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August 15, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

ESPNBoston.com
  (11:29 AM)

Hi everyone, looks like Mike Reiss is going to be a little late to today's chat. He'll be online close to 12:15.

Mike
  (12:14 PM)

Just getting set up here at stadium. A few more minutes.

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

Will lead off with this thought: We didn't need the reminder of how fragile things can be in the NFL, and things can change in an instant. Then we got it -- with a happy ending -- with Tom Brady's knee injury Wednesday.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

That was one of the best days of training camp. Great weather. Great crowd. Great energy. One of those special days that come around once or twice every summer and then when Brady remained down, you could almost feel everyone there saying a collective, "Oh, no." It turned that quickly. In the end, it was a big scare.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

What's on your mind today?

Ashton (Kutcher )

Who do you think has the best chanceto emerge as Brady's #1 target this season? Lotta new faces out there.

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Ashton, Tom Brady said that the Patriots would have a better feel for their receiving corps about midway through the preseason, and we do. Here is how I see the depth chart breaking down: 1. Amendola; 2. Dobson; 3. Thompkins; 4. Boyce; 5. Edelman; 6. Slater.

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Depending on the individual matchup that week, the 2-5 options could be mixed up in any form or fashion. There will be growing pains, no doubt. But if things continue on their current course, this group has more upside than the last few years. They should be bigger, faster, stronger, smarter and more athletic than the last two years. Again, there will be some early bumps in the road. Everyone expects them. But to get where they want to go, this "re-do" at the position looks promising at this point.

Patterson (Collegeville, PA)

Any rumblings on any possible D-lineman that the Patriots could pick up to bolster their depth. It seems real thin after Kelly and Armstead. And why is Ras-I Dowling still on the roster. He is always injured.

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Patterson, I have little doubt they are closely monitoring the situation at DT. Very thin there. Big drop-off after Wilfork and Kelly. Haven't heard any names, but believe the concern with the quality of depth there is real internally. ... As for Dowling, it is similar to Shawn Crable (3rd round, 2008). Great physical attributes. Struggles putting them together as a football player.

Nick (Kalamazoo MI)

Do you honestly see Tebow making the final roster? and if so, do you see them using him in the option formation this season?

Mike
  (12:22 PM)

Nick, I see Tebow on the roster as the third quarterback. If he plays, and it would only be in an emergency if Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett were injured, I think they would absolutely use some form of the option with him.

Arthur (Nashua, NH)

Is Mallet the guy if Brady does go down? Year three I should hope so. But he has not looked great at all.

Mike
  (12:24 PM)

Arthur, I think they'd be fine with Mallett. A quick story (apologies for those who might remember it from me telling it in previous years): In 2008, I was particularly hard on Matt Cassel in training camp/preseason and wrote, for the Boston Globe, "If the Patriots have to turn to Cassel, it's going to be big trouble." In the spirit of accountability, which we should all be true to, that wasn't my finest hour. Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record. I personally went up to Cassel and apologized to him, explaining that I was rushed on deadline and took the easy way out. Bad journalism. The lesson I took from that is "beware of judging backup QBs in preseason, especially when they are often playing with the second- and third-unit players anyway." I see enough from Mallett, tools-wise, to believe the Patriots would still be competitive with him.

Derek (Boston)

More WR thoughts: I would put Thompkins ahead of Dobson based on the way he was used as Brady's 'security blanket' in the first game and his big-play ability noted throughout training camp. On Edelman, did you read anything in to him receiving most of his playing time with the second and third units? My thought was that he was just coming back from injury and it was a good opportunity to test the rookie WRs with Brady but I'm not sure if it's a sign of his slipping standing with the team (at WR, still has PR ability).

Mike
  (12:26 PM)

Derek, I think it will depend on the matchup. No need to really lock them into 2 or 3. Maybe we could say 2a, 2b, 2c with the three rookies if we really want to get technical. On Edelman, I took his playing time at face value, with the thought that he's still working his way back (and still a top punt returner for them). I think he could be a No. 2 on some weeks when the plan calls for the quicker/faster receivers.

Patrick (Foxboro)

Do you think Anthony Rashad White has a chance of making the team?

