Good morning and welcome to today's chat.
Just getting a few things together and then we'll get started. The earlier start time, at 11 a.m. instead of noon, is a result of the Patriots' locker room media-access period being moved up to 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
Couple thoughts stand out to me this week. First, it's a good week to highlight the importance of OL play. Dolphins loaded up this offseason but didn't solidify the line and it's really hurt them. On the Patriots' side, there were multiple reasons for the breakdowns in the third quarter, but I'd put OL breakdowns at the top of the list. That's a surprise given that all 5 starters are back. Has to be better and I sense that group has had an edge of sorts this week. An increased focus.
Second, it's easy to take for granted how the Patriots have dominated the AFC East since 2001. If they want to continue on that path, this is a big game for them. If they beat the Dolphins, they'd improve to 3-1 in division play, with remaining AFC East games at Miami (Dec. 15) and at home against Buffalo (Dec. 29). That said, I don't sense that many are really focusing on this matchup as much as we have other matchups from an X's and O's perspective. A lot of looking back, and asking what's wrong. All fair questions, but this Dolphins team is tough.
So let's get into it all.
So, Mike - What can we really expect out of Andre Carter? I'm thinking maybe something similar to the second Gerard Warren era - only a moderate workload with some moderate success, but being a veteran steadying force on the line. Your thoughts?
Brian, I like the signing on multiple levels. First, his presence in the locker room. They lost some key leadership with Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Carter is a steadying presence. Second, he can help as a nickel/dime edge rusher. Rookie Michael Buchanan has lost containment on two third-down plays in two of the last three weeks. He's also not consistently getting to the QB. Maybe Carter is an upgrade. It's a 10-20 percent playtime position, most likely. So a limited role. If they are relying on Carter for more, I think that's shaky ground to be standing on.
I know that Armstead isn't practicing yet, but do you have any more insight into the nature of his rehab?
Jeremy, I actually saw him yesterday and my feeling from laying eyes on him is that he has a chance to help them this season. Just needs a little more time.
Do you think the return of Gronkowski will open up the rest of the offense, especially the running game?
Jake, you would have thought so last week, but that's not the way it unfolded. Gronkowski played 51 snaps and was targeted 17 times. That's an extremely high percentage. I do think there is an element of Gronkowski's presence opening things up for others that we will see, although I didn't see it at the level I was expecting last Sunday.
Do you see the Patriots trading for a offensive playmaker? Maybe Josh Gordon, Hakeem Nicks, or Kenny Britt. Which of these players do you think would be the best?
Brian, I don't see them going in that direction. If anything, a big defensive tackle. But those players usually aren't availabvle on the trade market. When it comes to trades, I focus less on WR and more on DT. I'd want one of those big, 6-foot-6, 320-pound guys who looks good coming off the bus and is going to be physical and not get pushed back at the line of scrimmage. Those players are tough to find.
Hi Mike,Ridley- Am I missing something? Why doesn't he get more touches? Week 1 aside, he's the best runner the team has by far. Are we going to start seeing him get more carries? Seems like more Ridley carries could help some of these offensive problems.
Any thoughts on Amendola playing this weekend?
We'll double you up, Joe. I agree. Have to get him the ball more. Period. Runs hard. 20 runs as an entire team last week isn't high enough. ... I will make an educated guess that Amendola plays.
Mike there was a recently article that you linked to the blog on the MJD trade to the pats for a 6th rounder. Do you think he's really necessary? I think Ridley, bolden and Blount provide enough depth and then vereen when he's healthy. Not sure MJD would be worth a trade. Thoughts?
John, not a big deal, but just to clarify I didn't link that article. Anything Patriots-related now gets automatically posted to the blog, which is why you might be seeing a lot of Aaron Hernandez type updates. So one thing I'd say to anyone checking out the blog, it's now more important to look at the bylines to know who is writing what. ... As for MJD, that would fall into the category of the WRs prviously mentioned. My thought: Less offense, more defense. A big DT would be perfect. The 2013 version of Ted Washington would be a true gift.
Mike, that 3rd quarter against the Jets was about as bad a quarter of football as the Pats have played in the Brady era. Agree?
Maybe the worst offensive quarter. The defense made some plays. It all started up front IMO. Just guys missing blocks. Solder and Wendell, in particular. Bad, bad, bad football.
Jay Ratliff is available, does he have anything left?
