Hello and welcome to today's chat. Thinking about a little bit of an early start today because last week's chat was a bit shorter than the norm. Getting settled...
Patriots coaches returned to work on Wednesday, which is a reminder that football is right around the corner. Rookies are scheduled to report Sunday. And then veterans are scheduled to report by Thursday, July 25.
We all know the questions surrounding the Patriots: Who is Tom Brady going to throw to? What about Rob Gronkowski's recovery? Will the defense improve as most of the top players return? How much do distractions, such as the Aaron Hernandez murder charge and its after-effects, play a part in the season?
I always get excited at this time of year. I enjoy covering a team from start to finish and in many ways the first day of camp is when the journey officially begins. Offseason camps are obviously part of it, but it's a different pace and intensity and focus as we shift into this part of the calendar. At ESPNBoston.com, we've had some productive discussions about how we're going to handle our coverage this year. Many of the same staples will be there (e.g. mailbag, chats, practice breakdowns), but we'll also integrate some new elements as well.
What's on your mind today?
If Dennard avoids jail, do you think the Pats keep him?
Josh, it's just going to come down to what the team decides to believe. It isn't too hard to read between the lines on this one -- they obviously have some reason to believe Dennard's account of what happened vs. the official police report. Whether that belief is justified figures to unfold in court, starting on July 31 with Dennard's hearing to determine if he violated his probation. Were police over-zealous? Or is Dennard maybe not giving full disclosure to the team? We wait for more facts, as does the team. Like I said before, nothing would surprise me on this one.
The Pats seem to be reverting back to their defense oriented, run the ball style that won them 3 Super Bowls. Everyone seems to be underestimating them but is this the formula for the Pats to win another Super Bowl?
Sam, I was a little surprised to hear Tedy Bruschi focus so heavily on the run game on our ESPNBoston.com podcast this week. His feeling is that with all the questions in the passing game, two things they will rely on are Amendola nad Ridley. I guess I'm not personally ready to write off the passing attack just yet. I see all the questions. They are signficant. But with Tom Brady throwing the ball, I've seen him do more with less (e.g. 2006).
Improved defense, however, is a must. I think they will be better, given good health.
Mike,I love your work, but this ESPN switching to facebook is the worst idea ever. Switching to FB will reduce trolling, but the actual football related conversations have plummeted. Where are we to have Pats related football conversations where you chime in every once in a while? Can you use your powers to have ESPN switch back? I want to read your articles but ESPN is horrible now. Thanks for your excellent coverage.
Obviously these are decisions made at a higher level than ESPNBoston.com's Patriots reporter. In the words of BB, I don't do MyFace or SpaceBook. Still figuring this one out, so for now, just hold tight.
Mike, what games will the patriots wear their throwback jerseys this season
Pam, the Patriots like to keep that information confidential until they are ready to announce it. I am not aware of the game(s) they are planning to wear throwbacks.
Mike, between Sudfeld, Ballard, Fells, and Hooman, who's more likely to make up for Hernandez's catches? Or should we also include the new wide-outs -- like Dobson, Boyce, Jenkins?
Dan, I think you have to include the WRs. I would be surprised if it's just a TE-for-TE exchange here. It's going to be a combination. I still think the Patriots will be a game-plan offense, where they adjust their plan on a weekly basis to attack the opposition's weakness.
Who do you think could emerge as the teams NO. 2 receiving option next to Danny Amendola?
Leading candidate: Julian Edelman.
I'm all with Angry ESPN Fan on this!!!!
Voice heard, Dan.
Do you think the team has moved on from Abraham and Moss, or are they still a possibility?
Paul, I think they've moved on from Moss, but not Abraham. For example, if Abraham called today and said he would play for close to the veteran minimum, I think the deal would be completed.
Do you know if Brady has spent any time getting on the same page as Dobson, or is that something he is only doing with the veterans up to this point?
Just on the practice fields at Gillette, as I understand it. No extra work outside of Gillette at this point.
Not to accentuate the negative, but it's my understanding that the NFL pays for a 24 hour car service for players who would rather not drink and drive. And I'm sure a lawyer, agent, someone told Alfonzo Dennard that he might want stay clear of the town where he punched a policeman as he just may be a person on their radar. Ridiculous decison making.
