Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.
Chatting with you from Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots concluded their mandatory minicamp on a light note, with Bill Belichick breaking out the soccer balls and introducing a Patriots-style World Cup theme to loosen the mood. Players seemed to love it, as there were roars from inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse as we waited for the end of practice.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and cornerback Darrelle Revis were the notable players available to reporters after practice. This was the first time we had a chance to speak with Wilfork since his ruptured Achilles and contract squabble. As usual, he had interesting things to say. Link coming....
As for Revis, I thought some of the most notable things he said were related to Bill Belichick. Revis called Belichick a "player" coach (a.k.a. "players coach"). That can often have a negative connotation, but Revis meant it as a compliment and admitted that his perception of Belichick has changed now that he's a Patriot.
We'll go until about 3:50 today.
Good day Mike Reiss, I just wanted to get your opinion on how likely do you think the chances of the team keeping 5 RB's on the roster?
Jason, I'd say it's probably unlikely at this point. You have Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden as the bigger backs, and Shane Vereen and James White as more of the passing backs. Of the group, I'd say Bolden would be the one that couldn't be considered a sure-fire lock, but given his contributions in the kicking game, I'd put him on a 53-man projection right now. Add FB James Develin and I think it's tough for a 5th RB right now. If Stephen Houston, Roy Finch or Jonas Gray surprise, maybe that shakes up the picture, but seems like a longer shot right now.
How many offensive linemen does this team need? And do you think it's writing on the wall for those with contracts coming up?
Chris, I've been watching the OL competition closely. I think locks are Solder, Mankins, Vollmer, Cannon, Stork, Fleming and Halapio. I'd put Kline in the near-lock category. That's seven-eight right there, so that leaves Wendell/Connolly among those hoping for the team to keep nine. Wouldn't surprise me, given the youth of the 3 rookies. Braxston Cave and Chris Barker are longer shots but need to be mentioned as well. I'd guess 8-9 linemen.
From your observations from practices how likely would you say Boyce and Thompkins chances are at usurping Brandon Lafell on the dept chart? And does that mean they both make the team?
Eddy, I'd put seven WRs on the roster right now -- Dobson, Edelman, Amendola, Thompkins, LaFell, Boyce and Slater. Thompkins had a better camp than LaFell from my view, in part because he was out there the whole time. Still a long way to go.
Mike I wanted to know being that Zach Sudfield would've been more suited for the practice squad do you think a player like Justin Jones might be headed there?
Oliver, at this point, I'd say practice squad looks like the right spot for Jones. Intriguing traits, but looks raw.
Hi Mike, I respectfully disagree with your concern about Browner, specifically that the Seahawks let him walk. The Patriots let go of good players all the time, like Woodhead and Blount. Heck, they almost let Edelman walk away this offseason!
Fair enough, Jacob. That's part of the fun of sports -- not everyone is going to see it the same way. It's been fun watching Browner in practice. When he gets his hands on WRs, their progress is usually stopped quickly. A lot of press coverage.
Mike, did Revis miss time because he turned an ankle or (please God NO!) aggravate/tweak his previously injured knee ?
Revis was back out there today and then spoke with reporters. He said he was fine. Wednesday's absence was a non-issue.
Mike, what if they made Ninko a linebacker and Hightower a defensive end, could you see a possible switch?
Mary, Ninkovich has that flexibility, but he feels he's at his best playing forward in a DE role. I'd agree with that. So while it could happen in certain game-plans, I'd be surprised if it happens on a full-time basis. Part of it is that I'm not sure Hightower is a natural edge rusher euther.
How does Asa Watson look? There's not a lot of info on him and I think I read that he's pretty fast for a TE...
Eric, there has been nothing that has stood out to me with Watson one way or the other. Looks like he's working hard. Showed up in the jumbo/goal-line stuff on Wednesday. Dropped a pass. But I think that's one of those positions, given the nature of the phsyicality of playing on the line, where we need a little more time to sort it out.