Michael, if he's healthy, he could help them. Just reading the reports like everyone else, seems like some conflicting things coming out with him. Definitely worth exploring.
Any thoughts to the 2nd half troubles the Pats have had recently, Bills, Jets, Bengals, etc, I am happy about the 5-2 record, but am worried that other teams are making better 2nd half adjustments.
Scott, I feel strongly about this one because I've watched every snap of every game, sometimes multiple times, with the benefit of coaches film. It's part of a increased focus this year to better understand what is unfolding on the field and learn more about such a complex game. I don't think it's an adjustment thing. It's an execution thing. If you have time, just flip on that third quarter from last Sunday again. It was just about blocking the guy in front of you. Or making the correct read as a quarterback. Or catching the ball.
They aren't getting outsmarted, just outexecuted, for the most part.
Hi Mike: Fans should stop complaining about the FG penalty against the Pats. There was a questionable non-holding call on the Pats OL on the final TD pass against the Saints.
Ben, those calls generally even out over time. Chris Jones clearly pushed Will Svitek and by the letter of the law, that is indeed a penalty, even if the Patriots ran the same play the week before against the Saints and weren't penalized. You get those calls sometimes, you don't get them other times. ...
... That said, I think the more important question, for all 32 teams really, is "What constitiutes a penalty with this new rule?" Is it any push? Just a hard push? Because if it's any push, regardless of force, the Jets could have been flagged too. I think everyone can see that Quinton Coples had his right arm/hand on the back of Muhammad Wilkerson on Stephen Gostkowski's 44-yard field goal, and pushed forward with force as Wilkerson flipped over snapper Danny Aiken. It clearly wasn't as hard as Chris Jones' push. But it was a push. ...
... So let's end with this on the topic: Take nothing away from the Jets. They made enough plays to win the game and controlled the line of scrimmage. Those calls can go either way. I just think the NFL would be doing its teams and the media covering the game a service to clarify what is a penalty. You have the referee saying it's any type of pushing action after the game. In that case, I can understand why the Patriots would be puzzled at the inconsistency of the interpretation of the rule, especially at such a critical juncture of the game.
That's all. I don't have a horse in the race. I just believe in accountability. I also know how hard these coaches work -- for all teams -- and to have a game partially determined on something like that is unfortunate from my view.
Mike, I thought the play calling was pretty bad in the 3rd quarter Sunday. It seemed like they were trying some trick plays before establishing any momentum, which doesn't seem to work too often. Also, Brady seemed to be forcing it to Gronk. Was the coverage that good Sunday or was Brady making poor decisions? What are the chances he corrects that?
Nate, part of it was poor decision-making. At the same time, there weren't a lot of openings in which to throw. The Jets play good defense. I think the Patriots made it easier on them, though, by basically conceding the run. I turned to colleague Field Yates at the end of the second quarter and after a Brady strip sack that the Patriots recovered said something along the lines of, "Jets defense is getting after it, think they need to settle it down and try to get that run game going." Felt the tide of the game turning, even with them up 21-10 at half. There is a fine line between remaining aggressive and trying to settle things down and I thought that was an area they missed out on at the start of the third quarter. At the same time, no one was expecting Brady to throw the pick-6.
Mike what has happened with your predictions I hope your picking Miami this week
0 for my last 4. And they call us "experts." LOL.
People gotta get off this idea that the Pats need to trade for a WR. Where are they going to put him? Do they drop Slater, Edelman, Amendola, Thompkins Dobson or Boyce? Because you would have to in order to get a WR.
Feel the same way, Eric. Any Ted Washington's available?
how come they didn't run any screenplays? Pittsburgh had success against New York with them
Not sure, Dave, but this is a good week to get the screen game going. As I look at my notes from the Dolphins' 23-21 loss to the Bills on Sunday, this is something I jotted down: "Screen worked against them, 21 yards." Maybe we see it this week. Their best screen RB is Shane Vereen. Then Bolden. I think we're seeing the loss of Danny Woodhead hurt them in that area too.
Mike, are you also feeling glad that the Patriots didn't go out of their way to extend Wendell's contract before now? He looks more like a backup than a leader on the line.
