Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started shortly.
It is telling me that the auto update is on. We'll kick it off a little early today. Thought the last two-plus days on the Patriots beat were interesting. Have a lot of thoughts to share. Looking forward to our chat as always.
Hi Mike, would you be surprised if by the start of the season, Ras-I Dowling had taken over Dennard's spot as the second CB?
No, Matt, that wouldn't surprise me. I'm not saying it will happen. But my view of Dowling's place on the roster has changed after watching these last four weeks. I previously estimated he might be on the bubble. I no longer see it that way. He'll still have to perform when the pads come on, but it looked to me like he had a very nice spring.
Hi Mike, was it possible to evaluate the pass-rushers without the pads/contact? I'm wondering if you could see any improvement in Chandler Jones or Justin Francis in terms of burst or power. Relatedly, as the depth chart currently stands, would you agree that Francis is first in line to play that sub-rusher role, or is Cunningham ahead of him?
Matt, I think you can evaluate the pass rushers to a degree -- if you're a coach. I think it's a lot harder, in this setting, to do so as a media member. What I would say about Chandler Jones is that he looks to be in good condition. That's the key right now, and then if he stays healthy, I could envision him "taking the next step." What they're doing in these offseason camps, without pads, is more technique stuff. Hard for me to judge/assess that from the media hill. And obviously the strength coaches have drills that measure explosion etc. All reports on Chandler Jones, in that regard, are positive as I understand it. On Francis, I think it's closer to even between him and Cunningham, with Francis getting a slight edge from what I saw.
Hi Mike, You're probably sick of the Tebow questions... But how do you see the Pats using him? I know everyone has kept mum on the topic and I know he's listed as the 3rd QB right now... But I feel like we wouldn't have signed him without having specific packages in mind. I know Bill loves versatile players. Do you see Tebow as a TE or FB perhaps?Thanks!
Chelsea, I think the usage part (TE, FB) wasn't why the Patriots signed him. The reason was to see if he could fit as a third QB. If they see enough progress in that area, then I could see them possibly tinkering with different things as a way in which his value might be increased to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. I'm not even sure he'll make the team. So when I look at the Tebow signing, I think it starts with the No. 3 QB job (they only kept 2 last year). That's where the foundation is being built. If there is enough momentum, maybe then we can get into the other stuff. I don't think the other stuff was on the Patriots' minds, from a primary perspective, in making this move.
How naw jaime collins looked in practice? I see him as a lesser version of Von Miller, not overly big but is fast with a quick first step and can get to the qb. Do u see the same comparison amongst the two?
Kendrick, I think Miller is a special player in terms of his explosion, and entered the NFL at a much higher/further along point than Collins. Could Collins possibly close the gap and do some of the things Miller does? I wouldn't rule it out. But that seems like a pretty lofty comparison to make from this view. As for how Collins has looked in practice, I think he's done everything he needs to do. Not sure if you saw Rob Ninkovich's comments about him, but here they were: "Very athletic kid" who has "come in and been that quiet guy trying to absorb everything and learn everything. I think he's done a good job coming in and doing his best."
Mike:I would have to say there are major concerns at WR. Jenkins is not the answer to help this team get over the top. All reports on Dobson have been pretty bad. I still don't get the pick. He was average in conference USA. Please help me get off the ledge that this is not going to be a huge issue all year. Their three best "weapons" have a long history of getting hurt.. Aaron has never played 16 games. DA has played half the games the last two years.. We all know about Gronk... How does Bill feel about building a whole o around players that can't stay on the field... This is the first year I feel better about the d.... Think it's going to be a huge step back.
Mike, you say "please help me get off the ledge" and I will do that right now. My pleasure. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: "It's only June." ...
... Now that we have that out of the way, I think it's a good area to pinpoint as one in which there are signficant questions. I think Danny Amendola looks terrific. I tweeted yesterday that a general observation after four weeks was that it's Amendola at WR and then a noticeable drop-off. If Amendola is on the field, he will probably be the least of the concerns with the WRs. After that, a lot of uncertainty. Thankfully for the Patriots, there is time to get it sorted out. I think Julian Edelman is going to be a key player for them. When healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if he's lining up opposite Amendola.
