the reason I am not buying the hype is that I think it's all front-loaded. It's easy to get swept away by the big-money Mario Williams signing, but have they adequately addressed their depth issues? I'm not sure, and to me, that was one of their top issues last year (big drop-off when going from 1st unit to 2nd/3rd units). Also, is Ryan Fitzpatrick the QB to lead you where you want to go? Much uncertainty on that one.
The Patriots have a ton of cap room left this year. With a team that, on paper, looks well-rounded, versatile, and deep with competition for players at nearly all positions, it doesn't seem like that 11 million will be spent elsewhere besides potentially resigning players. In your opinion, what happens next? Do they sit on this cap space or extend people now? I know the easy answer is to say lock up welker, but as much as i want welker around, based off the gronk deal, now is the time to extend hernandez and chung. If both have strong years, their stock will only go up, and welkers stock really cant go up much more at this point in his career. Nows the time to strike bargain extensions with these two before hernandez breaks out even more and demands a huge contract on the market. Worry about welker after this season, whether it be tag next offseason, extension, or let him walk. Thoughts?
Joe, I think they'll want to leave themselves some flexibility obviously. Also consider that cap space can be rolled into the next season so there is an element of strategic planning, long range, in play. As for Welker next year, I wouldn't tag him again, but I'd try to keep things civil so he could be re-signed on the open market if he's open to a return. Dangerous, for sure, but can't extend to $11.4m for him if I'm in management's shoes.
Will the patriots sign any other player
I believe they will John. Andre Carter would be my best guess.
Mike I actually think the Patriots toughest game this season is going to be against the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans both have really good pass rushes that can create havoc and get to Tom Brady?
Both tough games, but from a Patriots perspective you have to like those will be at home in December. Also, it's Houston's third straight road game. Tough stretch for them.
Hey Mike! Given the emerging reliance of the sub defense in the NFL, can you offer a Sub-Defense depth chart for the Pats? Thanks!
Let's do it Steve, focusing on a potential dime package. I think you can do a lot of different things up front, so don't hold me to this, but this was off the top of my head.DL: Fanene/BequetteDL: Wilfork/LoveDL: Ninkovich/Scott/JonesLB: MayoLB: HightowerCB: McCourtyCB: DowlingCB: ArringtonS: WilsonS: ChungS: Gregory
Hi Mike- Would you be able to give us a general update on the status of the Patriots running back core? A little while back I heard that Vereen was getting some looks as a starter. What about Ridley? We all know that the passing game has the potential to be incredible, but is there also the potential for a solid run game with the current crew?
Absolutely Jason. The one thing I'd say is that it's probably misguided to label the backs "starters" or first-unit/second-unit. They'll all play, likely as part of a committee. A player like Danny Woodhead, for example, played seven snaps against the Colts on Dec. 4, then the next week against the Redskins he was on for a team-high 35. That's the way the Patriots roll. I'd expect them all to contribute, with Ridley and Vereen at the head of the line.
Possible injuries aside, my only real concern is the offensive line. Brady and the offense has been successful over the past 10 years+ b/c Brady has had time. When he hasn't we don't win. How is the new offensive line progressing and what's your feeling about this year's group?
I agree with this, Tony, although the defense would also be on my radar. How is the O-line progressing? Considering Vollmer wasn't on the field in the offseason, and neither was Mankins and Waters, it's very much in question right now.
Hi, Mike. I understand Hernandez stands to make "only" $700,000 this season and the Pats have around 10M of cap space available. Will Pats make a move to lock him up long-term? Also, what is Hernandez's state of mind right now - frustrated at the discrepancy between production and wages or is he patiently waiting for his contract to expire? It must be hard to watch Gronk pick up a large payday and not get one of his own. Thanks!
Sean, I could see the Patriots approaching Hernandez on a long-term deal, and basically offering the Gronkowski pact, or slightly less. I'm not sure Hernandez would take it. That deal isn't for every player (because you sacrifice potential future earnings for immediate security) and lock yourself up through 2019. I'm not sure what Hernandez is thinking along these lines.
Hey Mike! Big fan of your work, I read the blog daily. With all these recent talks about the Welker contract negotiations and how a long term deal doesn't seem to get done, I haven't heard about the possibility that the Patriots trade Welker prior to the start of the season (or during the season). Belichick has been known to make unanticipated moves before the start of the regular season. Could a Welker trade be possible if the Patriots don't envision him being a part of the team in the long term?
Alay, thanks for those comments. I'd be very, very surprised if the Patriots traded Welker. I expect him to be on the club in 2012.
Mike Will we see a return of the organized chaos package in 2012? We seem to have better tools to work with in Mayo, Spikes, Hightower, Ninkovich, Scott, *Carter, Bequette, Carpenter, Fletcher, and perhaps Cunningham.