Mike, his struggles stood out to me last week. Really solid guy, though, and you're always going to look at the complete body of work instead of one performance. Big challenge for him this week. In this week's Bruschi's Breakdown, which should be posted soon on ESPNBoston.com, here is something Tedy Bruschi writes: "One thing you see at times is a double-A gap package, where the linebackers get into those gaps and one can rush, one can drop, they both can rush, there could be a pass-rush game inside with the defensive lineman, or they drop out and play zone coverage. The main goal is to affect the protection calls of the offensive line."
Does the Andre Carter signing change anything scheme-wise? Do they slide Ninkovich to more of an OLB role, or move Chandler Jones inside more frequently?
They could do that, for sure. It gives them some more flexibility as they continue to piece it together without Jerod Mayo at LB.
do you expect Carter to play on Sunday
Yes, CB, but just an educated guess.
Any LEON Washington's available? In your opinion, Mike, is he just sticking on the team at this point because his contract is guaranteed?
Touche, touche Jake. Here is why I think he is sticking on the team: He's a veteran and when the games get bigger, there is comfort in having someone who has been there before and who can help in the all-important field position game. I think having a Leon Washington in that locker room is a positive thing. You want guys like that around. But at the end of the day, as Bill Belichick said in regards to Andre Carter on Wednesday, it comes down to production on the field. He just hasn't been healthy enough at this point.
Mike, Woody signed with SD. You need to move on. He wasn't going to start here, which also means that SD was probably willing to pay him more.
Peter, Woodhead has played 215 offensive snaps through the first seven games for the Chargers. He played 192 snaps for the Patriots through seven games last year. Now, I understand that the Patriots envisioned Shane Vereen as the player they wanted to elevate into a larger role in 2013, and that could have curbed back Woodhead's playing time some. Woodhead was on board and would have stayed for the same contract he got in SD. But Patriots didn't see the value. I just disagree with that, especially for what he signed for, and I say it respectfully. I wonder if they would think differently if they could do it over again. No one is perfect. Me included. Good to move on, but just want to make sure the accurate facts are out there on Woodhead situation.
Feel any sympathy for Logan Ryan today? I know he's making some good money, but still $10,000 for a rookie is a big chunk of change for something that didn't even draw a penalty flag. I wonder if the league would ever adjust fines to represent a percentage of contract rather than being uniform.
Rob, good kid who made a mistake. In general, I think the NFL is too fine-happy, but I think they got this one right. The part that I feel most bad for Ryan is that people will now associate him with that act. I don't believe that's what he represents, as he seems like a smart kid who wants to do well. But we're all accountable for our actions.
A quick Logan Ryan story...
As part of the pre-draft process, prospects interview with teams and I had one club tell me about their experience with Logan Ryan. This team had a handful of staffers in the interview room and asked Logan Ryan to identify who each staffer was. That's asking a lot, but the team wanted to gauge two things: 1) How deeply had the player prepared for the interview; 2) How did the player react to the adversity of not getting the answers right (most of the prospects were wrong with their answers). As the interview ended, Logan Ryan was steaming mad at himself for not getting most of them right. So what did the team write down in its file on Logan Ryan: "That's the type of competitivenss we want on our team. Depending on how the draft falls, he could be our type of guy."
So that gives you a little insight as to how another team viewed Ryan, and what I think is a little more of an accurate reflection of who he is. I say that cautiously, because we never really know these players (e.g. Aaron Hernandez). But I loved that behind-the-scenes story.
You previously have said the team signed Danny Amendola with the long term in mind. However, let's say he get hurt again (for the 3rd time) and misses 8-9 games this year. Can you see a scenario where they do not bring him back after this season?
I'd be surprised at that, Dave, but would have to look closer at the financial considerations (e.g. salary cap hit) before saying anything decisively.
Speaking of Logan Ryan, do you think he has surpassed Kyle Arrington on the depth chart? Also, I still can't wrap my head around Arrington's $16m/4y, $7.5m guaranteed contract. :(
Michael, I don't think Ryan has passed Arrington on the depth chart, although he did in Sunday's loss to the Jets. The week before, Arrington had a big INT of Drew Brees. As we know, that third CB is almost like a starter with the high volume of sub defense played these days. To me, Arrington is generally solid in the slot. It's when he's asked to do more when there are sometimes some issues.
Mike,The Pats continue to have the same problem they have had for seemingly 8 years, they don't get much consistent pressure on the QB. I know Jones had a couple sacks against the Jets, I'm referring to a general observation that Brady is scrambling often behind a supposedly strong OL while the opposing QB seems to wait until someone comes free in coverage without even moving around. Is there a site which evaluates the effectiveness of the pass rush for each defense? I'm guessing if there is, the Pats grade out pretty low.