... The uneasy part, however, is Edelman's availability over the long haul. Can he stay healthy? If relying on him, is that a good thing for the Patriots? Fair questions. I am probably a little higher on Edelman than others. I thought he was coming on last year before getting hurt.
Mike, in short, what is the most striking difference between the minicamp last year and this year?
Oh, MarkJ, maybe the 80-plus reporters who were present for this one because of a certain third-string quarterback.
I feel like you set me up for that one.
Good morning Mike, Would you be able to give us a list of the players currently on the roster who have practice squad eligibility? Thanks and appreciate your work!
Great idea Jay. I'm going to get it together and post on our blog on ESPNBoston.com over the next few days.
How much of a factor can Aaron Dobson be right away at the start of the season. I know with Gronk's health being a question we need someone on the offensive side to step up and make a difference and if not Aaron Dobson than who?
Dominic, Dobson didn't break through as I would have anticipated in the spring camps. He wasn't even on the field for the mandatory minicamp for undisclosed reasons. I don't think it has been the smoothest start for him. But here's the key point: There's still time for him to turn it around. If I'm Dobson, I'm committing myself to these next five weeks to ensure that I come to training camp in the best condition possible. Time is ticking away. This train moves fast. If he's going to contribute, I think a key is being on the field for that first day of training camp. ...
... I just realized that I didn't answer more of the question from "Mike (Boston)" on Dobson in terms of why the Patriots selected him in the second round (59th round). I think the team liked his combination of size, speed, smarts and hands. As much as you can tell from this perspective, he seems like a good kid. Before the draft, I thought Markus Wheaton might have been a better fit for them -- that was the prospect I was most enamored with this year -- but I could also see what they were thinking with Dobson. Maybe some of the things other teams had concerns with regarding Dobson -- such as his refinement as a WR, and maybe some toughness questions -- didn't seem to be as much of an issue for the Patriots. We'll see how it turns out.
Hey Mike, After the tease that is mini-camp, I really can't wait for training camp to start. I know this is asking a lot at this point, but if you had to make a guess, who would be your surprise starter on offense and who would be your surprise starter on defense for Game 1 in Buffalo. Interesting to see if you have the same opinion a week or two into training camp!
Surprise starter on offense: Julian Edelman. Would that qualify as a surprise?
Surprise starter on defense a lot tougher because the spots look pretty well set if everyone is healthy. Maybe a Dennard/Arrington/Dowling question at RCB and a possible Spikes/Fletcher question at MLB. But I don't feel great about that one.
Hey Mike,Although it may make life a bit more difficult for everyone involved, do you think BB believes a complete turnover at WR may be a necessary evil every once in a while. It seems that over time all NFL teams find a way to stop an offense if it doesn't change (ie- how the Pats got embarrassed by the Dolphins' wildcat one week and completely shut it down the next meeting). My feeling is that without significant offensive personnel change from time to time, defenses will be able to key in on tendencies and traits of players and be able to devise schemes to reduce their effectiveness. Thoughts
Maybe to a degree, trader75, but in this case it wasn't as if they didn't attempt to bring Wes Welker back. To me, the bigger issue is drafting and developing WRs. There is a great opportunity here for Aaron Dobson/Josh Boyce if they can seize it.
Hey Mike. Always look forward to the chat. Question today is regarding Denard's injury. How serious do you think it is, and do you have any speculation on when he might be back on the field?
I thought we got some good context on that one this week, CMB. Dennard was working with the rehab group on the side of the field. I took that as a good sign. My expectation, and it's solely based on what we saw this week and not any inside information, is that he should be ready to go for training camp. ... No training camp starting date announced yet.
Mike, you've brought up Kembrell Thompkins as someone who has caught your eye. Is this more due to the relative lack of talent at the receiver spot otherwise, or has he actually stood out with his skills in a vacuum?