Hard to argue with that John. Dennard, at the least, is "guilty" of poor judgment.
Mike...would you be comfortable going into the season with the current roster of recievers or do the Pats need to add one more?
Dave, a lot of questions at the position and it all depends on how the rookies look. Can't answer it now. Need to see the first few weeks of camp to get a better feel.
Mike,There is obviously going to be a lot of focus on WR and TE going into training camp. What about on the defensive side? What position(s)/storylines are you looking forward to covering (besides the Dennard legal case)?
Ryan, on defense, I want to see if Chandler Jones/Dont'a Hightower are ready to make the jump from the first year to second year that makes them big-time difference-makers. At safety, it's Devin McCourty and who? Those would be two areas I'm most interested in, but not the only ones.
There are rumors that with Dennard's legal trouble, Dowling will be the starter opposite Arrington. Do you see Marquice Cole or Logan Ryan getting into the mix there as well?
Sam, Cole is not an outside corner. He's best suited for the slot. I could see Ryan competing for the job, but would put Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling ahead of him on a projection right now.
Do you see any chance the Patriots sign TO? Even if he isn't that productive, he's a HOF WR and could help develop this young core of wide outs.
No TO, James. Feel pretty confident in that.
Mike - Tedy Bruschi indicated previously the durability is important to the Pats - meaning playing 16 games. With all the issues at WR - I am extremely worried about Danny Amendola. It is numbing to think of Edelman as a #1 receiver.
Dan, in many ways, Edelman has the same questions as Amendola. Just needs to stay healthy. If he is, I don't think there will be many issues. Those are two good players.
Any teams you're aware of that has surplus WR and TE that may become available when teams start to trim rosters?
Couple names to keep an eye on, just from a pure speculation standpoint: WR Greg Salas (Eagles), TE Clay Harbor (Eagles), TE Tony Moeaki (Chiefs). Not even sure they'd be available (Salas might not make the Eagles but he has 61-catch potential), but could envision a scenario where they could come into play.
Hey Mike, if you had to pick one surprise cut this year who would it be? Also wanted to ask if you, mike, and field could do an early 53-man roster projection before training camp starts. I would like to see what you are all thinking. Thanks.
Branden, we are planning to have a roster projection next Wednesday or Thursday. One surprise cut: WR Donald Jones. Not sure that would register as a surprise, but I think it's been a little bit of a challenging entry into the team's program for him. Injuries a factor.
Hi Mike,Happy belated Birthday. I wanted to ask you about Brandon Lloyd, I swear I recall a blog post last year where you commented about the relationship between Josh McDaniels and Brandon. I thought it had to do with them arriving to work together and enjoying each other's company. This leads to my question, what exactly is the issue with Brandon Lloyd and his fit in the program?
Thanks Jay. Lloyd and McDaniels remain close. The point I think that you are bringing up is how Lloyd used to spend holidays at the McDaniels' home. But that doesn't necessarily make a player a fit with everyone in the locker room, or in a specific environment where demands might be different than past places. A lot of layers to these types of situations.
Assuming both Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount make the 53 man roster who do you see getting more playing time?
Marvin, I think Washington factors more into the kickoff return game and his offensive playing time will be contingent on Shane Vereen's health/progress. Blount is a bubble guy IMO. I wouldn't be surprised if he's not on the roster, depending on training camp performance. His standing figures to be tied to the health/progress of Stevan Ridley. One of the things that interests me about Washington is how he was used sparingly in Seattle (372 offensive snaps over 3 seasons). Does that continue in New England? Or do the Patriots see an untapped asset? Forced to pick one, I'll say Washington.
What is the chance that Jermaine Cunningham makes the roster? Have the Pats secured enough depth to release him or will he be a disappointment yet again in 2013-2014?
Shana, if I was making a projection right now, I'd put Cunningham on the roster.
Is there any news about the Patriots hiring Dallas Clark? It would be awesome to see him play with Brady!! Another Clark/Peyton type of year!!
Wayne, I like the idea. Don't see any downside on a possible Dallas Clark signing. Would be a good one.
