Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

July 25, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (1:59 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. A slight delay. Let's plan for a 2:05 start, or right around there.

Mike
  (2:06 PM)

Maybe a little chatter to get us started. Here is our roster projection, 1.0. http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/9508998/new-england-patriots-53-man-roster-projection-v-1

Mike
  (2:06 PM)

Had a real challenging time with a few spots -- 3rd QB? Five RBs? Three TEs? The reserve DEs?

Mike
  (2:08 PM)

I am here at Gillette Stadium today, where captains Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty answered questions from reporters. It's the first official day for veterans to report. Conditioning test day.

Mike
  (2:08 PM)

What is on your mind today?

Higgins (Southie)

Any word on Jamie Collins? For the pats 1st pick we have hear little about him

Mike
  (2:09 PM)

It's an unusual one, isn't it, Higgins? Has there ever been a top pick in the Belichick era where there has been such little attention on at this time? Maybe Adrian Klemm in 2000? Collins has quietly gone about his business and is doing what Bill Belichick and veteran players advise -- be a sponge and soak it all in. So far, so good. Looking forward to seeing his athleticism in camp.

Matt (Islamorada)

What did you think of the press conference yesterday? Belichik seemed genuine for once. Very somber. Please tell me it's not because he lost Hernandez on his fantasy team....

Mike
  (2:10 PM)

I don't think BB knows what fantasy football is, Matt. LOL. On a serious note, I summed up Belichick's news conference as one with a human touch. Seemed as real as we've seen him.

Jack (Bedford)

Hey Mike, how much of a factor can Jake Ballard be in this offense? If I recall he was pretty good against in the Super Bowl, can he step up if (most likely) Gronk isn't ready for the start of the season?

Mike
  (2:12 PM)

Jack, I was talking with a New York writer this morning and he was explaining to me what he noticed from Ballard with the Giants, and it's a feel thing. Ballard might not be the fastest tight end, but he has a nice feel for finding the open spots. The first thing I want to see from him is how well he runs after a very serious knee surgery. How does that knee hold up? If it holds up, I think at the least Ballard can serve as the team's best blocking tight end until Gronkowski is ready to return.

Larry (Ronkonkoma, NY)

Hi Mike, what kind of contribution do expect from our 3 new rookie WRs this year? Personally, I think they will surprise with their production

Mike
  (2:14 PM)

Larry, I'll tell you the one rookie who has opened the most eyes right now is Kenbrell Thompkins, the free agent out of Cincinnati. With Aaron Dobson having a bit of a slower entry into the team's program in the spring, my view was that Thompkins took advantage. He has good size (6-1, 195), is smart, and he's put himself in position to possibly make the team. He's an older rookie, set to turn 25 next week. Haven't seen Boyce yet, but looking forward to it. Dobson has some ground to make up, and I'm interested to see how he does. A great opportunity there for him if he can seize it.

Brian (Oxford, CT)

HI MIKE SORRY FOR THE ALL CAPS BUT THE AUTO-UPDATE ISN'T ON.

Mike
  (2:15 PM)

"Come on, Reiss, run it again! I can't stand it!"

Mike
  (2:15 PM)

It is telling me it is on. Looking good?

Roger (Newton)

Hi Mike. You seemed high on Markus Wheaton as a potential Patriots draft pick, and a lot of people seemed high on the notion of bringing Emmanuel Sanders in. With the exception of his vertical jump, Josh Boyce's measures seem to be the same, if not slightly better, than both those players. He also seems to be bigger and stronger. I know measurables don't always translate to success. Outside of the pre-draft injury is there anything you know of that makes Boyce less promising than either Wheaton or Sanders?

Mike
  (2:17 PM)

Roger, I was high on Wheaton. I thought he would have been a good fit here. The one thing on Boyce, if I recall, was maybe some questions with his hands and production against top competition. Also, a player whose measurables and timed speed maybe didn't always translate to the field. But don't hold me to that. I don't have my notes in front of me, but I'll circle back and try to confirm next week.

Paul (NH)

Mike, turn the auto update on.... :D

Mike
  (2:18 PM)

Paul, it is telling me it is on. Apparently, I am just not getting the job done today. Might be a demotion to the practice squad. Could be seeing Field Yates in here next week.

madvibes (vermont)

Regarding the Laurent Robinson workout... any idea how it went?