A little bit of both, Nick. Thompkins first caught my eye early in OTAs when he was getting solid repetitions in the two-WR set. Then this week, he was in the top group with Michael Jenkins and Danny Amendola. Part of that could be that other WRs weren't available for practice, but I also think he's done some nice things to earn that spot. Has nice size. Hands seem OK. I didn't see consistent separation from him, or any WRs outside of Amendola, but it looked like he generally knew where he needed to be. Definitely someone to watch going forward. If you were to tell me that Kenbrell Thompkins would be getting first-unit reps over Aaron Dobson at the start of offseason camps, I would have been surprised. But it happened. Let's keep an eye on Thompkins. Kamar Aiken too.
Hi Mike, Please let us know How does Michael Jenkins really Look? Is he getting up in the air to go get the ball? Is he the slowest guy on the field? How does the chemistry with Brady look?
Jon, I watched Jenkins closely yesterday. I don't see consistent separation. What I see is a smart receiver who seems to be able to keep up with what the Patriots are doing offensively. There's a lot of stuff going on at the line of scrimmage in this offense and I think his experience in the league makes him the top candidate to line up on the outside if the season started tomorrow. That surprises me. I thought he would be closer to the bubble entering offseason camps. That doesn't mean he makes it, but I'm just sharing how my perception of his standing on the roster before offseason camps is different than my perception of his standing on the roster after those camps.
Seems like a good guy too. If Brandon Lloyd was described as someone who maybe was "wired a little differently", Jenkins seems like a "regular guy" who I could envision the coaching staff seeing as a good locker room fit.
Mike, stop treating me like I dated your wife in high school and answer my question once in a while. Don't you think Adrian Wilson can be our "coverage" linebacker in certain situations? And do you think the Pats can go to a Nascar type package featuring a front 7 of Bequette,Armstead, Ninkovich, Jones with Collins, Mayo, Adian Wilson as Backers?
Yes and yes, Steve. Saw Wilson break up a pass this week. Made me think of a sub-package LB type role for him. Bring on the NASCAR. I think it's certainly doable.
How did you view/rank/grade Stephen hill from last year vs Aaron Dobson this year? They look to be similar in terms of size and style for a receiver.
Danny, Hill more of a straight speed guy. I think Dobson, potentially, has greater upside as a more complete type of route-runner/receiver.
Hi Mike, big fan! Frequent poster on the blog! So I was wondering, how Armstead (aka Arm & Hammer, still working on the nickname) and Kelly have looked in practice? I understand its hard to tell based on the lack of physical play and pads, but still any updates? Thanks!
Dylan, have to be honest, didn't watch either of them very much.
Hey Mike,I don't understand all the jabbering about Spikes missing OTA's. What part of VOLUNTARY do people not understand?
Greenie, voluntary is voluntary. I thought Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet summed it up nicely. I'm going to find the link, but it reflects the way I mostly view it...
Hey mike long time fan of yours. Matthew Slater as we all know is an all pro special teamer but now were seeing with the lack of WRs how someone like him panning out would be beneficial for us. Are the pats reluctant to put him out wide or is he likely a pure career special teamer?
Thanks Dorian. We saw a lot of Slater at WR in the last two weeks because the team was thin in that area. I think they'd put him there if they had to, but his upside isn't viewed as being great in that role. Also, because his greatest value is on special teams, there is probably an element of wanting to protect him from injury.
Mike, can you make some link between the worry about the wide receiver corp this season and the OL last year? I remember this time last season everybody was sure Gafney was a lock and in the end he was cut very early, so i'm not buying all that Jenkins stuff right now, i still think he is far from a sure thing. I believe the locks are the draft picks (Dobson and Boyce), Amendola, Edelman and the last spot is up for grabs. Maybe two newbies in the PS, what do you think?
Good point, Max. Things can change quickly, as we've learned. Just passing along what we saw over the last four weeks: It was Jenkins-Amendola as the top guys at WR.