Mike
  (12:27 PM)

Patrick, big kid, pretty good power in there. Looks like Cory Grissom might be a bit ahead of him, but wouldn't be totally shocked if he sticks. Would still call him a longshot, but as we noted, depth there is thin.

Kelley (Haddonfield Heights, NJ)

Do you think Sudfield will see a lot of playing time in the regular season? His height would come in handy near the goal line in a passing situation. He and Thompkins seem like the 2 surprise players to make the roster. Any other surprises to make the roster?

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

Kelley, I do think Sudfeld and Thompkins will have roster spots. And we saw that height from Sudfeld (6-foot-7, 260 pounds) in the red zone yesterday when he snared a high pass. In those tight spaces, the bigger catch radius of a player like Sudfeld can indeed come in handy. As for other surprises to make the roster, keep an eye on the punter battle -- Ryan Allen is giving Zoltan Mesko a run for the money.

Mike (Flight from Orlando to Providence)

Mike, who do you see stepping up in the secondary to claim spots this fall? Specifically at the Safety position. I have not heard much about Adrian Wilson and his acclimation to the Patriot system. Also, curious how Duron Harmon looks as I do not have much faith in Tavon Wilson.

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

Mike, are you really on the ORL to PVD flight? If so, isn't that great? The WiFi on airplanes often comes in handy on our road trips. If everything was equal, I think the Patriots would like to see Aqib Talib (LCB) and Alfonzo Dennard (RCB) be their top guys, with Kyle Arrington in the slot. Then it's Devin McCourty at safety, and they could rotate depending on the matchup with Adrian Wilson/Steve Gregory next to him. Adrian Wilson hasn't stood out to me one way or the other. On Harmon, I think he moves better back there than Tavon Wilson (who looks like a LB trying to play S at times).

kris lavery (Scranton, PA)

What if anything is new on Gronkowski?

Mike
  (12:32 PM)

Kris, we've seen Gronkowski at practice and he's still just working on strengthening his core. Long way to go there. Looks to me, just from the eye test, that he still needs to build back his strength.

Nick (Seaport)

Sudfeld has shown he has soft hands but can he block? The latter may determine how often he hits the field.

Mike
  (12:33 PM)

Nick, we spoke with Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews last week and specifically asked about Sudfeld. Here's what he said:

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

"He did a real good job out there making plays. He's one of those tight ends you can split out and create mismatches because he's tall (6-foot-7), he's a little quicker than most tight ends. He's not your traditional tight end; he'll go up for the ball. He's a little more of a receiver than [Rob] Gronkowski."

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

So your point on blocking is well taken. If an opponent is saying he's more like a WR, that tells you something.

alan (ct)

does ballard look as though hes becoming more comfortable with his knee? a couple weeks straight of full speed practices has to be a good sign right?

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Alan, they are still limiting Ballard in practice and in the preseason opener he only played 12 snaps. I sense that he'd like to push it a bit more but they're being careful. One of the interesting things with him is that he's down from 278 pounds to 260 yet still felt strong enough as an in-line blocker.

Joseph (Sam diego)

What are your expectations for shane vereen?

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Joseph, I think he slides right into the Danny Woodhead role. 34-40 percent of the offensive snaps. Heavy presence as a pass-catcher.

Claudio Teichmann (Brazil)

Hi Mike ! Congratulations for your great work and coverage !We are all very surprised with the unexpected development of Thompkins, since he wasn't even drafted. I would like to know if there were, in recent years, any undrafted WR that went to Pro Bowl. Any name come to you mind?I just remembered Victor Cruz from NYG.Go Pats !!!

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

How soon we forget ... Wes Welker. No penalty flag thrown, Claudio, but Welker might be the best example of all.

Jon (Java, Indonesia via New Bedford)

Hi Mike, Remember last year's camp when the OL looked shaky but ended up begin fine? They seemed deeper last year. Are the Pats looking thin on the OL this year? Beyond Vollmer, Solder, and Cannon I can't think of any other OL draft picks that have stuck from the last 5 drafts. Sure, Dante is amazing with FAs but is this an issue with the injuries they've been having, particularly the interior OL?