Mike
  (2:19 PM)

Robinson continued on for a workout with the Lions. Other than that, not sure of any specifics on the workout.

Stuart (CT)

The new emphasis on youth and speed in the D front 7 will be interesting to watch. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (2:20 PM)

Very interesting Stuart. To me, Jamie Collins (6-3, 250) sort of sums that up. Ultra athletic, but is he a linebacker or a defensive end. Maybe both depending on the front? More hybrid defenders than I can ever really recall on a Belichick-coached Patriots team. I'm interested to see if there is anything new they try to do.

Rich (quincy,Mass)

Mike, lets talk about the Defensive line for a second. Is it finnally gonna be the time that Jermain Cunningham steps up? or do you think someone like Jake bequete, armond armstead or even rookie michael Buchanan will step up?

Mike
  (2:21 PM)

Rich, when I was making my 53-man projection, I kept Cunningham on the club. There was a part of me that wondered if he's had his final chance, but I wasn't ready to close the book on him yet. As for the other three -- Bequette, Armstead and Buchanan -- they are all wild cards in a sense. Going to have to see how they look on the field.

Kevin (Edmonton, AB, Canada)

Hey Mike, my question is what is the status on Boyce's health? And what sort of skill set does he bring the WR group that sets him apart from the others?Thanks Mike

Mike
  (2:22 PM)

Kevin, I don't know this for certain, but my sense is that Boyce is ready to go for camp. I would have thought he'd be on the PUP list if he wasn't, and that hasn't happened.

Craig (florida)

Mike, predict: Who will the starting 3-wideout set be come week 1....

Mike
  (2:24 PM)

Big question to me is if Edelman is healthy. If he is, I think it's Amendola and Edelman as the top two. Then pick Dobson/Boyce/Thompkins as the No. 3. Right now, Thompkins has the edge.

Dave (RI)

Mike, what are your thoughts on the defense as a unit? Haven't heard much besides the fact that they had a good showing in OTA's. McCourty, Mayo, Wilfork, Jones and Talib all have Pro Bowl potential this year.

Mike
  (2:26 PM)

Dave, the defense is interesting to me because we'll get a feel for two things if everyone stays healthy: 1) The value of continuity when most of the starters return; 2) How big of a difference we see from Year 1 to Year 2 with first-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. In theory, they should be better. Now they have to go prove it. I thought Jones and Hightower were solid last year, but I want to see if they can be game-changing difference-makers. They are first-round picks and that's what you want from those players.

Peter (Georgia)

Why did the Patriots release Donald Jones? I thought the reciever position was a position of need.

Mike
  (2:27 PM)

Peter, Jones was due a $200,000 reporting bonus and the Patriots probably didn't project him on their roster. A combination of performance, economics, and opening the door for the young talent to have opportunities.

Hunter Center (ATL)

Is there a realistic scenario where you see the Pats keeping 5 TEs on the 53? If they did, I would assume at least one would be gameday inactive, and at least 4 would need to have core ST value, no?

Mike
  (2:28 PM)

I think 5 TEs is too rich. The reason the Patriots would do that is if they felt so strongly about Zach Sudfeld that they didn't want to risk losing him on waivers, similar to what happened with tight ends Will Yeatman and Lee Smith in 2011. But if it got to that point, I think they'd just keep Sudfeld over one of the veteran reserves -- Hoomanawanui, Fells or Ballard.

Dominic (Broomfield, CO)

Hey Mike. Hope all is well. No mention of George Winn in any thoughts on the RB competition. I think he might be the second Cinci product who breaks through to the 53. One article I read on the draft that was interesting, the author was researching drafted RBs and was interested in the RB with the most +18 (or 20 or so) yd runs. The answer: Winn. If he can provide any ST value, I see him landing over Blount.