Do you guys think Aaron Dobson could be "the receiver of the future"? He's got the size, the weight, and I have heard a lot about his soft hands. Could he be a legit threat this year for the Pats and how has he been doing in camp and OTA's? Thanks.
Alison, as crazy as this sounds, I think if you were to line up the Patriots' rookie receivers right now, Kenbrell Thompkins might be ahead of Dobson. That doesn't mean it won't happen for Dobson, but he didn't build the same type of momentum as Thompkins in spring, and as we know, the Patriots don't pay too much attention to draft status once the players enter that door for the first time. Obviously, Dobson will be on the roster, but right now, how much he will contribute is an unknown. I wouldn't be surprised if it's Thompkins getting time over him early in camp.
Recently, I've been thinking of the running back battle on the Patriots and I got to thinking about LeGarrette Blount and I was thinking of the possibility of Blount becoming a fullback to lead the way for the likes of Ridley and Vereen. Do you think that this would be something Belichick would try out and do you even think this strategy could play out? I think it could be an interesting option as a way to utilize a starting-caliber running back as an option in the run game with his size. Thanks for taking my question.
Conrad, I don't see Blount as much as a fullback as someone like Michael Hoomanawanui. A little more size and versatility with Hoomanawanui.
Patriots have taken chances on many questionable players, and mostly got positive results except that their luck ran out over the past few years. Why the organization took chances is the question, was it being bold or the result of poor drafting of CB's, Receivers and TEs? And do you believe that - you live by the draft and die by the draft?
Carl, I'll be honest, I'm conflicted on the thought. I saw plenty of risks taken early in Bill Belichick's tenure. Even on those championship teams, not every player brought in had great "football character" and I'd point to the 2004 draft as one example of a risk-filled draft for the team (after the first round). So I'm not ready to decisively say they're now taking more risks. I do believe drafting and developing talent is the lifeblood for any team.
With all the questions regarding this year's passing game why not take a chance and bring in Austin Collie? I know he's available because of health concerns but when healthy he's shown great potential. They could probably get him cheap and if he stays healthy wouldn't he make a bigger impact than say Tim Tebow?
Harlan, I think the other side of that is that if you're top two receivers (Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman) have some questions about staying healthy, is it smart to bring in a third who has similar questions. I think Collie could be great, but it comes with that risk of not knowing how the concussion history will unfold.
With Dennard being arrested and could possibly be cut or miss playing time, could we see McCourty come back to the corner position? I think he had more picks as a CB and was utilized better as one. Or does Dowling go to the opposite side to fill in for Dennard. I know if Dowling can stay healthy he is a great athlete and sticks to receivers very, very well.
Clayton, my guess is that the Patriots will leave McCourty at safety initially. But it is an option to consider if things don't look great early in camp.
Hi Mike, on the Patriots website I was able to find their media guide, but it is from 2012, do you have any idea when the 2013 guide will be available for fans to download? I see John Abraham, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch are still available free agents, do you think the team will sign any of these players? Thanks and stay cool, Jay
Jay, the media guide should be out by the end of next week. I've taken a sneak peek at it (it's not totally complete) and you sould enjoy it. On Abraham (maybe), Lloyd (no) and Branch (maybe), it's a mix of economics and how younger players develop early in camp IMO.
Hey Mike,I totally agree that Denard used poor judgement. In the wake of the Hernandez ordeal this looks bad. However I read that he has a child who lives in Lincoln. If he was in town to see his kid I can't blame him for that. Even with the Hernandez cloud I hope the Patriots and their fans will wait for all the facts to come out on this before we throw him under the bus.
Yes, Chip, Dennard has a daughter and he was visiting his girlfriend and daughter in Lincoln. If that was the only place he could see them, then it's hard to argue with his presence in Lincoln. But then in fairness, we could still ask why he was out late and driving the car when he didn't have to be.
Mike, thanks as always for chatting with us. When you watched Fells last year in the passing game, could you spot any reason he wasn't more productive there? Was it a matter of not knowing the offense and making the right adjustments (which might improve after a year), or a matter of getting separation (which might not), or just that he was far down the list of Brady's options on any given play?