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

Jon, just as we touched on the depth questions at defensive tackle, the same is true on the offensive line. Solid with the top 6 (Cannon as the 6th), and with Svitek as the 7th, it looks like they'd be fine if everyone is healthy. But I see a pretty notable drop-off when we get to the 8th option. Maybe Nick McDonald comes back when healthy (shoulder)?

Hunk Hughes (Newton, MA)

I saw Kenbrell Thompkins is 25 years old and since he is a rookie, what path did he take to the NFL.

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

Hunk, that path for Thompkins explains, in part, why he went undrafted. The main thing was that he initially enrolled at Tennessee but when Lane Kiffin left they didn't release him from his commitment until later and it cost him a year. First attended community college. Had some run-ins with the law growing up (tough upbringing) with about 7 arrests when he was between 15-17.

John (CT)

Anything? Anything at all on Armstead?? (Tommy Kelly-VERY underrated signing, perfect compliment to big Vince) Thanks Mike

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

John, we spotted Armstead watching practice as a spectator, so I can decisively report he's still with us. Career not in jeopardy. Educated guess? Staph infection. Just want to stress that is a complete guess.

Davis (Boston)

How overblown was the Tom Brady injury? hypothetically if Brady were to miss time does Tebow touch the field as the starter?

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

Davis, I just think we just have to keep it in perspective. Anyone that was there would tell you it was a scary moment when it happened -- Brady staying down on the ground.

Mike
  (12:49 PM)

He reached down for the knee and remained down for about 5-10 seconds. Can't just brush that off. He limped off to the sideline. Then he came back and finished the drill, so that adds important context. After the drill, he consulted with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head athletic trainer Jim Whalen and they determined his practice was over to be cautious. The MRI was negative.

Mike
  (12:49 PM)

I think if we just focus on the facts, nothing gets overblown. And those are the facts.

Mo (Concord)

If Vereen takes Woodhead's role, who takes Vereen's role? Still having a hard time figuring out how to keep 5 RBs if Ridley and Vereen are getting the lion's share of the snaps. Washington helps in the return game and seems to me Bolden and Blount battle it out.

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

Mo, one thing to keep in mind (at least for me), is that Bolden might make it on his special teams contributions alone. He was on the "Big 4" units in the preseason opener. Washington could step in as the Vereen backup.

Matt (Rochester, NY)

Call me crazy, but I think I'm a lot less worried than other Pat's fans about the team this year. First things first, we still have Brady. Nothing against him, but I think Amendola will be an upgrade from Welker given that he's been impressive with San Bradford as a QB and now he upgrades to Brady. Their three rookie WRs have seemed to have exceeded expectations to say the least. Their running game is back, minus Woodhead, but I think Vereen will step up. I don't think they'll even miss Hernandez with a very underrated Jake Ballard (If I remember correctly, he killed us in the SB) and Sudfeld. They seemed to get alot better after the Talib trade on the defensive side of the ball and a few upgrades in Kelly, Collins etc. The wildcard in all of this of course is injuries, but are you more confident in them this year than last year? I think they are a more complete team.

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

My questions are more on the defensive side at this time. I see the potential for them to be a better team, but don't think they are just yet.

Deion Branch (Couch)

The new WR's. smarter, really? That's cold.

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

As a collective group, yes. Not an individual slight on you, Deion. You're one of the best. But it's the collective group in 2013 vs. the collective group in 2012.

David (North Attleborough)

How has Steve Gregory played in training camp and how has him not being a special teams player hurt his status on the team?

Mike
  (12:55 PM)

David, saw Gregory as the personal protector on the punt team yesterday, so he does play some special teams. I basically look at Gregory and Adrian Wilson as the Patriots' attempt to combine two players into one at the safety spot next to Devin McCourty. Wilson is the bigger safety who might show up in game-plans against more run-based teams like the Jets, while Gregory is more of the coverage-type.

Gary (Arlington, VA)

Mike, how many guys do you have making the team on special teams contributions? Don't some of these start to overlap?

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

Yes, Gary, and the player who could be in some jeopardy is someone like safety Nate Ebner. I still think he makes it, but the longer he's out, the grip on a roster spot becomes a bit looser.