I could certainly envision it, Clark. More game-plan specific than something that probably gets trotted out there week after week.
Take the over under on these: Brady TDs: 34.5, Patriots wins 12.5, Welker TDs 10.5, Gronk TDs 12.5. Thanks Mike, Go Pats!
Brady TDs (34.5): Over
Patriots wins (12.5): Over (already predicted 13-3, no turning back now).
Welker TDs (10.5): Under
Gronkowski TDs (12.5): Under (but his presence that results in TDs for others would make it "over").
Mike,Thinking ahead, but what do the pat's do with Jake Ballard after his time on the PUP list is up? If he's healthy, do the pat's carry 4 TE?
Mark, if he's healthy, they'd put him on the roster because the only other alternative is to cut him. You can't place a healthy player on IR. My sense is that they won't be in that situation, though.
Hey Mike. Love the work that you and the guys do both during and outside of the season. I was wondering if you'd be up to the task of combining the snap count stats with the formations so we could get a sense of who is playing in what package (especially on D). Besides, we could check to see how close you are in your response to Steve above. Thanks!
T, if you think this information would be useful during the season, I could definitely do that. Thanks for the suggestion and don't be shy on reminding me about this as we get closer to the season.
Mike, a question related to roster depth: How many guys on the current 90 man roster start the season on a 53 man NFL roster (here or elsewhere?).
Chuck, I'd say 57-58. Have to assume a few waived/cut players land elsewhere.
Okay, enough sub talk! When the Pats meet with a ground-and-pound offense (the Jets come to mind), will the pre-season emphasis on nickel and dime defense hurt their performance against conventional offenses with big-bodied blockers and running backs?
Great thought, Tyler. I still think they are big and physical enough to combat that style of play.
I expect Will Allen to make the club because he is the type of player BB cherishes. He's a veteran corner who can also play some safety. Being a veteran with versatility will be what keeps him, especially with youth movement throughout the DBs.
Thanks Eric. I'm assuming this was in response to our "Bubble Watch" series today on the Patriots blog, in which Allen was featured. Good stuff. I see Allen as a bubble guy at this point.
If I'm the Pats ownership and I'm forced to choose between inking Hernandez or Welker to a long-term deal, I think I have to pick Hernandez. I love Welker and respect what he's done here tremendously. However, Hernandez is much younger, and is arguably more difficult to match-up with for a defense. They also threaten the same general area of the field (short-to-intermediate slot area). Do you think the lack of a deal with Welker could be somewhat tied to a desire to keep Aaron around after his contract is up?
Good point, Zack. I believe that is also the way they are thinking.
Hey Mike,Are fan able to go to practices after the training camp weekend at the end of July? Also do you know when the "private" practice is for season ticket/wait list members? I need my fix!
Yes, Alex, practices will remain open. As for the "private practice" for season-ticket holders, I would imagine it would be that first week of August, maybe mid-week. Just a hunch. Don't know for sure.
In regards to the defense, how much of an impact do you see the rookies having on that unit, and which rookie do you see having the largest impact? Thanks.
George, thanks for the question. I think we'll see rookies help this defense. Hightower is one who stands out to me as a potential highest impact choice. Just a hunch.
Mike just a observation about this team: is this not one of the biggest teams in NFL in terms of sheer size? there are some large people on this team. I also think the concern about the OL is overblown, imo this line potentially could be the most talented in the BB era. your thougts.
Tony, I view the OL as one of the team's bigger question marks, but I think they'll ultimately be OK. If we widen out the view and look at all contenders, one could make the case that they all have o-line questions. No team is stacked across the board. As for the size, good question. I think they are one of the bigger teams but don't know for sure.
Hey Mike, there are rumblings that a team will bid a 2nd round pick on the Baylor WR in the supplemental draft. Do you think he's worth that?
Fezyk, I don't know enough about Josh Gordon to have an informed opinion. My initial thought is that a second-rounder is too rich. Reminds me of the Texans using a 2 for RB Tony Hollings in 2003.
I think this offense is going to be solid. I don't see the high scoring version of 07 but I see an offense that can put together long ball control drives that eat up the clock. They have fullbacks on the roster which I don't recall them having true fullbacks the last few years and with the TEs and Welker in the slot I can see 6-8 minute drives which would be awesome. How do you see the offense this season?
I see it much the same way you do, Rick. My biggest question is the big guys up front. Everywhere else, it's hard not to think it's a stacked group.
Mike, Once training camp begins, who will be the first "big name" player that Bill lets go?
Always tough to project Liam. I've wondered about Robert Gallery's potential fit when all is said and done, only because something has to give up there on the line.
Other than the obvious answer of "there's more guys", what effects have you seen from the increase from 80 man rosters to 90 man rosters?
Jake Ballard a good example here, Chuck. Do the Patriots do it with an 80-man roster? Maybe not.