Trust and rapport with Tom Brady. Fells is a smart player. He knows the offense. For whatever the reason, it just hasn't clicked with No. 12.
Not sure if this got through the first time: what do you think of UDFA Brandon Ford? Seems like a similar player to Hernandez in where he can line up and his measurables.
Andrew, want to see more of Ford, who looks to be a "move" type of TE. Between him and Zach Sudfeld, maybe they have some talent to develop at an important position to them.
Mike, I keep thinking back to Brady's story about his first throw to Moss in the Jets game where he thought he overthrew it, got knocked down, and then was like "that was cool" when he heard the crowd and realized Moss had somehow come down with it. I am not in any way saying Dobson is going to be the next Randy Moss, but his college tape shows an ability to make some unbelievable catches. I just have a feeling things will "click" for Brady and Dobson early in the season on some kind of unexpected catch, and all this worrying about our WR corps will evaporate. Not that there won't be growing pains with routes and concentration drops, but Brady has had only one guy in his tenure (Moss) surprise him at the outside position...I'm betting we're going to see #2.
Will be a fun one to follow, Grand. Dobson obviously has some good things going for him -- size, speed, smarts, hands combination. The first hurdle for him to clear is to come to camp in the best physical condition. This train moves fast once camp starts, and players can get left behind. I felt like Dobson got a mini-taste of that in spring camps. By the end of the spring, he was on the sideline and Kenbrell Thompkins was taking first-unit reps that should have been going to him.
Hi Mike, my concern about relying on the running game is the thought that maybe our running attack has been greatly helped by our passing game. Now with a weakened passing attack, we may see the results when we try to run the ball more, especially in the red zone. Your thoughts..?
Jim, I just find it hard to believe that a team with Tom Brady at QB will lean more toward the running game than the passing game. But maybe there is something to the idea that while issues in the passing game are ironed out early in camp/preseason/regular season, the idea of relying on an offensive line that returns intact and a deep running back corps makes some sense. Call me skeptical; I still think this passing attack will find a way to move the ball and score points.
Lots of sleeper buzz on Marcus Bernard - do you agree, Mike? Thanks.
Matt, Benard was said to have a strong sping. I think he's impressed some coaches and teammates with his commitment. Still has to put it together when the pads come on, but not a player we should be sleeping on.
What are your thoughts on Ridley's workload this year? Will it increase with the questions in the passing game or will Vereen cut into it more?
JW, Ridley was at 45 percent of the offensive snaps last season. I'd think it will be right around the same number. Vereen (12 percent) probably gets an increase as they look to fill the void created by the free-agent defection of Danny Woodhead (34 percent).
I know you've said you don't know the reason for the decision to let Woodhead go, but could you speculate on what might have gone into the decision? I find the Welker move easily understandable, given his agents' excessive financial demands. But it's hard to see how not re-resigning Woodhead helped the team financially, and his presence now might have allowed for more 2-back schemes in which he could have compensated for the loss of Hernandez as a receiver. Given Woodhead's performance, the decision not to re-sign baffles me.
Confuses me too, Robert, so here are a few possible reasons for the team's thinking: 1) Shane Vereen has more upside and it was time to pass the torch. Doesn't make sense to pay Woodhead more than Vereen if plans are to move Vereen into that role; 2) They did plan to re-sign Woodhead but got burned thinking Woodhead would let them match an offer when he didn't; 3) They thought they got the most out of Woodhead as he had plateaued.
Let's see if the team's decision-making is proven correct on that one. That's one I've been critical of and I'll be the first to admit I was wrong if it turns out that way.
Hey Mike, much has been made about the Patriots' decision to rely on TEs in reshaping their offense. While I think the criticisms are unfair because the team lacked the capacity to anticipate the problems that occurred (especially Hernandez), isn't relying on TEs as #1 and 2 receivers (and paying them as such) inherently risky because of the wear and tear of playing the position vs. WR? Seems like this point has been overlooked
Sharp point, Chris. It's what makes a player like Tony Gonzalez so rare. It seems like that position wears down quicker than others.
