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November 14, 11:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (10:59 AM)

Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.

Mike
  (11:01 AM)

I've noticed that there is no topic on our blog generating more interest than the possibility of the Patriots signing Ed Reed. So let's start there.

Mike
  (11:03 AM)

To me, it all comes down to what Ed Reed wants to do, and if he'd be willing to accept a complementary role here. I don't buy the idea that he has nothing left. We heard the same things about Isaac Sopoaga upon his acquisition from the Eagles and he was out there in his debut making plays in short-yardage situations Nov. 3 vs. the Steelers. The Patriots are in sub packages 68 percent of the time, so the 5th, 6th, 7th defensive backs are key guys. Reed would be in that area of the depth chart and I think he could help ... if he's willing to accept that type of role. Let's see what happens.

Mike
  (11:03 AM)

I'm not sure how aggressively the Patriots have pursued it at this point. Certainly something I'll be monitoring/following closely.

Tman (Belmont, MA)

Hi Mike. Can you allay my fears regarding Monday Night? The Panthers have a physical, dominant DL. In past yrs when the Pats OL was good, it always had problems with physical, athletic DLs (Ravens, Giants, etc). This yr, the Pats OL is mediocre at best, and has had the same old issues with the same type of DLs (Bengals, Jets, etc). Why will Monday Night be any different?

Mike
  (11:08 AM)

Tman, you strike me as the type of person who has no fears. I'm shocked. If we talk about a formula that has given the Patriots issues in the past, it's those teams that can generate pressure with the standard four rushers, and that's been a Carolina trademark. They are tough up front with Star Lotulelei (2013 first-rounder, 14th overall), Kawann Short (2013 second-rounder) and veterans Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole, and then Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy really bring the heat off the edge. It's a good group. I think one area to consider that might be overlooked in this discussion is that the teams which also give the Patriots problems are those who "spin the dial" and mix up their coverages snap to snap. I'm not sure this Carolina group qualifies at the same level as what we saw from a club like the Jets. One last thought: I think this Panthers defense is legit, but I don't think they've faced a passing game with the capabilities of this one. Big challenge for them too.

John -New Jersey [via mobile]

If Pats did sign Ed Reed, when do you this happening???

Mike
  (11:09 AM)

John, my feeling is that it all comes down to Reed. If he's ready to accept the role and vision they had for him, there would be no reason to wait.

Joe (Allston)

Hi Mike,If you had to guess, do you think the Patriots will try to spread out the Panther's D, or run a more max protect scheme?

Mike
  (11:10 AM)

Joe, I think they'll attempt to soften up a strong seven-man box with spread formations and try to get the ball out quick, using the short passing game as an extension of the running game. We could see some up-tempo and/or controlled no-huddle too.

Eric (MA)

Mike, how can you say you don't buy that he has nothing left? Have you watched any of the games? He's not running well. What good is a free safety that doesn't run well? He has great football instincts, knowledge, and leadership but from the game highlights I've seen, there is nothing there that shows me he can still play and help this team other than being an on-field coach. The step down in speed and ability would offset the need for an onfield coach - in my opinion

Mike
  (11:12 AM)

Yes, Eric, I have watched Ed Reed tape. The tape doesn't lie, just like it didn't lie with Sopoaga. I think one of the things a lot of the armchair quarterbacks miss out on when declaring with certainty that a "player has nothing left" is how the player would translate to a different environment/system. Sopoaga is a good example. Rodney Harrison is another good one -- some were saying he had nothing left when he signed here.

Mike
  (11:12 AM)

Here is Field Yates' film analysis on Ed Reed: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4753024/analysis-could-ed-reed-help-the-pats

John -New Jersey [via mobile]

If the Pats go ahead and activate shane Vereen, who do you see being released to clear roster space ???

Mike
  (11:13 AM)

John, I think a player like Jake Bequette could be the odd-man out.

Dan (Cleveland)

How much playing time do you think Shane Vereen will see Monday night?