Matt, there is no site I could recommend with conviction. To me, a person has to go study each play and rush, and come to a conclusion on whether it was the rush or the coverage that produced the desired result. Often times, it isn't black and white, even though we want it to be. I also think there are some great examples over the last two weeks of how a three-man rush, with eight in coverage, can be more effective. Good topic. Let's try to get into it some more in the coming weeks.
Hi Mike, thanks for the opportunity to chat. I think we desperately need to make a trade. If I could I'd go after Paul Posluszny in Jacksonville. He's a great Linebacker but most important he has great cover skills. That would set our D up nicely for next year with Mayo and Hightower. I love What Spikes brings but Posluszny brings a complete game.Who would you trade for if you could? Justin Blackmon would be a nice add, but that's a luxury not a necessity.
Todd, I could be wrong on this, but I don't think the Patriots had Posluszny very high on their draft board when he came out. Not sure that would change anything now, but my sense is that they didn't view him as a fit. As previously noted, I'd be looking for the 2013 version of DT Ted Washington.
Hi Mike. Thanks for keeping Pats fans across the globe up to date with all the news from Foxborough. In your opinion how big a loss has Danny Woodhead been to the team. A lot was made of the Wes Welker defection to Manning country but I personally think that Danny Woodhead going to San Diego was hugely significant particularly given how productive he was (and still is) as a third down back. Third down is a situation where the Patriots have really struggled this year particularly since Shane Vereen went to temporary IR.
LOL Damian. The boys are telling me I have to move on and start "seeing other people." Love that.
You guys are great. This is a lot of fun.
So much talk about Gronk and how he's going to save this team. Have you all forgotten the electricity I brought? I'll be back and my legs are fine. My threat makes our other weapons more dangerous so don't fear, were going to hit top gear!
Week 11, Shane, and you will make a difference. Word from Bill Belichick is that you are getting closer to joining team activities.
Can you envision a scenario where BB would trade a 1st round pick to a team for a very good, if not elite, DT?
In 14 years as Patriots coach, Bill Belichick has never traded a first-round pick, Jamie. I don't think that changes this year.
Everyone out in Cali knows who I am when I sell jersey's in the local Modells. Much love for me on the west coast.
Danny, you have to stop it. You're like the girlfriend who starts to call again just as we're ready to move on. I miss my short guys in the locker room.
Let's take a few more. Then I have to get ready for locker-room access.
Mike prediction time again I am very optimistic about this week, just a gut feel, I say 34-13 Patriots, Dolphins have no running game, and Pats have done well getting pressure on Ryan Tannehill in previous game. Your prediction?
Scott, Tannehill threw two really bad interceptions last week. The first one looked similar to Tom Brady's pick-6. I like the Patriots to win, but it should be noted I'm 0 for my last 4.
So who is the 2013 version of Ted Washington?
Good question, Dylan, and it's hard to know without having an idea who would be willing to trade a player like that (and there aren't many of them). I'd focus on the teams who look like they are a year away and see if there are any fits. My guess is that too many things would need to happen (player available, draft-pick compensation is agreed upon etc.) for it to become a reality.
Could it simply be that the Patriots are asking a 270 pound linebacker in Dont'a Hightower to cover running backs which he just can't physically do?
Tough to watch at times, David. That's where the loss of Mayo shows up, for sure. They'll keep tweaking the plan. Maybe Jamie Collins starts coming on.
Why is Collins not playing more snaps? Hightower is way to slow to cover! And they need help at wr and a rusher
Probably just a matter of making sure he knows what he's doing. He doesn't all the time, and that's not a knock on his smarts as much as that it's hard to step in and play in this defense at that position right away.
Does Collins look like he is significantly improving to you?
Absolutely Jamie. 15 pretty solid snaps last Sunday, doing some different things from what we have seen previously. I share some thoughts on Collins in this film review of the first quarter:
Mike, if Hightower is subbed out, does that mean the Pats play wihtout a mic for the plays he is out? Is that a big disadvantage?
Let's end on this one, Scott. Yes, it would mean that. Or they could have Devin McCourty wear it and then not have to worry about that. You would use hand signals in the situation where you didn't have the communication device.
Good stuff, all around today. Appreciate it, and we'll do it again next week. Enjoy the day.