Mike
  (2:29 PM)

Wouldn't rule it out, Dominic. Have heard good things about Winn. Just haven't seen him on the field yet.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

MIke, before Bill Belichick stepped to the podium yesterday to address the pall that the Aaron Hernandez investigation has cast over the Patriots' organization there were those who felt he didn't have to say anything; which in absolute terms was true. However, he needed to do what he did yesterday afternoon. I believe the fans of a privately owned but very publicly "traded" entity needed to hear from the voices that we know represent the (moral and financial) compass of the team. Fans are emotional and monetary investors; the life blood of any successful organization. We deserved to hear from the controlling voices. Mr Kraft and Bill Belichick handled the situation as well as could be expected. I continue to be a proud fan of this organizational group and hope that the actions of the team provide some solace to the family of Oldin Lloyd. On some level it feels trivial to say "let's move on to football" given what has occurred. But the actions of BB and Mr Kraft have built the foundation from which to take that first step.

Mike
  (2:30 PM)

Thanks for sharing the thoughts, munchkin. Your contributions are appreciated, this week and previous weeks.

Pat (New York)

What are the severities of Dobson, and Boyces' injuries? Can they compete in camp or will they lose a year.

Mike
  (2:30 PM)

Pat, my understanding is that Dobson had just tweaked something at the end of the spring camps. Similar to Boyce (toe, from pre-draft process), if he isn't on PUP right now, my guess is that he's ready to go.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, revision of the playbook is one of the major tasks of the coaching staff every off season. Given the timing of the incident, I am afraid that they have assumed that AH is available this season and invested heavily in play calls with the double TE set. I am worried that they have to redo the tweek of the 2012 playbook, and the team is behind the schedule at this moment.

Mike
  (2:32 PM)

MarkJ, I would ease those worries by telling you that this playbook is so thick from the last 14 years that it isn't a situation where they would commit to one thing and find themselves so vulnerable. They have so many options, and Brady has the IBM (what former coordinator Bill O'Brien called Brady's brain because of his tremendous recall), that this won't be an issue for them.

Ethan (monmouth, Me)

It seams like every few years the pats make a few trades between now and the start of the year. Any chance they make a move for a wide out? If not a WR what position would they trade for? What are their trade chips...draft picks?

Mike
  (2:34 PM)

Ethan, that's always a possibility, and we touched on some names last week from a pure speculation standpoint. At WR, the return of someone like Greg Salas (Eagles) wouldn't surprise me. At TE, maybe someone like Clay Harbor (Eagles) or Tony Moeaki (Chiefs) if they were to become available. I have no inside knowledge on anything like that. Just speculating.

Matt (Brockton)

Mike, I keep reading these reference in the Boston media to Amendola as the equivalent of Wes Welker. I was profoundly disappointed when the Pats refused to offer Welker a reasonable contract, especially after Kraft's loyalty claim. I feel Welker had a historic six year run with the Pats, the numbers seem to support that contention.I project Wes beating Amendola in 2013 straight up in receptions, total yards, yards after catch, TDs and first downs. I have Amondola leading Wes in games missed. Any thoughts?

Mike
  (2:37 PM)

Matt, I understand the thoughts on Welker, who was probably my favorite Patriots player of the last decade. As a smaller guy myself, there was something about seeing a player of his stature be such a difference-maker. The big hits he took and how he'd get back up. All that. As for comparisons between the two, Amendola has some work to do to be mentioned among the likes of Welker. In terms of statistical comparisons, one thing I'd be careful on is that the Patriots might be forced to rely on Amendola more than the Broncos have to rely on Manning. That could lead to a potental higher statistical output for Amendola if he stays healthy.

Patrick (Keene, NH)

Hi Mike, Enjoyed the "Bold predictions" piece. I think the Pats are due a little luck. Is it a bold prediction to say Ras I has a good year-6 or 8 picks and plays all 16 games?

Mike
  (2:37 PM)

Patrick, that's bold. Let's just hope it's a little better than a few of my past predictions, like Greg Salas going for 61 catches in 2012 or Joseph Addai becoming a true difference-maker.

Tobias Brandner (Germany)

Hi Mike, I think we will see a lot more 3 WR and 2 back settings this year because I dont think Hoo-man, Ballard or Fells/Zudfeld give us more than Edelman, Boyce/Thompkins or Vereen. What do you think Mike and keep up the great work.