Mike
  (11:15 AM)

Dan, first things first, the Patriots will have to first move Vereen to the active roster. I think they will, that's my sense, so then it comes down to how the plan unfolds. I'd project a 20-30 snap workload if it gets to that point. They'll need to manage him and we already heard Josh McDaniels say, "He definitely did make a big impact in game one. I don't know if we can expect that in his first game back, whenever that is."

Bunk (Baltimore)

Mike, any updates on Talib? Think he will play this week?

Mike
  (11:16 AM)

Bunk, Belichick said this morning that he's progressing. Was a neutral-type answer. I think we'll see him Monday, that's my hunch.

Michael (NYC)

Mike, is Gronk ready to play as close to 100% of the snaps as McD wants him in there? And will he play a key role in protection on Monday night?

Mike
  (11:17 AM)

Michael, he's averaging 44 snaps per game since his return. That's far from a full load. You'd think that number rises up closer to 100 percent in the coming weeks.

Steve - Boston [via mobile]

I'll be in Charlotte for the game. Are you planning to take part in any pre-game parties in uptown Charlotte?

Mike
  (11:18 AM)

Steve, there are going to be some great things going on in Charlotte, with a Patriots fan club there. Unfortunately, I don't get into town until late Sunday night, so I won't be able to get over to them and Monday is a start-to-finish work day.

Peter (Houston)

Mike, so can Reed still run or not? That is the bottom line.......

Mike
  (11:19 AM)

Yes, Peter, he can still run. Not as well as he used to. But let's put it this way -- if he didn't say the Texans had been outcoached, and wasn't having some trouble accepting the fact he played just 12 snaps, I think he'd still be on the Texans and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Mike
  (11:20 AM)

ESPN's Chris Mortensen just tweeted that the Jets and Ed Reed are on the verge of an agreement, so that will end that Patriots-based discussion.

CMB (Utah)

Any update on Armond Armstead?

Mike
  (11:21 AM)

Doesn't look good, CMB. Bill Belichick didn't sound optimistic when I asked him about it on Monday. Said time is running out and it's looking less likely.

Eric(Houston TX) [via mobile]

Good afternoon Mike my question is with the recent injury and release of Austin Collie does that open to door for Boyce to make it on the field?

Mike
  (11:22 AM)

Yes, Eric, Boyce or Kenbrell Thompkins will be the No. 4 receiver this week. The competition in practice will likely go a long way in determining which player it is.

Bijon(Detroit) [via mobile]

Good morning Mike I just wanted to ask you if Aaron Dobson was to put up second half of the season numbers similar to the first half, would he be in the discussion for rookie of the year?

Mike
  (11:24 AM)

Bijon, the Patriots would be happy with those numbers, no doubt, but I think Dobson would still be a longshot. Packers RB Eddie Lacy, Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard and Rams RB Zac Stacey look like leading candidates from this view.

Matt (Perth, Australia) [via mobile]

Hi Mike, huge Patriots/Boston sports fan from Australia, love your work! You wrote the other day that this team could win it all! My question is, in previous years we've been a constant juggernaut from the start of the season, yet teams who peaked late (Giants, Steelers, Packers, Ravens) have won it all! Do you think that those early struggles help build the chemistry needed for the stretch run, and the pressure is less? And starting poorly may be a blessing in disguise? Keep up your outstanding work!

Mike
  (11:25 AM)

Thanks Matt. The way I look at it is that the early part of the season really sets up the second half. It doesn't have much to do with what it about to unfold, other than the Patriots being able to learn some important lessons and have their young players get some crucial experience. This thing is wide open. No one knows what is going to happen. It's all about health and catching fire at the right time. The Patriots are in position to be that team right now.

grandjordanian (san diego)

Panthers have a great team but BB has had two weeks and it is MNF so Brady is going to light it up. Forget a low scoring battle, this is going to be a big time Pats blowout. Mark it down.

Mike
  (11:27 AM)

That's some big-time confidence, Grand. The Patriots are 10-3 under Bill Belichick coming off the bye. This is a Panthers defense allowing an average of just 12.7 points per game. If it's a blowout, it would be a true sign the Patriots' offense is getting back to its explosive ways.

