Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started shortly.
How is everyone doing today? Not going to waste any time. Let's get this started.
Hernandez? What is going on? Did they simply bring him back to fast and cause more damage to that ankle?
Pauly, that was indeed the case, as I understand it. Just too quick on his return, so now they are committed to making sure he's 100 percent before coming back. One thing to keep in mind this week - with Sunday game, then Thursday game, might be best to sit him out this weekend and target that next game if he's close.
Hi Mike, I would be interested to hear what you personally think are realistic expectations for Aqib Talib.
Neil, I think realistic expectations are that he starts Sunday, plays the entire game, and is one of the team's best defensive backs. How much that can help the defense, I'm not sure. But I do think it will help. Talib vs. Reggie Wayne on Sunday? Sign me up.
Mike, all season you've defended Patricia and Boyer. My question is this: if you STILL don't find fault with them, what exactly would they (or their defense) need to do in order for you to say "They are not doing a good job"?
Michael, I've defended them because it's not just them. It starts with Bill Belichick. This is Belichick's defense. These are the coaches Belichick has hired. So if we want to go on a witch hunt and point fingers about the defense, start there. I think it's unfortunate that we always need to have a scapegoat. These guys are good coaches. Take Patricia and Boyer out and put two other coaches in there -- let's say Dom Capers and Corwin Brown -- and I'll guarantee you the results won't be different. I can guarantee it because we already lived through that.
Hi Mike I know Talib has been serving a suspension so I'm wondering how much practice time he has had this week with the Pats... Do you see Akib Talib playing on Sunday? Do you think he starts and if he does what sort of impact do you see him having? Will the Pats put him on Reggie Wayne, and will Pats fans be talking about him in a positive or negative light around 8pm ET on Sunday?
Har, Talib was in the facility Monday and has been spending a lot of time there. He'll practice all week and should be ready to go Sunday. Time is of the essence here. They need him now in my view. As for if he will spoken about in a positive or negative light Sunday, I'm going to steal a Bill Belichick line, "my crystal ball is a little cloudy right now." Tough to predict the future.
Mike, let's examine the pass rush for a moment. 20 sacks walked off the roster in the offseason (Carter and Anderson). Despite a solid showing, that won't be made up by Chandler Jones. In your view, are we helping the secondary any more than last year with the pass rush, or are we essentially in the same place with different personnel? What do statistics tell us? A strong pass rush sure can cover up secondary deficiencies.
Glen, I think the pass rush is about the same as last year in the current snapshot, but it has more long-term upside because of the youth of Jones, Cunningham, Francis etc. They aren't getting much push up the middle (Wilfork/Love are more run-stuffers) in the standard base and I think that's where the free-agent decision with Fanene has hurt a bit.
P.S. -- Patriots blitz less than almost every other team in the NFL. That could help at times, but the Patriots seem reluctant to do so.
Hey Mike, since it looks like his time in KC may be up, what do you think of Matt Cassel coming back next year? He had an excellent 2008 season with Josh McD. Seems like a decent insurance policy if BB doesn't fully trust Mallett yet.
Keegan, sure, that could work, especially when considering Mallett is a free agent after the 2014 season. Always need to keep a good insurance policy in mind.
Do you think "rivalry - version 2" is born this weekend?
I don't think so, Todd. I still view the Colts as a little ways off.
Mike, Will the Patriots have any interest in the recently released Ray Edwards?
Dave, when I did my research on Edwards, I was told it wasn't a good fit in their locker room. I also think the Patriots are pretty deep at DE right now. Don't see the fit (hopefully this isn't Tully Banta-Cain, Part II, when I said I didn't envision it happening and they signed him the next day. Embarassing.)
Hi Mike, I wonder how qualified some of the previously mentioned defensive coaches are. I was amazed to see the back grounds of these coaches. I don't understand what makes them qualified? Certainly not the play of the defense this year! What does BB see in htes coaches? Your thoughts?
Brett, maybe I'm too easy on this stuff, but what makes them qualified is that they are endorsed by Bill Belichick, one of the greatest (and most demanding) coaches around. I'm not sure anyone can fully understand what it's like to work as a coach for the Patriots. It is ridiculously demanding and Belichick, self-admittedly, isn't the easiest guy to work for. You better be good or you don't last long. Now, I know we can question some of BB's judgments and his philosophy -- which I've done at times (I'd like to think respectfully) -- so that doesn't mean he always hires the right coaches. But I respect the track record. I also llisten to people like Josh McDaniels when they talk about what they learned from Belichick and what it takes to work in New England etc.
