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August 16, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Moderator
  (11:57 AM)

Just a quick note that Mike might be a couple of minutes late. Looking at a 12:05 start.

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

Good afternoon. Apologies on the delay. Been running in quicksand all morning.

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

Just ran into Gillette Stadium here to the press box and realized I'm probably not in good enough condition to pass the team's conditioning test. But that shouldn't stop us from chatting until 12:55 today.

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

Two more public training camp practices, with Friday as the last day. We anticipate Bill Belichick potentially throwing the players a bone today/tomorrow (e.g. if an o-lineman catches a punt, no morning meetings Saturday). That will be something to monitor and could reflect how pleased Belichick is with this camp. I think he likes the work the team has put in.

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

Let's roll...

Sean (Killingworth, CT)

How do you see the backfield shaking out? Do Ridley and Vereen complement each other and could this be a 50/50 backfield?

Mike
  (12:11 PM)

Sean, a few weeks ago I would have said Ridley in the top spot, taking the majority of snaps (similar to Green-Ellis with a team-high 34 percent in 2011). But I think Vereen has closed the gap. Don't think they have the answers right now. More competition to be played out but I think they'll both be up over the 25 percent playtime numbers.

Sean (Killingworth, CT)

Mike, What's the biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball this year?

Mike
  (12:11 PM)

Sean, would have to say offensive line. More so at the tackle spot than the interior.

John (Washington D.C.)

If Brian Waters does return to the team would you anticipate him returning after all the preseason games have been played? When did he come in last year? If he misses all the preseason games and returns after, do you think BB would be comfortable allowing him to play week 1?

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

John, I really don't have a great read on Waters other than my belief it could go in any direction. Part of me reads into Dan Connolly being more locked into right guard in recent weeks as an indication that the team isn't planning on Waters being back. But then you consider that Waters came in the week before the season opener last year, and why wouldn't he be able to do that again? Just a hard one to assess without all the facts. If Waters has a personal issue that is keeping him at home in Texas, it completely alters the picture.

Mike
  (12:14 PM)

One follow-up: If BB thought Waters was the team's best choice in Week 1, assuming he came back, I don't think he'd hesitate. He played him last season in that circumstance too.

T. (Maine)

Mike, really enjoyed the piece about players who need to step up and prove something the next couple of weeks. On the flip side, instead of bubble range players with something to prove, who in your opinion would be 5 players with something to lose the next two weeks and fall into the "surprise cuts" category?

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

Good one, T. Players with something to lose who could be surprise cuts: WR Jabar Gaffney, QB Ryan Mallett, DL Brandon Deaderick, WR Deion Branch, RB Danny Woodhead (that's really stretching it, but you asked for 5).

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

I will have all five of those players on the roster on our next projection, but I was playing along.

Jonathan (Brighton)

Hey Mike, I'm feeling pretty good about our defense after glimpses at our first rounders, Dont'a and Chandler. My questions are, how much of an impact do you think they will have to our defense, and our defensive game planning? Do you share my self-tempered exuberance after not allowing a TD to the Saints? And how much do you think the loss of Fletcher will affect us? (I was sad to see him go down.)

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

Jonathan, I think Jones and Hightower are Day 1 starters. Thus, they will be a big part of the game-planning, and what the Patriots do. It's dangerous to read too much into the Saints game, but there were some positive signs there, for sure. As for Fletcher, I think the loss hurts more from a special teams/defensive depth standpoint.

Thomas [via mobile]

Mike, If season were to start right now who do you have as the Patriots starting DE's?

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Hi Thomas, I think we're looking at Chandler Jones and Ron Ninkovich. Seems pretty set right now.

young johnson [via mobile]

Hey Reiss What are our future plans with Brian Hoyer and is there a way we can trade him to get much needed value for our team? How would you sum up BB's analogy for sitting the "Dual 3"?