Mike
  (2:39 PM)

Tobias, I agree. I looked back at the numbers this morning. When Gronkowski and Hernandez were mostly healthy in 2011, Gronk was on for 94 percent of the snaps and Hernandez for 77 percent. That meant they were 2 TE or more for more than 77 percent of the snaps. Last year, when those guys were on and off with injuries, the number dipped to 50 percent. A good reminder that even though the Patriots liked the idea of running the 2-TE offense, they don't do it just to do it. The TEs have to be dynamic enough to make it work.

Steve (Jerusalem)

Could you say that the signing of Tebow was done so that if (God Forbid) Brady goes down you have a Mallet-Tebow combo to replace him?

Mike
  (2:41 PM)

Steve, I think it would be more to have a backup QB already in place so someone wouldn't have to be signed and learn a system on the fly. That's a tough situation, something the Panthers dealt with a few years ago late in the season with former Boston College signal-caller Brian St. Pierre. As Bill Belichick has said in the past, if you don't have a QB to run your system, you put your whole team at risk based on the importance of the position.

Ruben (Dallas)

Greetings Mike. Do you honestly see McCourty and Gregory being the starting safety tandem again? I didnt love the way Gregory played. Was hoping for a change there..?

Mike
  (2:42 PM)

I think Gregory could be fighting for a roster spot, Ruben. If I had to guess, it's McCourty and Adrian Wilson as the starting tandem.

Paul (Toledo, Ohio)

Tough offseason. Let's hope the team pulls together like when Lawyer Milloy was cut.

Mike
  (2:42 PM)

Couple of quotes today from players on this...

Mike
  (2:43 PM)

Tom Brady: "I think we're just excited to be here. It's a fresh start for all of us. I know the last weeks have been distracting for a lot of people, but for this team, we're trying to focus on our job and what we're trying to do to win."

Mike
  (2:45 PM)

Vince Wilfork: "You're not just dealing with football right now. You're dealing with a human being, you're dealing with life. To come to training camp on a note like this is tough, but at the same time, we have to continue to do our job. We're not going to disrespect anything that's going on with the families, but we have to play football, our job is to play football. We'll try to do that the best way we can."

Stacey (Providence)

Hi Mike! I absolutely loved the BB press conference yesterday. I wish he was like that all of the time but I understand the reasons he's not.....made me proud to be a Pats fan. Did you hear the comments Wes Welker made comparing Brady and Manning to Picasso and Michealangelo? I miss Wes!!

Mike
  (2:46 PM)

Yes, I heard Welker's comments and it made me laugh. I bet he thought of that one beforehand, knowing the question he was coming.

Alex (Concord)

What are the chances that the Patrs trade Mallett for TE/WR help or draft picks since he is a free agent next year?

Bernie (Florida)

Mike, nobody seems to be talking about Lavelle Hawkins in the WR competition. From what you've seen, does he have a reasonable chance to make the team and contribute?

Mike
  (2:50 PM)

False start penalty. 5 yards. Jumped early there.

Mike
  (2:51 PM)

Alex, on Mallett, I think he'll be with the Patriots this year. Big preseason for him to prove he's worthy of a No. 1 job and then maybe he's traded next offseason. I think he has more value to the Patriots as a No. 2 this year than what the team could likely receive in return.

Mike
  (2:52 PM)

Bernie, nothing stood out to me with Hawkins in spring camps, although that doesn't mean he won't make it. I just think it's going to be hard for him if Edelman is healthy because you have one lock in Amendola and I believe we'll see three rookies on there in Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins.

Pascal (Brasil)

Why isn't anyone talking about Tavon Wilson, for real? If you look at the history of safeties, Merriweather and Chung, they got nearly no PT their first years and went on to start in the next. TW played some pretty good ball, aside from getting beat deep those few times, and I think his cover skills/size/speed/hitting will have him starting next to DMC. I think AWilson will be a tweener like Tank was supposed to be a few years ago.

Mike
  (2:54 PM)

Pascal, I think more people might be talking about Tavon Wilson if the Patriots didn't sign Adrian Wilson. Looks to me like AWilson (a.k.a. "The Incredible Hulk") is blocking TWilson's path, but in the long run, learning from AWilson might be the best thing for TWilson.

