Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at noon ET!
Mike (11:57 AM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started shortly.
Mike (12:01 PM)
I'm here at Gillette Stadium as we heard from left guard Logan Mankins at 11 a.m. ET. Every week, the Patriots make 1-2 players available to reporters as part of offseason coverage. My biggest takeaway from Mankins was that he hasn't had any surgeries this offseason, has been training with fellow guard Dan Connolly at Gillette Stadium, and he looks ready to go for 2014. Mankins also had positive things to say about progress made by recovering right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
Mike (12:02 PM)
Here is the link just posted on Mankins: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4761601/mankins-connolly-team-up-to-train
Mike (12:03 PM)
What's on your mind today?
Mark (San Diego) [via mobile]
Hey mike, I still think strong safety is a big need in this draft. I would love to snag a top WR with our first rounder, SS with our second and then address the pass rush after that. I know Deon Buchanon visited this week. Do you see the patriots taking someone like him or LSU's Craig Loston? Watched film on Loston and he seems like the perfect got next to McCourty and should be available in the second round.
Mike (12:04 PM)
Buchanon and Loston are the top two bigger safeties on my radar. I like them both, Mark. Good choices. On the wide receiver in the first round, I look at things a bit differently there. I'd be mildly surprised if they target that area with a top pick.
Marko (Back Bay, MA )
Hi Mike,What do you think the chances the Patriots will draft a quarterback relatively early, much like Ryan Mallett recently
Mike (12:06 PM)
I'm expecting it, Marko, and it's the primary reason I think the club has devoted time and resources to bringing top quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garappolo to Gillette Stadium for pre-draft visits. I think they're trying to get a better feel for a QB class that has wide-ranging viewpoints attached to it. I'd think third round is as early as they'd likely go at the position, unless something unexpected happened in the second round. I've targeted Pitt's Tom Savage as a prospect who I think would interest them in that range, but it sounds like he's a hot prospect right now and might not be available at that point.
Anton (South Africa)
Hey Mike, any talks between pats and Will Svitek? Do you see pats going o-line somewhere in the draft
Mike (12:08 PM)
My understanding is that the team is hoping to go younger there right now, Anton, and thus no movement with Svitek. Wouldn't be surprised if we see a center early. They privately worked out Colorado State's Weston Richburg last Thursday in Fort Collins, Colorado. I don't want to make a bigger deal of that than it is, because they literally work out everyone, but I could see why they like Richburg.
Mike (12:08 PM)
Second-round range for him, but might not be there at 62.
Blake (Fairhaven, MA)
I feel that the Patriots may be going away from a 2 TE set and go more with a spread offense. Do you see them potentially moving up in the draft to pickup one of the top end WR's?
Mike (12:09 PM)
Blake, I don't see it, unless they are really pessimistic on the condition of Aaron Dobson (foot surgery for stress fracture).
I am not a fan of Parcells being a finalist for the Patriots HOF. I think it would be an insult if he were in it after the way he left the team.
Mike (12:10 PM)
Rick, you aren't alone. Others have expressed the same thoughts and he's a polarizing candidate because of it. I am more forgiving and believe he is a worthy candidate for what he did to help revive the franchise, spark interest in football in the region to a generation of now 30-somethings, and bring a level of hope and professionalism here.
Dan (Leominster, Ma)
Mike, Haven't had a chance to read the Mankins piece, but was wondering if he touched on his year last year? I think many fans think he had an "off" year. I am not one of those, but I am curious if he mentioned how he or the team evaluated his performance last year?Thanks
Mike (12:11 PM)
The topic came up once, Dan, and he said something like, "It doesn't really matter what I think, it matters what the coaches think."
Any word on Michael Bush, and do you think the Pats have any interest in Terrelle Pryor as a developmental QB (maybe possible move TE)?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Earthwind, my understanding on Bush is that it's a wait-and-see type situation. I don't believe there was anything that would make the team shy away from it, but if they draft a RB, it might lessen the interest on both sides.
corky NPR Florida [via mobile]
Hi Mike, this is going to be an interesting year with both the pats and Broncos in the same boat. Is our window open a bit wider?? I think we need to go the green bay route and put the guy on the bench this draft who will step into Tom's shoes sooner rather than kick it down the road. With that said is that guy there this year and in our reach???
Mike (12:15 PM)
Hi Corky, hope all is well. I personally think the focus at QB should be to develop a solid No. 2 like they did with Matt Cassel in 2005, Brian Hoyer in 2009 and Ryan Mallett in 2011. That player provides important insurance at a low-level cost and can win you games in the event of an unexpected injury (e.g. Cassel in 2008 when Brady tore his ACL). Maybe that QB becomes a No. 1 in time, but I don't necessarily look at any of the QBs this year and say, "That's the next franchise guy." There's no Andrew Luck in this class IMO.