Mike...still no sign of Boyce. To me, this smells like an IR situation. What do you think?
Gus, if Boyce was drafted in a year where the Patriots didn't have as many questions at WR, I'd think more along the lines of IR. But I'm not as strongly in line what that thought based on what we saw at practice. They might give him more time based on the questions at WR.
What do you think Wes Welker meant when he said "I can be myself" in the Broncos offense? Is that a jab at how he was used in New England? Last time I checked, Welker being "himself" meant less than 100 catches and only 1 TD in two years with the Dolphins. Obviously he is a veteran player now and gets a lot of credit for his accomplishments, but I can't see him excelling outside of his slot receiver comfort zone.
Evan, I think it's more of a culture thing, the idea that the Broncos won't clamp down on him if he speaks his mind, or shares an opinion that maybe would be frowned upon if he did so in New England. But here's the context that I think is so important with that story: It came across, at least to me, as if Welker was suddenly "freed" in a sense, and that maybe was why he signed with Denver. I don't buy that. At all. He still wanted to come back and had the timing been different (and in my opinion, had he received better advice from his repesentation), I think he would have been back.
Do the Pats have any open roster spots or are all 90 taken? Is John Abraham still available or did he sign with a team?
Two open spots. Abraham remains unsigned.
Mike,What is your overall opinion on the advances the Defense has made thus far? And do you feel like our offense will be in a position to keep the defense off the field getting rest?
Dave, I think there is a feeling among defenders that some positive momentum has been built. Continuity helps. They have some talent too. If they can't get it done -- and a big part of it will be maintaining good health -- it will be a disappointment.
Mike, Seen anything this year to suggest Jake Bequette is ready to take a step forward this year?
Yes, Andy, I'd put Bequette on my list of 5 players whose standing on the roster looks better now than what I thought entering offseason camps. Let's see how it looks when the pads come on.
If Tebow really wanted to be a QB shouldn't he have tried to sign with green bay and just be the 3rd string and lay low?
Davis, I think that's what he is doing here.
Mike, do you think there's something systemmatic with the Patriot's approach to developing WRs that hinders their abilities to reach their potential? Like their system may be unnecessarily complicated
Craig, this system is expansive, having been built over the last 14 years. It takes a special young receiver to come in and pick it up. We've touched on this issue, and Bill Belichick has as well, that there could be some similarities to what it was like with the Dan Marino-led Dolphins toward the end of his career. That playbook was so thick, and when players like Mark Clayton and Mark Duper weren't around any more, it was hard to find young WRs to run it.
Mike, do you get a sense Brady is confident in this group of receivers. I agree with you that Amendola and Edelman will be the starters. After that, I don't feel great about any of these receivers. How does Donald Jones look? I think he becomes very important if the young receivers cant catch on.
Dan, I was surprised to see Donald Jones working at receiver in the "opportunity" part of practice on Wednesday. That is usually for the lesser-experienced players and rookies. While Jones worked there, rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins was on the other field, catching passes from Tom Brady while playing with the top group. It was a note that I jotted down that interested me. Could have been tied to the lack of WRs available to practice, so didn't want to read too much into it. ... On Brady, I don't sense overwhelming condidence with anyone outside Amendola. Just a sense.
Mike - Talent on defense? How many players on the Pats defense would start for last season's playoff teams? Vince, Mayo, Jones, maybe Ninkovich. Mike - there is no talent. That's our problem!
Respectfully disagree, Endolay. Hightower. Kelly. McCourty. Spikes. Possibly Adrian Wilson. I see talent.
Hey Mike! I've noticed in the past week a lot of members of the media commenting on Tebowmania and the somewhat absurd nature of it considering he is a 3rd string quarterback. I was wondering if you could touch upon why the media feels it is such a story and whether there actually is a demand for so much coverage of this player or if it's now a result of the media itself? Just curious!