John (Andover)

Mike, compared to the Broncos next week I see this as a tougher game for the pats given the fact that its away against a better D, your thoughts?

Mike
  (11:28 AM)

John, I view the Broncos as a tougher matchup, mainly because of the Peyton Manning factor.

Ryan (WV)

Mike, who do you feel is the best Patriots player you ever covered, not named Tom Brady? Moss? Gronk? Seems to me that you have been pretty fortunate to cover some of the best players ever at their respective positions. Kudos to you for all your hard work!

Mike
  (11:29 AM)

Ryan, I'd say Moss was the most gifted athlete. He did things you just don't see. Some of the catches he made in training camp were jaw-dropping. I'm not sure he was the best player overall, but he was probably the most exciting to watch from that perspective of doing things that just aren't the norm.

Emily (New York)

Hi Mike. Cam Newton has really seemed to be turning up his passing game as of late. How do you think the patriots will do containing him?

Mike
  (11:33 AM)

Emily, I didn't really sense that Newton and the passing game were clicking when watching the Panthers-49ers game. He looked erratic to me, but came through in the clutch with some big third-down throws. My sense is that the Patriots will focus on a plan that tries to keep Newton in the pocket (rush-lane integrity will be crucial) and see if he can consistently beat them with his arm.

Mike
  (11:34 AM)

My sense on Newton is that when he has it going, he's as good as it gets. It just isn't as consistent as you'd like it when talking about elite QBs.

Aaron (Brockton)

Mike, really looking hard at the O-Line during this matchup with the Panthers. The Pats have struggled against teams that can pressure TB12 with four rushers and Panthers have one of the best fronts in the game. If the O-Line plays well Pats win comfortably, if not, this becomes a down to the wire battle. thoughts?

Mike
  (11:35 AM)

That's the key, Aaron, as I see it. They need a big-time effort from Solder-Mankins-Wendell-Connolly-Cannon. The Cannon vs. Charles Johnson matchup, in particular, is one I'd highlight. My thought: Spread, get the ball out quick, and need those pass-catchers to win matchups early.

Jeff (work)

Mike, who is Carolina's biggest offensive threat and will they shut him down ala Jimmy Graham? Is it Cam? Steve Smith, Running game?

Mike
  (11:36 AM)

Jeff, I'd say the biggest threat for the Panthers is a three-headed running game that is physical. Those who watched last week's Panthers-49ers game could see Mike Tolbert knocking out safety Eric Reid. They really punish you and lead the NFL in time of possession (33:48). In the passing game, it's Steve Smith. Always liked him. A top-notch competitor.

John -New Jersey [via mobile]

Just confirmed...Jets sign Ed Reed!!!

Mike
  (11:37 AM)

Indeed John. For a player that "has nothing left", that happened awfully quickly. :)

Bobbie Everts, NY [via mobile]

Mike, love your work. You keep my hour and a half commute everyday into the city entertaining. Quick question for you, who are the X factors on both sides of the ball for both teams in Monday Nights Matchup? Thanks

Mike
  (11:39 AM)

Thanks Bobbie. We focused already on the importance of the offensive line, so I'm going to flip it to the defensive side. What is the best approach for the Patriots to stop the run. Have to get bigger on defense, so I'm thinking that 5-2 type package could be what we see, with NT Isaac Sopoaga playing a larger role than his 26-snap debut. So I'll call Sopoaga an X-factor.

Jeff (work)

uummm...yeah, when Smith isn't punching out not one but two of his teammates

Mike
  (11:40 AM)

Jeff, the Patriots have had some players with similar situations in their past. Obviously that is part of the Steve Smith story, but from a pure competitiveness standpoint, I put Smith near the top of the list in the NFL. Always liked him.