Jack (Palm City, FL)

Mike - Although I think he's a fine young man, I see no reason for the acquisition of Tim Tebow. He's certainly not an NFL QB. Since the Pats have other needs, e.g., a top wide receiver, why did they make that move??? What am I missing? Thanks

Mike
  (3:02 PM)

A few thoughts Jack. 1) They might disagree with you that he's not an NFL QB; 2) He might not make the team but there is value in having in camp to learn the system in the event of an emergency; 3) They might see value in his presence from a locker-room perspective (e.g. Doug Flutie in 2005).

jill (sota)

mike, any cost for training camp practices that are open to the public

Mike
  (3:02 PM)

No cost. One of the best bargains in sports IMO.

Steve (San Diego)

Hey Mike! Any insight as to whether the Pats would bring in Dallas Clark?

Mike
  (3:03 PM)

Steve, they had him in for a visit last year before he signed with the Buccaneers. Wouldn't be surprised if they do it again, but probably not one in the urgent category for them right now.

Mike (DC)

Mike, a comment on Matt from Brockton's comment: I think the Pats did offer Welker a reasonable contract, the Bronco's offer was what 2 years $10m guaranteed while the Pats' was 2 years $16m with added incentives? Thtas why I think the real damage was done by Wes' agent creating unreasonable expectations that kept Wes from signing the extension offers the Pats gave him ove the last two years, which likley would have made him more money than FA ended up making him...

Mike
  (3:06 PM)

A lot of truth to that, Mike, from my view. I don't think Welker's agents did him any favors. At the same time, I can also understand that maybe Welker felt after 6 years, it was hard to accept that deal. Part of that could have been tied to expectations set by his reps. Lot of layers to that one.

Mike
  (3:07 PM)

From what Welker's reps initially were asking for (3 years, $51 million), to what Welker accepted, it was a pretty big difference.

pam (boston)

Mike are all the draft picks signed and reported? I missed if dobson was signed or not?

Mike
  (3:07 PM)

They're all signed and reported, Pam.

Michelle (Dallas)

Hi Mike, my family and I just flew up from TX and were hoping to spend Friday at Gillette. Unfortunately there's rain in the schedule. When do we find out if it's moved inside, in which case we won't be able to see it? Thanks.

Mike
  (3:08 PM)

Welcome to town, Michelle. The main thing to do is call the team's training camp hotline at 508-549-0001. We'll also update on our site, but you can't go wrong with that phone numbers.

troy (GB)

Mike, Armand Armstead?? I see he is starting on PUP for undisclosed illness? I thought he was healthy and ready to contribute, I want to see what he has to offer throughout the preseason?

Mike
  (3:09 PM)

Armstead is actually on the non-football illness list. Curious what it all means. Could be that he might need a more extensive physical based on his past medical condition, and it's just a timing thing. Don't have enough information.

Henry (Boston)

Mike, how much of an impact will Jamie Collins do to the LB corp? Will he be in a 3rd down coverage lb that replace the slower Spikes?

Mike
  (3:09 PM)

Henry, I think it's a fair expectation to think Collins will be part of the sub defense in some form, where his athleticism to play in space would have value.

Mike
  (3:10 PM)

Let's go for another few minutes here...

Chris (Dover, NH)

Hi Mike, with all the attention that has been paid to Hernandez and some key positions (TE, WR), what is the most intriguing off-the-radar camp battle that your looking forward to? For me, I'm looking forward to hearing about the CB position next to Talib, regardless of the Dennard decision. It seems like the Patriots have some healthy competition (Ras-I) this year unlike in previous years.

Mike
  (3:12 PM)

Chris, as I was going through our roster projection this morning, I really struggled with the DEs after the top three of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Justin Francis. For 2-3 spots, who makes it from Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Marcus Benard, Michael Buchanan and Jason Vega (the longest shot). My favorite drill in camp is the OL vs. DL pass-rushing drill and so I'll be watching that closely whenever possible.

Tim (Brighton, MA)

Hey Mike, How do you feel about the options at RB going into the season. Do you think they keep all 5, or which guy doesn't make the cute (Bolden or Blout?)