So, they're tweaners and that's the problem come playoff time Mike. Unable to win one on one match-ups
I wouldn't necessarily say that Tilton. I'd take a tweener like DeMarcus Ware -- 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE -- on my team.
Mike, I thought it was a good sign that the Pats were trying to sign Williams. Even though he ended up in Seattle do you still see them trying to add to this defense? Maybe someone like Quentin Groves?
Jeff, I think the interest in Williams was specific to that DT spot. My hunch is that it was a trickle-down effect from whatever is keeping Armond Armstead out.
Mike,Brady seemed to establish his reputation pretty quickly that he was a practice rat with a chip on his shoulder. What's the early word on Garappolo so far?
Very good observation and all indications are that Garoppolo is cut from the same cloth.
With what should be an improved secondary, could you see a big breakout year coming from Chandler Jones?
Andrew, I think that's another good observation. You look at the progression -- 6 sacks as a rookie, 11.5 sacks last year. ... Wouldn't be surprised if we see 15. Better coverage should help the rush.
Mike:Is Hightower shaping up as Bill's worst first round pick? He's just too big to be a LB in this passing league. 30 years ago him and spikes would be all pros...Boy the game has changed...Any chance with two lbs on the field it will be Collins and Anderson? Mayo is pretty average in coverage as well... I really like that idea. Thoughts?
Jim, I'd be shocked if Mayo isn't on the field. With all due respect to Anderson, I'm not sure he's even a lock to make the roster at this point. On Hightower, I don't think we've seen the best of him (some positive things, some obvious struggles), but he'd really have to head south to be worse than Laurence Maroney and Brandon Meriweather from a first-round perspective. I'm probably higher on him than others. I think better things are ahead; it's all about using him to his strengths (less covering downfield).
No Cannon on the OL?
Cannon a lock, Dave. I just overlooked him. Just edited it back in there. They love him.
Mike, not much has been said about Sebastian Vollmer. How has he looked coming back from his injury? I think we need a good season out of the Seabass .
Pete, everything looking good for Vollmer with his recovery. We spoke with him last week. Link coming...
Mike - a few weeks ago I was getting giddy about how many options we had on the D-line this year. the more I think about it though, the herd seems like it will probably thin out by September. Armstead can't clot his blood, Vince/Kelly/Smith are all coming off injuries, and Easley's knees are held together with scotch tape. Should I be preparing for another season of the Jones and Vellano show?
Zack, I think some of your thoughts are tied to why there was some legitimate interest in Kevin Williams before he signed in Seattle. Some injury questions there, for sure. I wish my crystal ball was clear to give you an answer.
Just curious Mike - do you think Ty Law influenced Revis coming to the Pats?
Ben, Revis talked a little bit about Law today. He obviously did his due diligence but I don't think that's the main reason he signed here.
I heard that D. Easly was on the field today. How far away is he from practicing in full?
Jean-Luc, when I saw Easley on the field today, my first thought was, "They're giving him a taste and we now have a chance to see him on the first day of training camp." We'll see if that comes to fruition, but that was my thought.
After a few offseason observations what would be your WR dept chart currently constructed? Excluding Dobson (injury) and Slater (special teams).
If the season started today, and they didn't have Dobson, I think you'd see a 3-WR set of Thompkins, Edelman and Amendola (slot). LaFell and Boyce (kickoff returner) round it out.
You've mentioned second year jumps a few times, so would you say Kembrell and Boyce have taking the necessary steps to make that jump? Keep up the good work!
As much as they can at this point, Vince. We'll have to monitor Boyce's leg injury from Wednesday. I don't think it's any cause for alarm but something to keep on the radar. Thompkins looked solid in camp. Still a long way to go.
Mike, do you see another offensive tactical revolution in the making with the offense this year like the Pats led with Gronk and Hernandez (still hurts)? The amount of small, fast but strong-for-their-size guys in our WR and backfield is crazy. I could see them just wrecking havoc on bigger defenses through screens, crosses and play action.
Jon, I think the RBs as pass-catchers is something to keep an eye on. When we think of the passing game, I'm not sure that area garners the attention it alwasy should. Put two good pass-catching backs in the game at the same time and that can create some problems.