To pick apart these coaches' backgrounds strikes me as low-hanging fruit. It's like saying Fred Jackson shouldn't be an NFL player because he went to Coe College. Once you're in, you are judged based on your merits.
Mike, I'm watching the continued infighting and locker room meltdown in New Jersey with interest. It appears more and more likely that the Jets are in deep trouble as they grapple with serious issues and, as a result, may not be a viable contender in the AFC in the near term. Looking into your crystal ball, what do you make of their situation and the team's prognosis over the next couple years? Thank you, and as always, I greatly enjoy the chat.
AP, it sure looks like it's falling apart there. I view them similar to the Dolphins before this past year. Until they get the QB situation squared away, they aren't going anywhere. Sanchez isn't the answer.
Aloha Mike. Do coaches stay in close contact with other coaches? Could BB call uP Romeo Crennel or Scott Pioli and get a straight answer on Stanford Routt?
Hi Mike;When it comes to the pass rush, asking "What would Dick LeBeau do on third down" might pay dividends. Watching MNF this week, Steelers rush looked pretty scary. Do the Pats have the talent for that, or is it a coaching question? Thoughts ?
I'm with you, Lawrence. If there is one criticism I have from this viewpoint, it's the reluctance to dial up more pressure. I think I understand why -- coaches are gun-shy after so many big plays. I think they do have the talent to do that.
Mike, I feel like the Patriots might catch fire at the right time this year and go into the playoffs hot. The offense has been great but has had a few missed big plays that would make them unstoppable. Is this the feeling around the team?
Frank, I think they believe they can, but what I get from them is more of a week-to-week mindset. Single focus on that week's game. It's a short-term approach that has served them well under Belichick.
Hey Mike,Interesting matchup. Not sure the Colts have a real dangerous threat at RB, but their QB is as dangerous as anyone with his feet. He isn't afraid to take off if nothing is available, and he's strong enough to take a hit and get the extra yards. Does Patricia and Belichick keep someone on him (perhaps Mayo?) and makes sure he doesnt have a running route as a backup plan or do you expect them to focus solely on the pass, and dare Luck to run?
Real good stuff, Tim. Been studying some stuff on this, and my take is that it has to be a similar game-plan to the Seahawks/Russell Wilson. Need to make sure those edges are set and there is discipline in terms of rush lanes. Need to do it better than they did against Seattle. The battle on third-down will be key. Coaches need to be at their scheming best against him. Don't think it will be a spy, per se, but certainly have to be aware of his athleticism.
Hi Mike, does The Great and Powerful Hoodie put Talib on, well, Talib island, and tell him you cover the other team's #1 WR (this week, obviously, R. Wayne) no matter what side of the field he lines up? And, if yes, given the issues the rest of the DBs have playing man, does the rest of the secondary play zone?
Wouldn't surprise me, Tman. In a way, it could simplify things. In the end, I think what we'll see is a similar game-plan to what the Patriots did against Larry Fitzgerald in Week 2 (1 catch, 4 yards) and Antonio Gates in the past. Can't let Reggie Wayne beat you. I expect a lot of resources devoted to that.
One week at a time, but aren't weeks 14 and 15 the ones that will honestly tell us if we are a superbowl contender?
Honestly, John, I'm not even sure we can say that. Those look like the toughest games -- Texans/49ers -- but based on recent history anything can happen once you're in.
Can you comment on BB's defensive philosophy? Is he reluctant to look at teams like Houston, Chicago, even Seattle and morph towards their style of defensive play since it has worked better than his in recent years?
Seems like there is certainly a reluctance there. This is essentially the same system for the last 13 years, just tweaked a bit on a year to year basis. I can understand why some would ask the question, "Is the philosophy outdated?" Just as we saw the offense evolve in 2007, does the defense need to change to? Good discussion. I'd be more decisive on it if I felt like I could match Xs and Os with Belichick, but I do wonder: In today's NFL, can a team really get away with such limited pressure packages?
Hi Mike, I know Talib is not going to make us a great defense, but we don't need a great defense. We just need to get somewhere close to the middle of the pack. If that happens, I think we can seriously contend for the SB, in your opinion, can Talib elevate the defense to the middle of the pack?
Jim, I'm going to come across as a hypocrite here, but I'm going to level with all of you: I think they can. Yet in our "Hot Button" debate on ESPNBoston.com yesterday, I argued the other side for the assignment. When you watch the games over, it's never as bad as it seems. The defense looked really good to me over the first 15 minutes of the game Sunday. So I know they have it in them. It's just a matter of if they can do it consistently. We haven't seen that.