Eric (Virginia) [via mobile]
Hi you doing Mike, my question for you is... You mention the Tom Savages and Zach Mettenburgers but why the absences of a Taij Boyd and Logan Thomas in your discussions?
Mike (12:18 PM)
Eric, Thomas is an interesting prospect in that he checks off most of the boxes from a physical standpoint. When I've looked at him, I see more of an athlete playing quarterback, if that makes sense. If the Patriots felt they could harness that, by all means, go for it. I just have my doubts they'd see it that way. As for Boyd, I've shied away thinking they probably would ding him on the height (6-foot-0 5/8). I'll take a closer look since you mentioned it.
The Patriots tend to go for the underdog like Aaron Dobson over Keenan Allen. Allen had proven production over better compitition. It's time to draft the best receiving TE. I know your high on Niklas but he's not going to be ready this year. He doesn't run great routes and sometimes people never learn how. We have a blocking TE in Hooman. We can teach blocking to a TE. Hernandez was criticized for his blocking coming out of college too, but he was a good blocker for the Patriots. Amaro knows how to get open and has proven production. He just wasn't asked to block much.
Mike (12:21 PM)
Strong take, Evan, and I respect it. We view Niklas a bit differently as I could see him helping this year and believe he has a phsyical makeup that is hard to find at the TE position. I think the question basically comes down to this: If you view Amaro as basically an oversized WR, do you value that highly enough in the first 32 picks? I have doubts the Patriots would when they could look down the line and feel they were getting a similar talent such as Florida's Trey Burton in the middle rounds. I could be way off, but just relaying how I believe the team might view it.
Hi Mike,Has BB missed a trick? We all know how he adroitly steered the team to be prepared for the post lockout. But with such a deep draft coming up unlike the Ravens and 49ers he has very few draft picks.Thanks
Mike (12:22 PM)
ND, eight picks is a good haul. And there are no real big holes in the draft board. I think the team, already one of the youngest in the NFL, is in good position to add a bit more talented youth to the pipeline.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Reports are the Gronk is going to take his time coming back. I wonder if he believes the Pats don't pay his bonus and this is his last season. In that case, should the Pats at least find out what they could get via trade?
Mike (12:24 PM)
Marc, there's a lot of "noise" around Gronkowski, if that makes sense, in part because of the large circle he keeps around him. So when I hear Gronkowski is "going to take his time coming back", my first question is, "Who said that?" I wouldn't read too much into those words when it comes to an action such as exploring a trade.
Hi Mike, my questions is in regards to the receiving group. Let's say during the draft the Pats spend either a 2nd or 3rd rd pick on a te or wr. That pick, along with Gronk and Homan, plus Edelman, LaFell, Dobson, Boyce and Slater already puts the team at 7 receivers (assuming no other te/wr drafted or any fa are signed). I guess my question is could either or both Thompkins and Amendola not even make the team? Taking special teams into account who could be odd man out? Thanks,
Mike (12:24 PM)
Jared, it would cost the Patriots more on the salary cap to cut Amendola than keep him. Because of that, he probably has the best chance to stick in this scenario based on the acceleration of his signing bonus.
Marc (Malden, MA)
If Brady goes down, I don't want them to win games, I want them to do what the Colts did and tank. They're not winning the Super Bowl without Brady, so may as well get the best possible draft pick, whether it's QB or not.
Mike (12:26 PM)
Marc, that's a dangerous way to go, and I'd point to last year as an example. The Chiefs are sitting at No. 1 and they get ... Eric Fisher? What happened to the Colts in 2011 was really Luck. It's almost like they had a horseshoe ...
Mike (12:27 PM)
To me, 2008 was one of the more rewarding seasons for the club. To lose Brady on the 15th offensive play of the season and still go 11-5, that's impressive. I'd endorse that approach.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hi Mike - Has BB announced the full lineup of assistants and their responsibilities yet?And only one "short week" during the preseason, that's good.
Mike (12:27 PM)
No official announcement yet, but expecting Brian Daboll to be TEs, Brendan Daly at DL, and Patrick Graham at LB.
Tyler (Queens, NY) [via mobile]
Do you since the pats have any regrets with releasing Zach Sudfield and not sticking to see if it could've worked out?
Mike (12:28 PM)
Tyler, that was one of those tough ones where the player really tailed off. It's not like he blew up when he went to the Jets either, as TE remains a big need for them. Would they have liked to keep him on the practice squad? Surely. But sometimes short-term needs and winning a game that week trump the long-range picture. That was one example of it. I can't fault the team for that one. If anything, I fault myself and others for building Sudfeld up a bit too fast.
Maurice (Dayton) [via mobile]
Thumbs up or down on Florida's Trey Burton being a good selection come the draft. Keep up the good work!!