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Hoyer's contract expires after this season and the plans would be for him to provide valuable experience in 2012 and then see what happens. I don't see another team stepping up to trade for him at this time.

Chris (Pitt) [via mobile]

Mike, with the o line in a bit of a tough spot do you see a late trade coming for a veteran

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Chris, if the right situation arises, I could certainly see it happening. The issue, as I see it, is that teams usually don't trade away productive offensive linemen. As we look around the league, a lot of teams are struggling with depth at that spot.

Avery (Amsterdam)

Hey Mike, its noon over here and I'll probably miss your live chat. I want to know about my man Ridley. The big knock on him was ball security after he coughed it up twice late last year. How has he looked in practice thus far. Also, if we made a play for Demps, who would he supplant? Bolden, Woodhead, or a FB?

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Avery, thanks for the long-distance connection. Ridley has had some ups and downs in this area. The other day, he had a missed connection on a handoff, and while it might not have been his fault, given the recent history it was notable. I thought Ridley ran well in the preseason opener and that wasn't an issue. On Demps, I don't think his presence would affect any of the four RBs. But it would more likely affect a third TE or FB.

Marc (London) [via mobile]

Hi Mike, a follow up from Tuesdays mailbag, as Shiancoe is not PUP eligible, would u agree there's almost no chance he makes the 53 man roster? Thanks!

Mike
  (12:22 PM)

Marc, I do think it will be difficult to put him on the roster. Have to go back to what I believe Bill Parcells once said: "Can't make the club from the tub."

Corky (chasing blue fin in the Alantic)

Mike, been out of touch fishing, please up date me on how the defense is looking;any new player stand outs???

Mike
  (12:24 PM)

Well, Corky, I hope your line has had a little better performance than the Patriots' offensive line. Oh, that's bad. Sorry. Couldn't resist. As for the defense, some promising signs. Probably the biggest thing to know is that they're playing a little differently this preseason -- basically taking off one of their big 5-technique DEs and adding a hybrid linebacker/defensive end in his place. A little more speed on the field. Makes them a little more flexible. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower look like Day 1 starters in the front 7. Kyle Arrington is holding off Ras-I Dowling at RCB. And Steve Gregory is pairing with Patrick Chung at safety.

Nigel Mckeown (London)

Hi Mike,After watching some clips of the 2011 season, i'm getting excited about the potential Ridley and Vereen can bring to the offense. Both should be alot more lively than BJGE at making sharp cuts and turning plays into big gainers. I enjoyed Law Firms patience in finding the hole, but hopefully we now have two guys who can make some big plays out of the shotgun and 2 back sets. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

Nigel, I'd echo those thoughts. Really respected what Green-Ellis brought to the Patriots, but felt like the decision to not match the Bengals' offer in free agency was smart because of these two young backs. The Patriots should be more explosive in the running game.

Dr. B. (Falmouth)

Hi, Mike-Love the blog! I know it is difficult to get any significant information from Coach Belichek at his news conferences but I wonder if any of the media has tried a follow up question to his standard reply of "(The Player) did some good things and did some things that could have been better." I would suggest asking: "Coach, could you give us an example of some of the things (the player) did well or needs to be improved?" Maybe this line of questioning has been attempted but I have not heard or read it before. Just askin'.Dr. B.

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

Thanks for the suggestion, Dr. B. Duly noted.

Dee (PA)

Mike, Did Will Allen play any snaps in the first preseason game? Also what's happening with him in camp? Do you think he makes team? It would be nice if he did make it cus he can play CB and Safety like Tavon Wilson and Moore but think he's strictly CB now. We might need him just in case any of the DBs get injured but hope everyone stays healthy. Thanks

Mike
  (12:27 PM)

Dee, Will Allen has had a very quiet camp. 19 snaps in preseason opener, all in the second half. I'd say he's on the outside looking in right now, unless there is an injury at the position.

Mike
  (12:27 PM)

Going to grab the video link to this week's P.A.T. feature, which included a 1-on-1 interview with Will Allen ...