Hey Mike, my question is about your answer to the question about the defensive coaches backgrounds. You said that their backgrounds don't matter all that much, because "Once you're in, you are judged based on your merits". But most of these defensive coaches don't have much of a background, or any merits to back them up. I think BB is a HoF coach, but I think it's time we start evaluating him as a GM. If he brings in defensive coaches who don't have much of a background, and don't do much in the NFL, than I think he made a poor decision. He has picked some good personnel on offense, but he has picked some horrible personnel on defense and he needs to fix this if the Patriots ever want to have a decent defense.
Kyle, I understand the point, and Belichick isn't perfect. None of us are. The fact we've been talking about the same issues on defense for 5 years is troubling. But what I'm trying to say, and not doing a good job enough of conveying, is that he's had coaches on staff who had a resume with more promiment schools/teams on it, and the results haven't been any different. Where was Eric Mangini coaching before he joined Belichick's staff? Josh McDaniels? They went to John Carroll University. Not exactly a football powerhouse.
Hi Mike,With a lot of Ds struggling this season (Saints, Giants, Packers) and the Pats looking like a lock to make the playoffs do you think we as fans, and some of your reporting brethren are making more of this teams issues than is real? Obviously we would rather have the Bears or Texans D, just as they would rather have our Offense. Is this just a case of an extremely spoiled fanbase riding an unprecedented 12 year stretch?
Will, I understans the frustration about the defense. It's fair in my view. I'd just say that there are probably 20 of the NFL's 32 teams that switch places with the Patriots in a heartbeat. That's good context for anyone to keep in mind.
Hey Mike, Thanks for the blog, I really can't get enough of it! I refresh the page every 10 minutes to see if a new post is up. I've learned a lot about the Xs and Os of football in the past few years since I've started reading the blog--that's mainly because of your commitment to objective reporting/sportswriting and pure football.I have seemingly come to terms with the fact that this defense can't stop anyone from staying in a game, which leads to my question: What kind of an impact do you think a healthy-ish Aaron Hernandez will have on this offense when he returns? Our offense is great as it is, but there are lulls in the game where nothing happens. Do you think his impact will affect those points in the games? Do you think he will affect our late game offensive struggles? We lost the SB last year bc we were down a healthy Gronk and had NO run game. Now we have a more consistent run game and more tight ends, albeit hobbled 87/81. Can this offense overcome *this* defense's inability to closeout teams outside of lucky/gift turnovers?
That's a high compliment, Andrew. And it means a lot. Xs and Os are tough, and admittedly it hasn't been a strong point for me in the past. But I think spending four years in the Tedy Bruschi School of Football has really helped me grasp things better, and I always say, there is nothing like covering a Patriots team from a learning-the-game standpoint. Listening to BB talk football has opened my eyes in many ways. One of the first times we talked, he explained two-gapping to me by getting up out of his leather chair, getting behind the chair, and thrusting his arms into the chair to explain what he was looking for ...
... As for Hernandez, I see him making a big difference because of the versatility he provides. They've trended heavily toward the 3-WR package in his absence and I personally think they are a more lethal/more balanced offense out of the 2-TE stuff.
can they curb Aqib Talib's bad habits
Bily, I don't think you can change a person's character. But you can put him in a strong environment and hope it brings out the best of him from a competitive standpoint. I think that's what we're looking at here with Talib. No team has 53 Boy Scouts. If they do, I think they'd be 0-16.
Hey Mike! Does McCourty start at safety or CB? It is tough because it seems he is the best free safety on the roster, but also the second best CB (with Talib's arrival). Where would his skills most help the defense in your opinion?
James, I think he's staying at safety for now. Until Patrick Chung comes back, then they might have to make a decision. Chung seems like a longshot to play in the next few weeks, unless I'm misreading it.
Hi Mike: When will BB raid the Ravens or Steelers scout department? They know how to evaluate defensive talent!
Leonard, it's amazing to me how perception differs depending on zip code. I kid you not, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was being ripped in some Pittsburgh circles earlier this year for not addressing an aging defense. And as for the Ravens, Ozzie Newsome has had some swings and misses early in the draft (e.g. Sergio Kindle, anyone?). This is to take nothing away from the Ravens or Steelers. And clearly, BB and the Patriots aren't perfect. But Chandler Jones looks like a pretty good pick to me. You?
The PAts defense has been awful for years, but there is talent on that roster. Is this a function of BB's schemes being outdated and failure to adapt on his part?
AJ, I think it could be a little bit of both. Sort of alluded to it earlier, if I felt like I could match Xs and Os with BB, I'd be more decisive on the scheme/philopshy stuff. But it does make you wonder.