Not saying a team shouldn't try to pair two top TEs, but when investing long-term, something to keep in mind. Is that position suited for longevity?
Mike, thanks for taking our questions. Do you think Kamar Aiken, Kenbrell Thompkins, or Mark Harrison could make the squad and have an impact? I remember reading that Aiken and Thompkins got some first team reps in OTAs.
Jay, Thompkins is a guy to keep an eye on. I think the arrow is pointing up there right now, but it's a different game when the pads come on and he'll have to prove it. Harrison (foot) didn't practice in the spring and Aiken did get some top reps and I thought he competed well. He could also be a sleeper to keep an eye on.
Hi Mike. You over or under: 9 wins for Pats
Greetings in Hawaii, Bill. I am taking the "over" on that one.
On the running game vs. passing game question. Let's not assume that increasing the running game is not 'taking advantage' of having Tom Brady. Brady has many skills as a QB, one of which is being a very good play action quarterback. Increasing the running game will actually open up opportunities for Brady to use this part of his game. So while we may move away from the spread - short area attack (which has, in all honesty, failed us at the worst possible times the last few years), that people associate, at least recently, with Brady's brilliance, we could move to a new attack that highlights and takes advantage of other skills. Similar and related line of thinking in the short vs. long arial attack.
All fair, Dominic. I think we've seen that when the running game is going, this offense is at its best. I guess my point is that I don't think they are going to have to run because they can't pass. Maybe there is a difference there.
Mike, what are your thoughts on people talking about the Dolphins competing with the Pats to win the AFC East. Seems pretty ridiculous to me
Joe, the Dolphins should be tougher to defend this year, but in the end it will come down to second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. How much has he improved? If he plays like he did last year, I don't think they compete. Also, the Dolphisn signed some solid players, but let's not forget they lost some good ones too.
hey Mike, it's become almost blashpemous to even suggest around these parts, but is there any chance, albeit small, that Slater could be a surprise cut? I know that he's a great locker room guy and a great ST guy, but BB always preaches value and at this point I think using the extra roster spot on a WR that will catch some balls might have more value for this team.
Shaun, I feel confident in saying that Slater is a lock to make the team. Write it in pen.
RE: Woodhead, Can't the Pats just use Edelman the same way they used Woodhead? Both aren't very big but are quick and shifty.
Jon, there are some major differences there, specifically when it comes to pass protection. The similarities come in the passing game, to a degree, but what Woodhead did is more Kevin Faulk-like than Edelman-like.
Mike in your heart of hearts do really see any other team threatening the Pats and Broncos for AFC supremacy? I mean come on, first off the Ravens got hot at the right time, but they really weren't a GREAT team to begin with and then they got dismantled. The Bungals have a ginger at QB... no ginger has ever won a SB to my knowledge. Schaub has a noodle for an arm and Pittsburgh is just old. I just don't see any other team competing for the conference
Shaun, I wrote something similar on Sunday, basically saying that even with all the issues the Patriots have dealt with, "if not them, then who?" I still think they are in the mix. I think higher of the Ravens and Steelers than you do. Not as much of a believer in the Texans, Bengals, Colts and Dolphins.
Hey Mike, any pre-camp prediction for which receiver will reach 61 catches this year? i wanna know who to count out of the competition
I don't think I'm ever going to live that one down, eh? So here's the "dream" scenario: The Eagles release Greg Salas and the Patriots claim him on waivers and he puts up big numbers this year. Then I can say I was right, just one year later. LOL.
Mike, with all the talk about the "risky players" the Patriots have drafted being focused on the failures, I find it curious that Ryan Mallett's name is never mentioned. Like other risky picks, the only reason that he was available was because of concerns about his maturity and off-field actions - but so far that looks like a risk that has paid off very well.
He would fall into that same risk/reward category, Chip, for sure. I guess we just haven't seen enough of him to know what the "reward" is at this point. But he's blended in and they seem to like him as a No. 2 option, so that counts for something.
Mike it's amazing how everyone is piling on the Pats right now, as if Belichick or Kraft shot someone. This after a few years of listening to people say the Pats are "done" because we fail to win Superbowls every year. Assuming you see it too, to what, if anything, do you attribute all this acrimony?