Mike - earlier in the chat when you were naming the probably OLinemen you didn't mention Marcus Cannon. Was this just an oversight or do you think he won't make the team?
Yes, Gus, I missed Cannon. I edited him back in. Coaches love him. He'll be on the team. Valuable player.
Hi Mike, it seems to me that the Pats are good are putting opponents in 3rd and long, only to give up the conversion. I'd love to see where they rank in that stat over the last few seasons, but moreover I'd love to see them get off the field. Is this the year that I can stop pulling out my hair after giving up a 3rd a 12?
Eric, I researched this earlier this year. On third-and-8 or longer in 2013, opponents converted 25.3 percent of the time against the Patriots (24 of 95). That percentage ranked 22nd out of 32 teams. If they're not better this year, I'd be surprised.
Schemes, seeds, talent, - unless Gronk AND Revis are healthy, the Pats cannot advance beyond the first round
A.K.A. -- "It's not the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys and Joes."
Who would you give a better chance to make the 53-man roster - Jake Bequette or Armond Armstead?
Ramin, at this time, I'd say Bequette just because he's healthy and cleared to play. But if I were making a projection right now, it would be tough to squeeze him on there.
To follow up on the 3rd and long, the Pats' problem was that they couldn't cover long enough and get pressure on the QB. With Jones and Easley and Smith, the hope is to get QBs to make bad decisions.
It's a little of both, Eric. With Revis/Browner playing press coverage at the line, you now have two ways to disrupt the timing of the passing game -- jamming receivers off their routes and rushing the passer.
Hey Mike, There has been much loose talk about TB12 being no longer elite and that the Pats window to win has closed. I know nothing will be said publicly but how much does this fire them up? As competitive as Tom Brady is, I can't imagine this going down lightly. Your thoughts?
Brady has looked real sharp to me in this camp. I also think he hears the talk. Not that he needs any more motivation, but sure, a little extra can't hurt.
When will Dobson be back??????
Tyler, if he's not back by the start of training camp, that would be a surprise. They're counting on him. Everything this spring was what was expected. No need to rush him after that surgery.
Going to take a few more...
Hey Mike. I haven't heard anything on Cameron Gordon. Have you seen him and how is he coming alng?
Paul, I noticed him in the special teams drills. A little bit in coverage as well. If he's going to make it, will come on special teams. Still need more time on that one, Paul, for when the pads come on.
Any idea what all this "The Pats could have the Jets play book" nonsense?
Alexander, I think you summed it well with the final word.
Before the draft, you and me and a few others had Ryan Shazier identified as a fit as a sort of big nickle coverage backer, and though the Steelers picked him up in the middle of the first round, I think that Belichick validated our opinions by signing James Anderson. While not as fast or as flashy as Shazier and with eight years of the NFL grind on his body, Anderson still brings what the position begs for: a fast, coverage-based skill set, but with a ton of experience. Although he comes with a reputation of not being the most physical of players, he still has over 400 tackles in the last four seasons and has been hailed by former teammates as the ultimate team player. I don't see how Anderson doesn't make the final roster...opinion?
Dad, I wouldn't call him a lock. But I will say in watching a half-speed warmup drill in which the LBs cover a RB, he looks smooth in that area of the game. I think he can help them. Also noted him on punt block the other day, so he'll work in that area too.
How short of a leash do you think they have on Armstead? would they put him on IR again if he's not healthy by the start of the pre season? or will they just cut him loose and say enough is enough?
Alan, I think it's probably a sensitive situation given the health aspect of things. I think they'll cover their bases and do the right thing if this is a "more than football" type deal.
Mike - the Patriots traditionally bring in lots of players to compete for jobs at the various positions. Is there one position that you feel they do not have enough players competing for?
Jim, let's end on this one. The TEs look a bit light to me right now. Maybe D.J. Williams' return from a strained calf changes that. But that would be the area where I look and say, "Outside of Gronk and Hooman, it's mostly developmental guys."
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week, before breaking away on a little pre-training camp vacation.