Andy (Hartford)

In your recent assessments of the this year's new receivers, you repeatedly included the term "smarter" as compared to last year's group. Please explain. Thanks.

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

Andy, as a collective group, 1-5, they get the check-mark vs. last year's group.

Brandon Lloyd (Couch)

Isn't it bit revisionist to undercut our contributions last year .. 974 yards is nothing to sneeze at ..

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

Absolutely not undercutting it. Just think this group has higher upside. Might not see it immediatly. But ceiling much higher.

Anthony (Cincinnati)

Who do you see filling in for Welker as the sure handed punt returner? He was always inputted as the return man whenever the ball HAD to be caught, especially near the goal line?

Mike
  (12:58 PM)

They had Kevin Faulk in that role too. The four punt returner we saw yesterday were Edelman, Amendola, Washington and Thompkins. Maybe Amendola fills that "sure-handed" role.

Scott (Scottsdale, Arizona)

How many wide receivers and running backs do you see making the team?

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

I'd say 6 WRs if you count Slater and 5 RBs. That means I'm going with just 3 TEs.

BoSoxJim (Bruh Nation)

With Jenkins being released, does it mean my favorite player, Edelman, is a near lock to make the team? I hope so because he brings a lot to the table as far as positional versatility.

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

I do think Edelman is a lock. Top punt returner.

Matt (Cassel)

Mike, I forgive you. PS Did you see me play in Kansas City?? Man am I brutal. You weren't really that wrong about me. I had a cupcake schedule and amazing receivers.

Mike
  (1:00 PM)

Don't forget very good coaching to play to your strengths in New England.

Arthur (Nashua, NH)

Just # TE's? Who out then?

Mike
  (1:01 PM)

First question: Is Gronkowski on the roster or PUP. Let's assume PUP. I think it's Ballard, Fells/Hoomanawanui and Sudfeld. Would probably pick Fells if forced to choose.

Mike (Boston)

Where was Tom's customary knee brace yesterday? From the pictures it didnt look as though he was wearing it.

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

He was wearing a sleeve over the knee.

Adam (Broomfield, CO)

Surprise cut: Adrian Wilson, given the lack of special teams contributions relative to the other safeties, he's likely a few steps slower than Gregory, and Harmon and T Wilson can step in against run - heavy teams.

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

I have Adrian Wilson on the roster at this time. Would be a surprise to me, for sure, if he's a cut.

Rain (Ft. Lauderale)

Those missed field gaols against Philly were concerning. Is Gotkowski looking any better in practice ?

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

Yes, looks like he's had a good couple days of practice to me.

Arthur (Nashua, NH)

And if Gronk is active? Whice I doubt.

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

Could see both Fells and Hoomanawaui go in that scenario. Economics a factor, as Fells due to make $1.25 million and Hoomanawanui $1.3 million. That's a lot if the team views them as real No. 3 guys.

Matt G. (not Gutierrez) (Portland, ME)

Mike, what's the ref presence like at camp? Do they actually stop practice when they see a violation, and mark off 5, 10, 15 yards? Or do they just note it for the coaches and players and let play continue?

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

More the latter, Matt.

Brad (Detroit, MI)

what aobut marquise cole? i feel like he is undervalued as a special teamer and someone who can play slot and outside CB spots.

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Brad, Cole is one player who I initially didn't think would be on the roster, but whose dependability might help him stick. With Dennard and Dowling limited with injury, Cole has made the most of his extended opportunities.

Diego (King of Prussia, PA)

Will the offense stretch the field vertically with all the speedsters at the WR position? Maybe a few more deep passes as opposed to West Coast offense of dump offs.

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Diego, I do think you'll see more of that this year. Some more size and speed at WR this year.

Kevin (Lowell, MA)

Hey Mike, I see that camp is ending this week; so what happens after that? They obviously need more work before the season starts, so they still meet daily(?), just not with pads? What's different between "camp" and what happens the next few weeks?

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

Kevin, the team practices as it regularly does, we just don't get to see it. Sort of a bummer. My favorite part of camp is really digging in on the team. Feel like I know the club better when I get to watch practice.

BosoxJim (Bruhnation)

Will Logan Ryan's speed be an issue?