Justin, this is really fascinating to me and I'm still wrapping my hands around it. I'll share some of my initial thoughts. Our Tebow stories/blog entries over the last three days received some of the highest number of clicks that I can ever recall. So if you take that from a bottom-line perspective, it speaks to a high level of interest. My question: Why? I'm still wrapping my hands around that one. I'll be honest, I don't fully understand it. Now, let's spin it forward: I have spoken with our team at ESPNBoston about Tebow coverage and how it's my opinion that we need to be very cognizant of how we approach it because there is a risk of alienating our readership by going overboard. There is also, in my opinion, a responsibility from a media perspective about not always "writing for clicks" if the story itself doesn't warrant it. So how do you strike that balance? We know there is interest based on the number of clicks these stories are getting, but let's be honest, we're talking about a potential No. 3 quarterback who might not make the team. Real intriguing dynamic to me. Like I said, I'm still getting my hands around it.
Hi Mike, do you think the Tebow signing means that Mallett could get traded?
No, David, I think Mallett will be the No. 2 quarterback for the Patriots this year.
Mike, do you ever get annoyed by Belichick's patronizing, dismissive attitude toward the media?
Peter, I generally don't. There have been times when I thought maybe it was a little out of line, but in turn, I don't think the media is always perfect (me included). I saw a SportsCenter piece on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich today and how he answers questions from the press. It reminded me a little of Belichick. Another thing to keep in mind: This media dynamic in New England is different than most. Similar to the Tebow question just answered, this coach/media relationship is another topic that interests me quite a bit. A lot of layers there. In the end, I ask the question, "What are we all doing here?" Our goals -- coach/reporter -- aren't often aligned. Creates natural conflict, especially in this market where the volume of reporters is probably greater than any other.
Mike - what games are you watching? Look at the 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens, Broncos defense. QBs have to worry about a lot of players. Any one on the Pats scare the opposition?
Tim, I usually watch the Patriots' games :) No, seriously, I'm not saying they are an elite defense. But I do believe there is talent there. All those defenses you mentioned have had their struggles too. 49ers in the Super Bowl -- did that look elite to you?
Hello Mike, read lots of your observations on Ballard. I feel fans have high hopes for him - my pessimistic side says he doesn't make the 53 (maybe not the same guy post injury). Thoughts on Ballard?
Tough one, Andrew. I don't think he's a lock. Going to have to let that one play out.
Mike - love your work, long-time fan. How has Aqib Talib looked thus far during OTA's/minicamp? Haven't heard much about him, good or bad. Has he given up completions in 7 on 7 and 11 on 11, or has generally gotten the better of the opposing WR? Really hope he's in line for an all-pro type season this year.
Zach, Talib has looked solid to me. Put him on that left side and I think if you're a defensive coach you're feeling pretty good about things. Talib played through some hip issues last year. Being closer to full health this year should help him.
Status on Vollmer's health?
Working his way back, Tom. He'sbeen rehabbing off to the side during practices. I have little doubt he'll be ready for when it counts.
Mike, is Greg Salas a free agent?
T, Salas is on the Eagles' roster. I plan to write a big feature story on him during August's joint practices. I'm thinking a 61-catch season for him. What do you think?
Let's do a few more...
hey mike how has vereen looked in camp? is there any chance he can win the starting job from ridley? have the coaches been working with vereen in pass protection? i look at vereen as a player that can be an every down back if he can be productive picking up the blitz. thanksFB
Fred, I think Vereen is the top candidate to do more of what Danny Woodhead did for the team. I don't sense him cutting into Ridley's work. They split up the snaps at RB last year by using Ridley 45 percent of the time and Woodhead 34 percent of the time. I could see Vereen stepping into that Woodhead slot in terms of snaps played. Looks good to me.
Will Leon Washington return punts and kick-offs
Fred, definitely kickoffs. Punts, not as certain, but will be in the mix.
Hey mike any chance the patriots pick up Willis McGahee? I don't think so but I have read a lot today on how he seems to be a good fit for the patriots on other websites.
I could see them adding another back, but would be somewhat surprised if it's McGahee.