Mike
  (3:13 PM)

Tim, I put 5 RBs on my first projection, with the thinking that Washington and Bolden are significant special teams contributors. But I don't think Blount is a slam dunk here.

Pete NYC [via mobile]

If Aaron Hernandez is found not guilty of murder and gets off on these accusations can u ever see a team taking another chance on him down the road? I mean remember he's only 23 years old and has his whole life ahead of him as long as he doesn't go to jail

Mike
  (3:14 PM)

Pete, I'm not sure another team will be given the opportunity to take a chance on him, mainly because the NFL will likely suspend him for a lengthy period of time. If the NFL lifted the suspension, perhaps it could happen. But it seems unlikely to me.

Reggie Mantle (McKinney, TX)

Do you see the Pats moving in on Eric Wright? He's a solid CB. Since Aqib Talib is signed through one year and I seriously doubt he will be back next year, you can never have too many CBs.

Mike
  (3:15 PM)

Don't see the Patriots going for Wright. I think they'll stick with what they have for now.

Electricamishpat (Lancaster)

Collins will be OK. All the chatter has been about WR. Pats have a history of hybrid DE/LB. Tedy still looks to be in decent shape. Can probably squeeze another year out of him, in case of injury.

Mike
  (3:15 PM)

LOL, congrats to Tedy Bruschi, who will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Monday. Special halftime ceremony at season opener.

Prasad (Baltimore)

The kickoff return game has been really underwhelming over the past few years. Do you think it's a matter of having the right guy returning kicks (e.g. Leon Washington), or is the blocking so bad that nobody could really be expected to get through?

Mike
  (3:16 PM)

Prasad, I lean more toward the returner. It's obviously a mix, but I expect improvement with Washington back there.

Craig C (FL)

Mike, have you seen any glimpses of the rookies yet being they were the first to report? Curious on how Dobson and Boyce looked and if you seen them practice at all?

Mike
  (3:17 PM)

We haven't seen practice yet, Craig. Friday at 9 a.m. is the first practice.

Corky (Destin Fl.)

Pretty intense on what I am seeing the last coupe of days in the Boston news, people do want to hear what players and coaches have to say about Aaron but it is now been said, lets move on a get on with being a Boston sports fan. It starts today, I am ready to see the 4th one won this year! (and Bruins will win the next one) I think it is time for some football...

Mike
  (3:18 PM)

Corky, here is my column on ESPNBoston.com on if the Patriots can turn an offseason to forget into a season to remember. ...

Mike
  (3:18 PM)

http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/9508187/ne-patriots-face-their-biggest-challenge-yet

Mike
  (3:19 PM)

The last line of the column: "At last for the Patriots, the focus turns to football after a tumultuous offseason.:

Phil (Braintree)

Hey Mike, thanks for all of your work, great coverage. Do you think that now that BB and the captains have made their statements and answered all the questions that we can get back to football and start to put this behind us form a media standpoint? Not to lessen this tragic crime any but with training camp beginning tomorrow I wish the focus would go back to football and the players that are going to be on the team this season than the old # 81. An occasional blurb here and there to keep everyone updated but I would rather hear about camp and position battles and how the defense is going to look. Just a thought.

Mike
  (3:21 PM)

Phil, let's end on this one. I do think we're getting closer to that. Tomorrow, expect to hear from Tim Tebow on the first day of training camp. Tebow played with Hernandez at Florida. So we could hear a bit more about it tomorrow, but we're making an honest effort on our site to cover all the angles regardless.

peter (las vegas)

Could it be as simple as this when addressing the Tim Tebow signing. I believe he is there to run the scout team, the Pats might have half of their divisional games against run/pass option offenses since the Bills drafted Manuel and the Jets Smith. Especially given how they struggled verse SF and Seattle last year.

Mike
  (3:21 PM)

Good add there Peter. Perhaps that's part of it. Just not sure if that's part of the thinking.

Bruce (Minneapolis)

Mike, any Dennard comments from BB yesterday?

Mike
  (3:22 PM)

Bruce, Belichick declined comment on that situation.

Mike
  (3:22 PM)

Thanks to all for chatting today. Look forward to doing it again next Thursday.