Jay (The North End)

Hey Mike,With the recent emergence of the Gronk video showing him mocking an Asian fan, I am taken back to the Wes Welker comments on Rex Ryan regarding feet. Bill benched Welker for the first quarter of the divisional playoff game against New York that week, do you think Bill might punish Gronkowski in a similar fashion in lieu of what is happenening in Miami? The Patriots will need a full set of weapons to win on the road this week so this has me slightly concerned. Thanks, Jay

Mike
  (11:42 AM)

I'd be surprised at that one, Jay. Two different situations.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Mike, the Pats will have their collective hands full against the Panthers Monday night but I don't really see them losing this game. While the Niners field a very good defense their offense has been hampered severely with the losses of Davis and Crabtree. Gore is still a formidable running back but I wouldn't say at this point in his career he is any more dangerous than Ridley. And for all his troubles this season Brady is much better than Kaepernick. Further, the QBs the Panthers have beaten, sans Ryan, are not going to scare many teams. And the Falcons have been beaten up all year. This will be a very physical game against a tough defense. Cam can put a lot of pressure on a defense with his legs and cannon arm. I think they put Talib on Olsen, let Dennard and a safety deal with Smith and hope the front seven can keep the running game in check. I see this game as 27-17 Pats; through my rose colored glasses anyway.

Mike
  (11:43 AM)

Munchnkin, one thing I'd say is that the Panthers knocked Davis out of that game, so they get some credit for that (and also forced a turnover that wasn't a turnover). But I agree with you that the Patriots can attack the field in the passing game in a way that the 49ers can't. That's why I said earlier that I don't think the Panthers have seen an attack capable of what the Patriots can do.

Sven (Braintree)

Hey Mike, now that Gregory is out who else besides Hightower will get the green dot on their helmet for Monday night? Do you see them playing more of a dime package on Monday with the playersl that they have available to them?

Mike
  (11:44 AM)

Sven, I think Hightower and McCourty would be top candidates. I expect more of a base defense game on Monday night. Have to get bigger to stop the run.

Paritosh (Newark, Delaware)

How about really getting the play action game going? Since the Panthers have a great d line, really get the run game going! I think they tried to do this against Cincinnati, who plays very similar to Charlotte, but gave away their intention too early, They need to ground and pound away and then use short drop play action to exploit the shaky secondary of carolina. Thoughts?

Mike
  (11:47 AM)

Play-action is always good, and we saw the Patriots have great success with it against the Steelers (8 of 12 for 239 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs 0 sacks). The problem against Carolina is that they are so tough to run against (opponents averaging 82 yards per game, 2nd best in NFL in terms of fewest yards allowed). Those big guys are tough to move.

Michael (NYC)

Why did I know the Jets would sign Reed? Do you think the Pats tried and lost out? Can't imagine Reed picking the Jets over the Pats unless the money was significantly better.

Mike
  (11:47 AM)

Michael, Reed has a background with Rex Ryan from the Ravens' days.

Dave (Boston transplant living in Charlotte)

Mike...this is the first time in 5 years that Carolina has had a winning record...listening to local radio they are already talking about how far they can go in the playoffs. This has the Texans game writtent all over it. Carolina will wilt under the first smell of pressure on Monday night. They aren't ready for this type of game.

Mike
  (11:48 AM)

I'm interested to see how the Panthers respond to the magnitude of the stage. This is a familiar script. We've seen it before.

Robert (United Kingdom)

hi mike I have been watching Chandler Jones carefully this season and he has really impressed me not just with sacks but with his consistent play but he still doesn't get put in the top class of DE why do you think that is thanks

Mike
  (11:49 AM)

Robert, that will come in time, if he continues on this track. It's just his second year and you have to earn it over time. One area I think he could improve is setting the edge more consistently, but that's more of an nitpick.

Gary (Arlington, VA)

Hi Mike,I've only seen the NFL Network's game highlights, but it looked like the 49ers had some success running the ball on Carolina. Is this a week where Steven Ridley could see a lot of touches?

Mike
  (11:51 AM)

Gary, the 49ers had a couple of big runs that inflated the average, but when it was third-and-short, they couldn't get the yards. To me, that's always been the sign of a good/bad running team -- can you get them when you really need them? I envision the Patriots sprinkling in some runs to maintain some semblance of balance, but this will be a game where they mostly try to go after the Panthers' secondary IMO.