Mike (12:31 PM)
Maurice, he was listed as one of the projected picks for the Patriots in the "beyond the first round" series. I put him in the fourth round. As a buddy of mine emailed ... "That would take some chutzpah from the Patriots to replace the fourth-round 'move' TE from Florida with a fourth-round 'move' TE from Florida." It would. But Burton is probably the anti-Hernandez when it comes to off-field questions. By all accounts, he has impeccable intangibles.
Mike (12:32 PM)
Here is the "beyond the first round" link to the TEs: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4761459/beyond-the-1st-round-tight-end-2
Gabriel (Detroit MI )
Hey Mike are the Patriots done in free agency and do you expect Bill Belichick to move down in this years NFL Draft to get more Picks.
Mike (12:34 PM)
Hi Gabriel. I don't think the team is done in free agency. The thing to keep an eye on now is positions where they still could use depth but don't fill them in the draft. Veterans Will Smith (DE), Michael Bush (RB) and maybe even someone like Dustin Keller (TE) are free agents to watch. As for trading down, it all depends on what players are available and/or what a team is willing to offer in a trade. The 4-for-1 deal with the Vikings last year was a real good one. If you get that one again, I think you strongly consider it unless you really feel there's another Wilfork-type player available to you at 29.
grandjordanian (San Diego, CA)
Will people STOP with the WR talk? We have 10, TEN, wide receivers on the roster, including 5 (Edelman, Amendola, Dobson, Thompkins, and Boyce) who know the route tree and Brady now. Lafell and Slater are veterans. Harrison is big. We saw how steep the learning curve is for rookie WRs. We really think there's a guy at 29 or 62 that is going to light the world on fire? Boyce ran a 4.38 40. Dobson had 519 yards in 12 games as a rookie. If I hear the "Brady needs more weapons" chant one more time I'm going to lose it. Please, PLEASE make it stop Mike!
Mike (12:38 PM)
Grand, I align with your viewpoint here, but at the same time let's respect all opinions. None of us have all the answers. I'll relay a quick story I told at the ESPNBoston Draft Preview event this past Sunday. Early last season, when Tom Brady was struggling a bit with his completion percentage and some in the media were asking if Father Time had caught up with him, we had a brief chat in the locker room. He assured me better days were ahead because they'd be getting some more experienced guys back and they wouldn't have to rely so heavily on rookies who shouldn't be counted on in the first place. It was a reminder to me of the way things are often viewed internally and how that diverges with what we often talk about externally. With that, I'd say the Patriots' best chance at surrounding Brady with more weapons in 2014 is if there is excellent development from the '13 class.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Is it going to take injuries for Andre Carter to come back this year? I thought it really hurt them when he was injured late a few years ago.
Mike (12:40 PM)
Gary, I think they'd like to upgrade that nickel rusher spot. I'm curious to see if 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan can take that next step. Maybe it's veteran Will Smith signed as a free-agent. Or perhaps a 2014 draft pick. That's a bit of a question mark right now.
Ryan (Oregon) [via mobile]
Hey Mike I just wanted to know why is there so much optimism regarding Armond Armstead since we haven't seen him play? Seems like a waste of a roster spot to me.
Mike (12:43 PM)
Ryan, last year, Bill Belichick said he was projected as a top-3 player in the rotation with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. That alone raised my expectations, coming from BB himself.
David ( Louisville, KT) [via mobile]
Any truth to the notion that your traditional number one option i.e. Markus Wheaton, this year (Shazier) that it in some way inhibits your ability to be neutral in your projections of realistic and more logical choices regarding selections?
Mike (12:45 PM)
I don't really see it that way, David. I'm just expressing an opinion about a player I particularly like. I try to be as thorough and fair as possible, without coming across as if I have all the answers. The truth is no one has all the answers.
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, I went back and looked at various scouting reports and rankings on Ryan Mallett. It appears that the character concerns that dogged him coming out have been put to rest but his faults as a QB have not. Yet he has been the lone backup to Brady over the last two seasons. Given the next man up mantra of this team what do you think BB sees in Mallett that others don't? Obviously he trusted Mallett to take over the reins of the team if Brady was injured. If Mallett has the flaws that many seem to think what was Bill's end-game in all this? He wants to win and the fan base expects it. Something doesn't add up.
Mike (12:48 PM)
Munchkin, I think BB has been encouraged by Mallett's understanding of coverages as he's progressed in the system. Here is something BB said last training camp about Mallett ...
Mike (12:49 PM)
"Ryan's improved every year. It looks like he's very focused, ready to go, his throwing mechanics and techniques are good. His accuracy is good. He reads defenses and coverages. I think he's continued to make a jump forward in his progression as a football player."
Mike, There'slots of talk about the need for additional pass rush help in addition to Chandler Jones and Ninkovich. Can't Jamie Collins step up in that regard?