How is it looking for Jamey Richard to make the team? He has family and friends in MA, and we are very hopeful he makes the squad.
Mark, Jamey is a longshot to earn a spot. They have a lot of bodies up front. My sense is that he'll need a few injuries in front of him to break through. Assuming this is true, there is nothing that says he can't stick after the season should the team have an unexpeted need.
In regards to Gronk damaging the Patriots brand, I don't see how what he is doing and what he has done (posing with an adult film star for a photo) is much different from the bizzare video of Robert Kraft. The leader of the brand is far more attributable to the brands perception than employees of the brand in my opinion.
All fair, Tron.
Mike, I know it is hard to tell before you see him in camp, but what is your hunch on Marcus Forston? I see him making the team. They are thin at DT, Brace seems done, and Warren and Pryor have age/injuries not in their favor. When healthy, Forston was dominant in college, and I bet Wilfork would love to take another UMiami product under his wing. Thoughts?
That all makes sense to me. He just has to go do it. I always check myself on these projections. I just did it the other day thinking how foolish I was in 2010 when I touted DL Kade Weston for a roster spot. He flashed a day or two in camp and I got hooked on him, when in reality, he needed to string 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 straight days together. That's what it is all about. With this in mind, can Forston do this? I have no idea. Honest. How's that for expert analysis??
Hey Mike. 10th Anniversary year for Gillette Stadium if I'm not mistaken. I know, 10 years isn't a huge accomplishment in a sense, but any plans on that at all?
Tim, Gillette was born back in 2002. So this will actually be the 11th year that games are played there. Hard to believe it's already been that long.
what are your expectations for both chandler jones and donta Hightower this upcoming season?
Jeff, I think they'll both play and contribute. At the minimum, they can help in specific packages. At the maximum, they play in multiple packages and become a big part of what the team does. But I don't think this is a "sit out the year and we'll develop you" situation.
Mike, Thinking about how quickly the Patriots were to signing a deal with Chandler Jones, does that have any reflection on where the team stands with Dont'a Hightower? I watched his days in Alabama, his explosiveness and getting after the quarterback was something to admire. He's fast, tough, good feet work, tackles hard. There's not much more you could want from a guy. I'm just a bit curious as to why the Patriots have not worked out a deal yet.
My read on Hightower is that as the 25th pick, his reps are waiting to see what happens on picks 22, 23, and 24 if they come in with full guarantees. Jones did not get a full guarantee at 21. In the end, I think it's unlikely Hightower will get a full guarantee when Jones did not, but my projection is that his reps are just doing their job to make sure they're not selling him short.
Where does this Patriot Defense rank at the end of the 2012 season if (a) the injury bug doesn?t plague them (Ras-I, Chung, etc.), (b) McCourty bounces back and (c) they get solid contributions from the rookie/free-agent acquisitions? In this best case scenario, at the end of the 2012 season, where are they in total defense? "Stats are for losers" but in this hypothetical is the potential for a worst to first type improvement possible? #GrindTime
Justin, that sounds like the formula of a top-10 scoring defense to me.
With training camp approaching next week, are there any players you are primarily interested in watching?
Adam, I can't wait. Training camp is my favorite. Specific players -- Vereen, Lloyd, Solder, Jones, Hightower, Wilson to name a few.
Hi Mike!I wanted to ask about Gronk. Is there an update on his ankle? I know he did not participate in any of the practices last week. Have you heard anything else about his ankle and if he will be ready for training camp? It's only two weeks away and no one has heard much of a definitive answer.
Mike, progress continues for Gronkowski and the ankle. No setbacks. As for his availability at training camp, I don't have a definitive answer on that one. My guess would be he's ready.
Hi Mike,I heard a rumon that Andre Carter and his agent are requesting a 3-4 years deal at pro-bowler money since he was voted in last year. This is obviously too high of an asking price, but do you know if there is any truth to this / if that is the case do you think he might get that anywhere else?
I ran that by someone I trust and respect and this was the response, "I'd be surprised if that was the case." I think Carter is realistic and that type of deal is not likely.
Mike, Do you think the pats offense will use the same "High Tempo" approach as they did last year?
Absolutely, John. No doubt in my mind. Step on the gas and go. Not all the time, but certainly we'll see that at times.
It's just part of who they are.
Do you think Robert Kraft is positioning himself for life after football? A lot of ex football guys do find their way into acting.
Yuk, yuk. Bad mistake by him.
40 minutes in and not a single question answered on the conduct of the owner? Is this a LA LA LA I can't hear you scenario?
Interesing, David, I was waiting for one. You are question No. 125 and your submission along with trader75 (No. 127) was the first I saw. I'm going to go back through now and see if I missed any. I am certainly not avoiding it, but it doesn't seem to be a hot topic among chatters today.
Quick delay while I go back to look, and then we'll pick up again with 5 minutes on the clock.