Craig (Hurlburt Field, Fl)

Are we going to see Leon Washington fielding any kicks on Monday? I'm still scratching my head on his re-signing

Mike
  (11:52 AM)

Craig, when Washington returns to full health (ankle), which could be this week, I think that would be his primary role if he's active.

Joseph (Baltimore via NH)

Mike, keep up the good stuff. For years the Patriots had two important roles on offense, slot receiver and third-down back (e.g. Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead). For the first time since the season opener, the Patriots top two players in those roles, Amendola and Vereen, are healthy. We saw the results for them on the season opener and I am hopeful with a few weeks back this offense is going to be hitting its groove right at the right time. What impact does a guy like Vereen have on the offense? How does his role impact other players on the offense?

Mike
  (11:53 AM)

(1 of 2) Good point, Joseph, and part of the reason I wrote that the Patriots should be viewed as a top contender in the AFC: http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/100413/nfl-nation-says-afcs-best-team?ex_cid=espnapi_public

Mike
  (11:54 AM)

Vereen's impact is signifciant. He's basically the "new" Kevin Faulk/Danny Woodhead with a little more big-play ability and a little less of the already-established "clutchness." His presence would mostly affect Brandon Bolden (219 offensive snaps through 9 games) in terms of playing time.

Will (Maryland)

Mike, I remember after the final cuts were made before the season started, you wrote about how the defense had virtually the same personnel from last year. After injuries piled up week to week, the Pats are standing strong at 7-2. Are you surprised at how this "patchwork" defense has held up so far this season?

Mike
  (11:54 AM)

Will, it's a good reminder that continuity -- if the players are good enough -- can lead to improvement.

Rick (Providence)

WE DO NOT NEED ED REED

Mike
  (11:55 AM)

Good stuff, Rick. We'll see how it turns up. Now means rookie Duron Harmon and 2012 second-round pick Tavon Wilson likely bump up the depth chart at safety.

Mike
  (11:56 AM)

Let's grab a few more...

rick (ct)

Mike, now that Ed Reed is off the table, do you see any playoff run pick ups for Pats - OL? DL?

Mike
  (11:56 AM)

Nothing imminent, Rick. What they have is essentially what we are going to see from them based on the present picture.

Dante (Piscataway, NJ)

With about half the season played, what are your thoughts on the Rutgers draft picks, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon? My sense is that they've been solid contributors, and maybe surprisingly so to some Pats followers.

Mike
  (11:57 AM)

I'd agree with that Dante. Ryan has played 234 snaps (35.1 percent) and Harmon 125 snaps (18.7 percent) and have done some good things. Obviously some hiccups along the way too, but overall the game hasn't seemed too big for them.

Bill (NYC)

Mike, on the dolphins situation, I am surprised that noone has brought up the fact that Jeff Ireland let Jake Long go which forced Martin and Incognito to line up next to eachother, and it looks like Martin has been scapegoated because of bad personell decisions upstairs. Any thoughts?

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

I don't know about that, Bill, as I'm not close enough to it. But I don't think one needs to be close to the situation to determine that the Dolphins badly underestimated their OL situation in the offseason. I mentioned that a few weeks ago in a Sunday "quick hits" entry (see No. 7): http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/97939/quick-hit-thoughts-around-nfl-patriots-6

Patrick (Paducah)

Hey Mike,I've been reading a lot about how stout this Panthers front four is. However, I haven't heard much about their DB's. Are they giving up much separation to receivers, or is that front four pressuring so well that it doesn't really matter? Also I see a lot of screens to Vereen to keep this defense honest. Thanks for doing this! Keep up the good work!Patrick

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Let's end on this one, Patrick. Part of the reason they haven't been tested, in my view, is that opponents haven't been able to give QBs the time to do so. If the Patriots can do that, I think they will find matchup advantages against Panthers cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn (7th round pick, 2009) and Melvin White (undrafted free agent this year), as well as safeties Mike Mitchell and Quintin Mikell. That brings us back to where we started -- the offensive line is key in this game.

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Thanks to everyone for the questions this week. Always a great chat. We'll do it again next week.