Mike
  (12:27 PM)

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4727182/video-reiss-p-a-t-with-will-allen

Har Journalist (Vancouver, Canada back from London)

Hi Mike Which young lesser known Patriots player has impressed you the most early on during training camp? Who should Pats fans expect to see big things from this season who may not have done much in his career thus far? Have a good one thanks Mike

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

Har, great to have you back on the chat. Will we be getting together on the Seattle trip this year? I'd like to host a tweet-up there, if possible. My pick for this one would be RB Brandon Bolden. I think he's on the club.

Ettienne LaFitte (Fer-de-Lance,LA)

Well I heard the team is doing pretty good wait they are good anyways. Well whoa??s getting kicked off the team Gaffney or Donte Stallworth?

Mike
  (12:30 PM)

Tough call. Would have thought it was Stallworth as of a week ago, but now Gaffney pulled up at practice Wednesday and Stallworth might be making a move. I'd still lean toward Gaffney making the cut, but don't feel as strongly about that as I did previously.

Shana O'Hara (Atlanta,GA)

BB doesn't usually talk up rookies. The last one I can recall is Jerod Mayo. What are the chances Hightower, Jones and even Tavon Wilson contribute heavily on D?

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

Shana, if I had to estimate playtime numbers (assuming good health at their respective positions), I'd go Jones at 65-70 percent, Hightower at 45-50 percent, and Wilson at 25-30 percent. Then it's up to them to do something with those opportunities. All have shown signs they could do so.

Conrad Hauser (St. Louis,MO)

Hey Mike, long time reader thanks for the constant updates and inside info. I had a question regarding Jeremy Ebert, he hasn't been mentioned at all and I was wondering, with the depth at the WR position, what are his chances of actually making the team (assuming he hasn't already been cut and it wasn't reported)

Mike
  (12:32 PM)

Conrad, I'd anticipate Ebert being on the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers. Going to dig you up a quick update on him ...

Mike
  (12:32 PM)

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4727078/checking-in-with-jeremy-ebert

Gabriel Kelly (Boston,MA)

Hi Mike Do you think Nate Solder can be coached up to play better, or is it an issue of strength and foot speed? On a side note... I was glad to see Chandler Jones look good against someone other than Solder.

Mike
  (12:33 PM)

Gabriel, I absolutely think Solder can be coached up. A lot of good stuff to work with there.

Alison Hart-Burnett (Martha's Vineyard,MA)

I have read that Matthew Slater's roster spot could be a factor in Deon Branch not making the team. I have never been that impressed with Slater's contribution in his time with the Pats and I would much rather have Branch. Any thoughts? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

Alison, Slater is the Patriots' best special teams player. I don't think it's a Slater vs. Branch type deal, but Slater sometimes gets lumped into the "WR" category because that is his "position" if special teams isn't factored into the equation. But he plays so seldom there (3.3 percent of the snaps in 2011). Branch, since returning to full practices this week, has looked sharp.

Wayne Sneedon (Auburn,AL)

Why can't the Patriots find a way to motivate Spikes? Injuries and all, the guy's mind is not always focused, and that's where the team and organization can help. We need Spikes to show up.

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

Wayne, I don't think it's a matter of motivation. Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson is one of the best in that area. Sometimes I watch Pepper Johnson from the media tent and I almost want to put on a helmet and get out there. Thankfully, I resist the urge. ... But seriously, my thought on Spikes is that everyone is wired a little differently. Spikes is definitely unique. I think Bill Belichick even alluded to something along those lines (more football-based than personality-based) when he talked about how he was an interesting player to coach in Spikes' rookie season.

Kendrick (Dallas,TX) [via mobile]

How has tavon Wilson looked in camp cause he wasn't a hot comdity in the draft? Also is there any signs of devin mccourty coming back to life to being a productive player this year?