David, I checked all the questions, 133 total in this chat, and your submission and trader75's are the only ones on Robert Kraft. I wish I had someone here to confirm it, so you wouldn't just have to take my word on it, but I have no reason to mislead or lie. I've stated my opinion -- he made a mistake, it looks bad for him, I'd assume some close to him are disappointed. What else can we say?
All right, let's go for another 5...
Do you think Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will win another superbowl together before time is up?
Robert, I do think they have one more in them.
Mike, I'm confused on one thing. How is it that the Patriots have the easiest strength of schedule as ranked by the NFL/ESPN, yet somehow have to play the Jets twice, Houston, Baltimore, and the 49ers? It seems like if the AFC East features an improved Buffalo team and a resurgent NY Jets, our schedule got a lot tougher, no?
Flawed stat, grandjordanian. Strength of schedule measures last year's records, but teams change so much from year to year.
I know everyone expects the Patriots to avoid Josh Gordon in today's supplemental draft. If nobody actually places a bid for a player in the supplemental draft, does that player become a rookie free agent? Are there any restrictions from teams trying to sign a player? More curiosity, since I'm sure teams will be bidding on Gordon given his measurables and I'd be super surprised if the Pats came away with anyone today
Yes, Casey, that's exactly what happens. The Patriots once signed an OL, Chris Patrick of Nebraska, that way. He entered the supplemntal draft, didn't get picked, and landed with the Patriots for a short time.
Hi Mike! Realistically, what kind of production do you anticipate out of Brandon Lloyd? Do you anticipate any of his off-field issues to cause trouble in Foxboro? Thanks, Mikey!
Zack, I don't know why it makes me laugh, but I enjoy the references to "Mikey." Lloyd -- 70 receptions sounds right to me as a fair projection.
Hey Mike, last week the theme was "surprise player to get cut" so I'm going to give you my surprise player to make the roster. Marcus Forston. It's just a hunch, but I think he can be a solid interior rusher in sub packages, at the least. I think he duplicates what Myron Pryor gives us, so his spot would have to come at the expense of Pryor.
Thanks Ramin. Fortson will be a fun player to watch. It will come down to that consistency. Right now he is sharing a jersey number (65) with an offensive lineman (Nick McDonald). That sort of speaks to his longer odds.
Interesting that you don't think Welker can be franchised again next year. I think that has been the Patriot's plan all along especially if they are giong to roll over a lot of the $11 million cap space to next year. Then they are getting Welker for 2 yrs guaranteed for $20 million which I think is a good deal for both sides. If they still need cap room, Brady is due for a restructure/extension and I would not at all be surprised if Mankins is traded if Waters/Connelly/Koppen return to form and Vollmer is healthy. I'm of the opinion that Mankins has performed far below the value of his contract and the Pats did quite well during his holdout last year.
You could be right, Jon. I just think Welker at 11.4m is too rich for them at that position.
What kind of value would Brian Hoyer have in a potential trade?
Right now, Danny, I'd say late-round draft choice. A solid preseason potentially changes that. In the end, I think Hoyer has more value to the Patriots than what they could get back in return.
Hey Mike,Making the trip down to Miami in December. We got tickets 1st row in the corner on the Pats sideline. Are there any good Patriots gathering places to go to on Saturday evening?
Awesome Mark. There are usually tons of Patriots fans at that game. We'll toss it out on the chat/blog that week and get you the info. Maybe we'll even do something with ESPNBoston.com if you could fit it into your schedule.
Hey Mike, what are the chances Brian Waters returns? I feel like he's one of those veteran players who just really doesn't want (or need) to do another training camp but may want to play the actual season. He was great last season and could really help solidify the line.
James, I agree with your line of thinking. If I had to guess, I'll say he's back.
Mike, the blog has added two more full time writers in addition to yourself. Is this a reflection for the insatiable appetite for information regarding the Patriots?
Mark, I think that's fair. It also helps that those guys are really good. When you can add quality talent, it's smart business!
Hey Mike, Looking forward to heading up to my first pats training camp on sat 7/28. Wondering if you could give me a little "guide to training" camp. when to show up, places around to eat, best spots/times for autographs etc. etc. Feel Free to open this one up to the readers.Thanks! Keep up the good Work!
Let's end on this one. Thanks Brandon. That practice starts at 1:30 p.m. If you have time to make a full day of it, I'd plan a visit to the team's Hall of Fame, which is on site and a great spot. So come on in at 10 for when the Hall opens, give yourself a good hour or two, and then you can grab something to eat right on site before heading to the practice field. Bring binoculars if you really want to watch closely. Also a Sharpie and something for players to sign if you want those autographs. The autographs usually happen after practice and they are hard to get (come in with low expectations in that regard). Hope you enjoy it as much I do.
Thanks to all for the questions. Great stuff. Enjoy the weekend.