Just taking a few minute break from being better than everyone else. I'm looking forward to Sunday.
Welcome to the chat, Bill. I always wondered if you read. :)
(Editor's note: That's not really Bill Belichick.)
Can we expect an extension for Vollmer soon? I was surprised to see the bye week pass and no word on it.
Ramin, I'm not sure what the goals on both sides are with Vollmer, and I'd have to get myself up to speed on the franchise-tag numbers there, but he's playing at a very high level right now. There is always concern with the back injury. Those are some of the factors in play. I'd think the Patriots will want to keep him.
Chandler Jones gets all the attention, but don't you think Ninkovich has been underrated? He is supplying pressure and putting together a great year.
I think Ninkovich is a solid player. Vrabel-like, in some ways. I've seen him play better than he did Sunday against the Bills, and would expect a stronger performance from him this week.
Hey, Mike. I don't understand the hype with Andrew Luck. His numbers seem mediocre this year at best. Prone to red zone INTs. Seems like he has one 400+ game and the media is ready to crown him the next King of the NFL. Am I missing something? Also, if it's not really him getting the wins for the Colts, which part is the one to worry about the most this weekend?
Chris, the media rush to judgment? I didn't realize that happens these days :)
Seriously, if you have a chance, read Tedy Bruschi's analysis in this week's "Bruschi's Breakdown" on Luck. I thought he captured it. Quick summary: Stats won't wow you, but consistency does, as does play in critical situations.
Mike, please comment on the Tebow bashing from the "unnamed Jets". I could never imagine that stuff going on in organizations like NE, Balt, Pitt, etc... It wouldn't be tolerated. Is Rex to be blamed for not enforcing discipline?
Drew, Rex Ryan talked about being a transparent organization in the past. He did so in comparison to the Patriots. This doesn't reflect well on him. Not a big fan of the unnamed stuff -- whether it's downgrading a player, or even having a scout talk about a team or player. If you're going to say something, put your name behind it. Or at least, allow your credentials to be attached to the quotes.
I think Spikes "punk" rep is a great thing, your thoughts ?
Rodney Harrison, Part II -- If he's on your team, you love him. If he's not on your team, he's a "punk."
How many hours a week do you work during the season?
0. Doesn't feel like work.
I understand how Aqib would not be available for an interview - but how about his agent. I thought we would at least get the obligatory "Aqib enjoyed TB and wishes them nothing but the best, but he is excited to be in New England and do what he can" from his agent. I have to think that all the reporters contacted his agent and he would not give a quote. Why the silence from his agent?
Trying to cooperate with the Patriots' desires.
For all the troubles that the secondary is having, the cornerbacks are actually playing decently. In my opinion, its the safeties that have been inconsistent-mostly due to injuries- and its had a trickle down effect. The patriots were giving up the long pass at an alarming rate, so to shore things up in the deep end of the field we've been playing our 2 safeties deep, and basically surrendering the middle of the field. How could talib even possibly help with that!? Idk mike, i think the only indication that the defense will be ok is if mccourty goes back to corner. That way, at least we know were healthy, with everyone playing their actual positions. Thought?
I'd say it depends on the game, p. I thought Dennard struggles last week, for example. But I'd agree with the overall thought that for the second year in a row, safety has been a trouble spot.
Who gets your vote for most "superhuman" Patriot? I say Wilfork. For a guy His size with that exhausting of a position, he seems ageless.
Amy, I'll have to go with Gronk. Otherwise, he might spike me.
Do you read other sports websites, other than ESPN? If so, which websites?
I try to read any website where the person has an informed opinion, James. One of my favorite quotes came from Terry Francona, in a WEEI interview: "Anyone can have an opinion. But it takes work to have an informed opinion."
Hi Mike,Love your chat-I thing you do a wonderful job of breaking things down for the average fan. My question is: What do you make of Brady's quote after last week';s game "The defense really saved us". He can't really believe that? Do you sense some frsutration on his part that so much is placed on his shoulders with the terrible play of the defense and he is just trying to deflect inevitable criticism from the defense? Without him, we would lose very game 30-10! Thanks!
Courtney, I enjoy chatting each week. A big part of it is tied to creating a community here on ESPNBoston.com where fans with the same interest can congregate. I think Brady really believed it based on the end of the game. No one is harder on himself than Brady. He was fuming the offense couldn't close out the game.
What's going on with Welker? Did he re-injure the ankle vs. Buffalo? Is he in any danger of missing this week's game?