Mike
  (1:09 PM)

Ideally with a player like Logan Ryan, you have the luxury of developing him without having to thrust him into the lineup. Hasn't exactly been the case with Dennard and Dowling limited in camp. Ryan has been thrust into there. Lack of speed shows up at times.

Carlos (Miami)

Mike, I have absolutely had it with you. You are rude, inconsiderate, and stuck up and I am fed up with you not answering my questions. I am never again positng on your chat or mailbag, and I will report this to ESPN. Perhaps you should think about not answering multiple questions from a specific viewer.

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Carlos, wish I could get to them all. There are more than 350 questions in there, and I try to distribute them as much as possible. Thanks for the understanding.

John (MT)

Will the recent injury to Tom limit his playing time in the upcoming games?

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

John, I could see it affecting their approach Friday night vs. Tampa. After that, anyone's guess at this point.

Tight ends (New England )

Is Gronk on pup miss first 6? Or that hasn't been determined yet?

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

Not determined yet. The PUP list that he's on is the active PUP list, meaning he could come off at any time.

Mike (Norfolk, VA)

Carlos from Miami just had a melt down!

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

We all have 'em. You should see me at home when my son decides, mid-diaper, that he's not finished with his work. Tough to keep it together, but I try the Belichick approach. No emotion. Move on to the next play ... I mean ... next diaper.

max (my cube)

Mike do not feed the trolls. That smells like a provocative post from Carlos just so he could get his post published

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

I hear ya, Max. Sometimes I like to post them just to show people some of the crazy stuff that lands in the inbox, either here or on Twitter. Can get pretty nasty at times. Prefer the "we're-all-in-this-together-let's-keep-it-civil-approach."

Enrique (Miami-Dade, FL)

Can Daniel Fells play Fullback in the I formation like Michael Hoomanawanui? Has he played this role in the past? If Hoomanawanui is gone, who would the team turn to, to fill that psuedo-fullback position?

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Real good question. I think Fells could do it. My feeling is that for the amount the Patriots use two backs, it might not be worth the $1.3m for Hoomanawanui. Or possible he could be brought back at half the price.

Brad (Detroit, MI)

mike will you be in detroit for the 3rd preseason? if so, any plans for a get together?

Mike
  (1:16 PM)

Brad, I will be there, but it's a quick trip and not sure I could swing it. Let's check in next week. Happy to meet on game-day morning for a quick hello.

John (MT)

How has Fletcher recovered from his injury? Progress?

Mike
  (1:16 PM)

John, I've been impressed with him this camp. Core special teamer. Active in pass coverage. Looks like their 5th LB to me.

Mike
  (1:17 PM)

Let's take a few more...

Spencer (Maryland) [via mobile]

Hey mike, you said that today is the last day for fans to come and watch practice. But do you and other reporters still have access to preseason practices?

Mike
  (1:18 PM)

Spencer, we will have access to just a few minutes at the start of each practice. Basically it comes down to taking attendance and watching stretching and agility drills.

Nolan (Groton, CT)

People are always asking about a surprise cut, I heard Ballard's knee isn't looking so great, any chance he could be the surprise?

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

Nolan, he is still working through it, no doubt. Wouldn't be shocking, but I do think he's their best in-line blocker.

Andy (Rowley, MA)

Mike, seems like LB is a position of strength and depth this year. Are you seeing more 3-4 work than last year?

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

Yes, Andy, we have seen more 3-4 this year. I don't think it's a huge deal, but with continuity in the front seven, and hybrid players like Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower, they can do more things.

Nick (Woburn, MA)

Hi Mike, we've got an extended pre-season this year, playing the Jets and Buffalo before we take on Tampa Bay. Which matchup are you looking forward to most on the schedule? Gotta be Denver right?

Mike
  (1:20 PM)

Let's end on this one, Nick. Be careful on that opener vs. Buffalo. Some dangerous skill-position players on offense there. The matchup I'm most looking forward to: At Atlanta, Week 4. A great test to see if this defense can become more dominant against a top vertical passing offense. Should be a great atmosphere.

Mike
  (1:21 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. Always enjoyable. We'll do it again next Thursday, from Detroit.