Mike
  (12:40 PM)

Kendrick, I'd say Wilson has been consistent -- on the field for every practice (very important for development). It hasn't always looked great, but that's probably what you'd expect at this stage. I see him as a dime contributor at the "money" position -- which is like a weakside linebacker in some respects (credit: Nick Saban explanation in his recent news conference). On McCourty, I think he's been a little up and down in this camp, but I'll say this -- the ups have been 2010-like. So it tells you it's still in there. But will it be there consistently? Still remains to be seen.

DonT (ATL)

What position(s) in particular do you think the Pats might look to another team's cast-offs during the final cut-down to 53? From what I've been reading, we seem to have some pretty good depth at most positions, including secondary. Depending on what happens with Waters, Volmer, etc. I could see where the Pats might target offensive line for sure. Any other positions jump out at you?

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Don, the o-line for sure, maybe like 2010 when they claimed tackle Steve Maneri on waivers from the Texans. Otherwise, maybe a LB or returner.

Carl Greer (Concord,MA)

What can the Patriots do to, greatly, improve upon their running game?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

Carl, that's a broad one, but the first thought was that the more explosive talent at RB, coupled with some solid blocking we saw in the preseason opener, is a sign that they could be on their way to doing so.

Matt (Bristol CT)

Hey Mike, do you think Nate Ebner's apparent comfortability on defense gives him more of a chance to make the team?

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

Matt, I like Ebner to make the club. Would have tought that regardless of his comfort level on defense -- he's here mostly for special teams -- but the ball skills on D have been a pleasant surprise from this view.

Ramin (San Marcos, TX)

Outside of Lloyd and Gregory, who do you see being the best free agent pickup this year?

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

Joseph Addai. LOL.

Mike
  (12:45 PM)

For those who might not be aware, I wrote this back in June:

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

"When all is said and done, wouldn't be surprised if Joseph Addai is one of the Patriots' best signings in free agency this year. Hearing positive things about Addai in recent weeks as the fit seems right -- a low-key, versatile, mentor-type professional to pair with younger backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, as well as Danny Woodhead."

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Those young backs loved Addai. The coaching staff -- not so much. Reminder to Reiss -- the next time you write something like that, might be better to consider what the coaches are thinking, not just the players. End result of the play: 15-yard penalty, loss of down, and a benching for next week's game.

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

Now, to seriously answer the question, on best free-agent signing, the first thought that came to mind was Bobby Carpenter. Coverage linebacker. Smart.

Jon (Philadelphia)

Mike, do you really see a point in the Patriots carrying a full back? From this view, with their two TEs and multiple looks at WR, they are going to have a hard enough time finding time to get one RB on the field, let alone a FB too. Wouldn't they be better off cutting all the FBs and letting Herandez or even Gronk go in the backfield to handle any FB duties that come up?

Mike
  (12:49 PM)

Jon, I didn't have a fullback on the last two roster projections we did. I'd be a hypocrite if I said Visanthe Shiancoe would have a hard time making it when he's injured, and then put injured FB Spencer Larsen on. Let's see if Larsen can make his way back next week.

Joseph King (Andover)

Mike,Do you see any players on the bubble who the Pats might want to keep on the practice squad but might get scooped up by another team? Do you consider this in making your roster projections?

Mike
  (12:50 PM)

Absolutely Joseph. We saw the Patriots get plucked pretty good at the roster cutdown last year. Brandon Bolden and Jeremy Ebert were two that came to mind. That's why I'd put Bolden on the roster.

Joe (South Portland, Maine)

One of the most intriguing situations in camp to me is the health of Dan Koppen. This guy was considered one of the top centers in the league a couple years ago, and he comes back healthy to fight for a roster spot? What happened to cause such a decline for him?

Mike
  (12:52 PM)

Joe, I think he's still getting his legs under him. Those feet are so important up front and you also need that strength. I felt like the first week-plus of camp, Koppen was trying to get things back up and working again. He's been better of late, but he's obviously not the same player he was earlier in his career.