Ankle. Is he in danger of missing game? Tough to tell right now, but when it comes to toughness, I'd put him in the Logan Mankins category. That's why I'd bet on him playing.
Can you tell us your favorite Tom Brady interaction? Thanks! Keep up the amazing Blog!!
Maybe not a favorite, but a quick relay from last week. It's the end of the week, and I say a quick hello to Brady at his locker. It's a good time and he starts to talk about how all his kids were going to be together for the weekend. He touches on how much that means to him. Then he flips the conversation and asks, "How do you like ESPN?" That's Brady -- never a one-sided deal. I think he's a genuine guy from what I've experienced, and has an interest in others as long as it doesn't get in the way of the goal -- to win football games.
Let's go for a few more here...
Has Darius Butler improved him game since joining the Colts? they're 6-3 but I'm nt sure how well the defense or he is playing.
Tim, I just saw last Thursday's game. Looked like he played well. But one game against Blaine Gabbert isn't enough to say anything decisively.
What's the deal with Bolden? He seemed like a solid back at the beginning of the year and now he's disappeared.
Matt, disappointing situation with Bolden. He's accountable. Three more games to serve on suspension. When he comes back, he can expect some hard, fair questions.
I see that Petrus received a 2-year deal. Who will he replace on the 53, and do you think that he'll factor into future plans?
Matt, right now they need him for depth. He is already on the 53, having replaced LB Jeff Tarpinian. I think when they activate Aqib Talib (likely Saturday), Malcolm Williams probably is waived to make room.
What's been the personal highlight for you covering this team so far this year?
Kyle, I'd say Matt Light's gesture to tell his story about Crohn's Disease. That meant a lot to me, on several levels.
Any word on what Bolden was suspended for? Was it "Adderall"? Seems like that is the new scapegoat.
Kyle, we don't know specifics, just that he violated the NFL's policy. This is his second suspension in two years (one at Ole Miss for violating team rules, one in the NFL for violating league policy) and it leads to natural questions about his judgment.
Hi Mike. Is the team that down on Fells? While perhaps not showing up in the passing game as much as might have been hoped, he seemed to do a very good job as a run blocker, and at least forced a team to cover him as a receiver. I wondered if his relative absence last game was linked to our struggles to get consistent run production.
Agree, Matt. Fells looks strong as a run blocker, but something isn't adding up there. Three snaps last week, playing behind Shiancoe and Hoomanawanui raised eyebrows to me.
Could you see Ridley, dare I say, win the AFC or NFL rushing title?
I can't, Dwight, because there are tougher challenges ahead in terms of defenses to face.
Is that what they meant in London? Spike 'Mike' and he thought they said spike the 'mic'
LOL, Dan. Very clever.
Hi Mike,Eric Mangini actually went to Wesleyan University, which is Belichick's alma mater, and has one of the worst football teams in Division 3. Just wanted to clarify that as it's my alma mater as well.
Right, Jeff, which sort of reflects my viewpoint. I'm not saying I'm always right, but the scapegoat stuff -- and attacking a coach's background based on where he's coached -- doesn't really fly with me.
Mike, I really didn't like the combination of Gregory and McCourty as safeties. It felt like we lost a lot of thumping power over the middle of the field and didn't really gain any better safety coverage. Lots of missed tackles by Gregory, do we see the same combo on Sunday or will Wilson be back with McCourty?
I don't think we'll see Wilson, Steven. Those long-bomb touchdowns he gave up are probably going to lead to him being relegated to the dimeback role in my view.
When Kraft has you over for dinner do you ever ask him about Boyer? LOL.
15 yards, unsportsmanlike conduct.
Hi Mike, thanks for all the insight-without-the-drama you provide day in and day out. How do you explain Vince Wilfork being 4th in pro bowl voting so far???
A combination of Ngata's reputation, Atkins' excellent year, and perhaps people not fully grasping what Wilfork does (doesn't always show up with stats).
Breaking News: The Patriots defensive coaches aren't perfect. Let's all move along now.
Dave, let's end on this one. It's a good debate and I hope it doesn't come across that I am dismissing it. I enjoy discussing it. Is the coaching as good as it once was? Probably not. But I don't think the primary reason for the defensive struggles is the coordinator or assistant coaching. It's deeper than that.
Thanks to all for a lively chat. Fun, as always. Next week, we'll switch some things up because it's Thanskgiving. Once I get finalized details on the chat, will pass along.
So I want to take this opportunity to say Happy Thanksgiving to all chatters. We don't always agree, but we are bound by our interest in the Patriots/NFL, and we discuss it with respect and passion. That's the way I like it. Catch up soon.