What's the Pats track record with ex-Raiders - Gabriel, Burgess, etc. Not good - what does BB see? Value
I thought Moss was a pretty good one, though. One link between the teams is that the Raiders, under Al Davis, were more of a "height-weight-speed" team. Those are traits the Patriots value as well.
Any updates on Gronk's back surgery? With reports of his arm infection being cleared up, why are they waiting so long to operate on his back?
Jon, would expect it to come any day now. The reason they were waiting, as I understand it, was just to give it a little breathing room in regards to the infection. Giving it a few extra weeks creates more certainty that the infection won't be something they have to worry about. One thing you don't want to have happen is go in on the back and then still be dealing with a lingering infection.
Any risk that you can see of Edelman not being ready for Camp? Like you, I felt before the injury he was really coming on last year and can have a great impact.
I think he'll be ready. The surgery he had was something that wasn't necessarily needed, as I understand it. But in terms of trying to ensure a greater level of certainty that the foot wouldn't be an issue going forward, it was deemed the best course of action.
Hi Mike, TE group seems to be strong again this year. Do you think they will subject Zach Sudfeld to waivers similar to Yeatman or would they not go that route and how many of them seem to be lock on the roster?
Real good question, Raj. I had the same thought on Sudfeld, if he continues to build that momentum that we've seen in these no-pads practices. So that's the first part. If he does build that momentum, he could land the 53rd spot on the roster and be a "red-shirt" type situation. There are other parts to consider, like PUP (Gronk?) and how that could impact roster spots. So in terms of numbers, 4-5 would be the range with those considerations in mind.
Hi Mike. I liked what I read yesterday about Amedola's progress. Do you see him possibly turning Welker into a distant memory for Pats fans?
Lynn, I don't think anyone will forget about Welker because what he did over the last six years was special. I will say this: Amendola has looked impressive to me. Let's see how it looks when the pads come on.
Speaking of the TEs, can you compare/contrast Ballard/Fells/Sudfeld? Who's viewed as a better receiver, a better blocker, etc.?
Matt, Ballard probably the best blocker of the 3. Fells probably runs the best. Sudfeld looks like he has good hands, but he hasn't put pads on yet.
Feel good if Jenkins is starting outside receiver? Good enough for a SuperBowl run?
Jeffrey, Jenkins seems like a really good guy. I think he could have value to the team. But I do have doubts that if he's the top outside WR that it would be good enough to win a championship. They almost did it in '06 with Reche Caldwell, so I'm not saying it's not possible. But I have to be honest, I do have doubts if that's the way it unfolds.
You're taking a lot of heat for dwelling on the negative and/or not giving the team time to bond, but I agree with you, Mike Reiss, that when you open with NO pass catchers from the previous year, there's a lot to question. (Obviously I'm overlooking the unhealthy TEs and Edelman, who are hurt.)
Nice to speak with you, Urban. I haven't felt like there has been much heat, but maybe I'm missing something. I'll be the first to say, "it's June." Have to let things develop. I remember the 2003 season when the Patriots were running a 3-4 defense and tried Jarvis Green at nose tackle. The experiment didn't work. So the Patriots traded for Ted Washington and boy, was he a great addition at NT. A lot can change between now and when the games count. At the same time, when we're at a practice, we're not doing our job if we're not passing along what we see. So you try to strike that balance. Tom Brady said it himself yesterday -- that receiver group is going to be an important one going forward because of all the change. This isn't a newsflash.
You spoke about your interest in bringing in a bruising FB type for short yardage, someone similar to Vonta Leach. Any potential interest from the Pats in bringing him in now that he was released? Or will the price tag inevitably get too high?
Think it could be a great move for them. I like Leach and adding that type of player to the offense. Haven't heard of any interest.
Are we really still going? C'mon, I have to get back to work ( :
Let's end it, Mike. Just wanted to make sure we had enough time to cover all the relevant topics. Lot of good discussion in here. Let's do it again next week.