Adam (Minneapolis)

Hi Mike - From a journalist's perspective, what's the most fun / least fun thing about training camp in your mind?

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Adam, most fun is watching the practices. You can really learn a lot about the team. Least fun -- being restricted on what can be reported.

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Let's take a few more and then I'll run down to Bill Belichick's news conference.

Dave (RI)

Mike, Do you think the Pats will fill their two roster spots? Seems to me with 3 games in 10 days they need bodies

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Yes, Dave. Wouldn't be surprised if one of them is Jeff Demps, the RB/returner from Florida.

John C (Boston)

Mike - Love the blog and your coverage in general. I follow you, Field, and Mike R on Twitter, but I am curious if you had recommedations for others I should follow.

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

John, thanks for those thoughts. I'd recommend going to some of the other local sites (Globe, Herald, Comcast etc.) and picking off reporters' Twitter accounts.

Mike
  (12:58 PM)

I generally don't follow the other reporters because it starts to become too much on this end. There was one time last year where I was waiting on confirmation to report something, saw another reporter tweet it, and I rushed my reporting to keep up and it ended up being wrong. My fundamentals broke down and at that point I said it wasn't worth it. The other reason I don't is that I don't want to be accused of stealing someone else's thoughts. There is so much swirling around these days.

Roberto (i swear last question submission) [via mobile]

Hey mike, any chance you'll make a stop for autographs and or a photo opp during the home opener sept 16th?

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Roberto, if we think there would be some interest in a "tweet-up" or something like that, maybe we could do it the Saturday before at Troy Brown's Patriots Hall of Fame induction. Would you be there for that?

George (Cananda)

Will patriots 19-0 please answer my question

Mike
  (1:00 PM)

I don't see it, George. That seems like it's asking a lot.

Cameron Felice (New York)

Hello Mike, I've been watching closely to the reports from the preseason and through camp and i'm hearing alot about how Donte' Stallworth is starting to look more and more like he will be a bigger part of the offense this year amid the earlier speculation that he would be on the outside looking in. what is your take on this?

Mike
  (1:01 PM)

I still have my doubts, Cameron, but I do think Stallworth has had a good camp. Gaffney's recent injury -- pulling up during Wednesday's practice -- could alter the picture.

Jared (Boston)

Mike, does Fanene injury status allow somebody like Ron Brace and/or Gerard Warren to make the club? Also, wouldn't the switch to 4-3/ more sub packagae increase the value of D-lineman rather than say purely speical teams linebackers (Koutvides, White, Tarpinian, etc.)?

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Jared, I'd say Brace. He's flashed at times in camp. And I do agree on the second part. Could see 10-11 DLs on here, with the * that a few of those (Ninkovich, Jones, Scott) could technically be considered linebackers.

grandjordanian (San Diego, CA)

Mike, taking a step back, is there any better position for a fan to be in right now than we are with the Pats? Coming off a SB loss so we have something to prove. Top QB and the best coach and ownership in football. A swath of young talent to get excited about, new offensive toys for Brady, speedy RBs we haven't had..well, ever, and a defense that was 31st in the league that has just gotten an infusion of youth from the draft and returns from injury. Question marks aside, I have to say, thankful to be a Pats fan. After all, we could be talking about the Vikings right now.

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

Let's end on this one. Good perspective. I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan and just had an exhilerating experience at his Wednesday night show at Fenway. One of the points I made going in was that I knew it was going to be a great show -- 3-plus hours of energy and passion coming right at you. Where else can I get such a guarantee? Then I thought about the things connected to my life/interests that have been "guarantees" in recent years and the only other thing I could think of is the Patriots being a perennial contender. Then I thought how impressive that is given the rules of the NFL being designed to promote parity. Has made covering the team more enjoyable.

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

Let's end it here. Bill Belichick's news conference about to begin. Let's plan on chatting again next Thursday, live from Tampa.