I have no idea, Jason. Perhaps some jealousy. Maybe not enough catering to reporters' egos. I really don't know and try my best to avoid getting caught up in those traps. But I had a similar thought when reading comments from Broncos coach John Fox to USA Today the other day. Fox was asked about two Broncos executives being arrested for DUI (one was three times over the legal limit) and he talked about how a team was a microcosm of society. Made me think the same way about the Patriots. I think they deserve to be held accountable re: Hernandez. But when does it end?
This website is about discussing sports and to take away that forum is ignorant on ESPN's part. I surely hope that you attempt to lobby for reinstatement of the Comment section, so us non-facebook users and people who cannot get on facebook from work or other place, can still post and discuss relevant issues. It must be dissapointing to lose so many followers and viewers to this error in judgement.
I've let my opinion be known. Unfortunately, this is a decision that comes from a much higher place than ESPNBoston.com's Patriots reporter.
Let's go for another 5...
Are you as bored of the Pats pile-on off season as I am yet? Serioiusly mini-camp needs to start now so that we can MOVE ON. I need some "good" to hear.
Eric, I want football. That is what I like to write about -- not so much about obstruction of justice, murder charges, DUIs. That obviously comes with the territory and I try to handle it as best as possible, but when I think about what I truly love about what I do, it's what happens between end zone to end zone. I love the process of watching a team try to come together. The individual competitions. Strategy. It's a great game and a great team sport.
can you clear something up? some people make it seem as if we can't comment on the message boards anymore... yet i was under the impression we could, we will just need a facebook login to do so. Other websites have done similar things
Correct, Shaun. Just need to sign up.
Do we have times of training camp yet for the first few days?
Mike, it's 9 a.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. on Saturday. Then TBA on Sunday and a season-ticket holder night practice on Monday.
Remember when the biggest player concern was Brandon Spikes skipping OTAs? Ah, the good old days. Do you think this will be a continued focus for the media and BB? Or does it get glossed over given, you know, other things.
EJ, here's the way I see it: Players report on July 25 and they will be put through a conditioning test etc. If Spikes makes it through that, I'd expect him to be out there with the top group on the first day of practice. If not, it's Dane Fletcher and then we have to let it all play out.
Listening to Tedy Bruschi podcast yesterday, why can't every new Patriot follow his lead. Tedy and other great Pats over past decade have made the Patriot brand respectful. It stinks that a few immature players like Dennard and Hernandez can hurt the reputation of franchise. I don't think the Pats management shouldn't need to babysit these 24/7, they are grown men!!
Thanks for listening Butch. Tedy is a special guy. It's a pleasure being able to work side by side with him. When I was at UMass in the mid-90s, John Calipari used to say, "A rising tide lifts all boats." That's the way I feel being around Tedy Bruschi; he makes you raise your level because of who he is.
Mike- I'm a big fan! What are your thoughts on taking a chance on Laurent Robinson? I know there is concussion history but he had a couple big years and a big contract was signed, so the talent is there. Also, any chance the Pats get Abraham?
SC3, it's the same thing with Robinson as Austin Collie -- concussions questions. On Abraham, I think it's all cost-related and the football is more in Arbraham's court.
Good afternoon Mike! My question is centered around Adrian Wilson. Do you see him as an every down safety? It seems like this is a Rodney Harrison type move on the basis of leadership in the secondary. I do know Arizona took him off the field a lot on 3rd downs last year. So, is he a liability in coverage? Are we going to see Gregory and McCourtey more in obvious passing downs? I just want him to be impactful on the field with his play too and not just with his leadership skills. Thanks!
Let's end on this one, Kevin. Wilson (6-3, 230) is a big presence back there and the question is how well is he still running. Bill Belichick said in the spring that Wilson's legs weren't a huge issue. My sense is that he has a real chance to be a full-time guy here. Players are calling him the "Incredible Hulk" because of how chiseled he is, and the way he goes about his work. Will be a fun player to follow in camp.
Thanks to all for a great chat. The plan will be to hold these chats every Thursday throughout the year. Have a great day, stay cool, and we'll catch up next week.