Mike (12:50 PM)
I believe he can, AJ. Collins can do a lot of different things and I believe we are just scratching the surface at this point.
Mike, it seems to me that another blocking tight end who can still pose a threat in the passing game would provide MORE matchup difficulties for opposing defenses than a "move" tight end (e.g., Amaro). How would a defense defend the Patriots with Niklas and Gronk on the field? With that personnel they could execute a power-running game or they could send both TEs out for receptions. What do you think?
Mike (12:52 PM)
Alex, had a similar thought this week as well. I like it. You're probably matching a base defense against that look, but I believe Gronkowski and Niklas could be effective split out and all of a sudden you are spreading the field out of the 2-TE grouping and creating headaches for that defense. This type of discussion is why I believe Bill Belichick loves the TE position. It's a matchup-buster.
Ramin (San Marcos, TX) [via mobile]
Looking ahead to next offseason I see Shane Vereen being a top priority and Stevan Ridley being too expensive. I don't see the team dishing out $3-4M/year for both of them. I'm thinking Vereen's skill set it harder to replace so he will be the one retained. Therefore I expect a running back to be added no later than the 4th round and for that player to be groomed to take over the "big back" role in 2015. Just like how Ridley was groomed in 2011 to replace the too-expensive (3 years/$9M) Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis. Thoughts?
Mike (12:54 PM)
Ramin, that sounds right to me. They only have 4 RBs on the roster right now, which is slightly below the league average. Expect at least one more to be added. ESPN's Mel Kiper mocks Ohio State's Carlos Hyde to the Patriots at No. 62 in his 4.0 mock that was released today. Hyde is viewed as one of the top RBs in this year's draft. Is that too early or is that great value? Good discussion point.
Hughan us (plattsburgh)
Could you please elaborate on that thought?
Mike (12:56 PM)
Sure. I think RB is one of those positions where you can get a player who can help you later in the draft. So is it worth investing a top pick at the position? Laurence Maroney in 2006 (first round) is one reminder of this. Specific to this year, I wouldn't argue against a Hyde pick late in the second round. But if it was a choice between Hyde and Niklas (TE), I'd endorse TE first.
Keith (Annapolis) [via mobile]
Ok, since you refuse to answer my questions here's a homework assignment. I expect your thoughts on the following players and how they'd fit before next chat; Dominique Easley (DT Florida), Jarvis Landry (WR LSU), Brock Vereen (DB Minnesota).
Mike (12:56 PM)
Thanks for the homework, Keith. All three are good players. Brothers Vereen -- would be a good feature story to write. That's a quality family.
Mike (12:56 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Jack, London [via mobile]
In my eyes, other than trading down to a desperate qb-needy team, our best possible outcome form the first round would be Calvin Pryor, Ra'Shede Hageman or Ryan Shazier. I know you really like Shazier but what other players are on your radar that you personally would like and do you agree with my other choices (inc. trading down)
Mike (12:59 PM)
Jack, I just want to clear something up on Shazier. Part of the reason I like him is because I'm surprised he's even a consideration at 29. So I've identified a player who I think would be great value there if he's actually there; he's an athletic, fast, instinctive linebacker. He's far from the only good player out there, but he's an outlier to me in the sense that it's rare to me to see a player of that quality in the discussion when picking so late in the first round ...
Mike (1:00 PM)
... I'd put the two Notre Dame DLs, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix into the discussion ... Would also consider a center type in Marcus Martin or Weston Richburg (probably a bit of a reach but are they there at 62?). ... There are others, but those are a few that come to mind.
Frankie (Outer Banks NC)
What do you think about the DT depth? Does Vellano and Chris Jones stand a chance at making the team if everyone is healthy through camp?
Mike (1:01 PM)
Frankie, I think they're really high on Jones and his toughness and work as a 3-technique. He should make it if he continues to progress. Vellano is a blue-collar, hard-worker. He might have his work cut out for himself, but I wouldn't count him out.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
The counterpoint to the RB discussion is that how many RBs get paid in FA these days? CJ just signed for $4mil a year. How much does a big back who has a rep for not being able to help in the passing game and fumbling really cost?
Mike (1:02 PM)
Right on, Scott. I don't think Ridley will be in the discussion for a big deal, but believe Vereen has a reasonable expectation to cash in if he stays healthy.
Ty Law (Canton, OH)
If Oakland releases Terrell Pryor, could you see the Pats signing him. He's arguably the best athlete in the NFL and could play TE, WR, etc...
Mike (1:03 PM)
Ty, nice of you to join the chat. Might be worth a look. Don't really have a strong opinion on that one.
dan in albany [via mobile]
BB has an elite place in history. Do you think he wants to win without Tom Brady to further cement his greatness?
Mike (1:03 PM)
I don't think that's necessarily at the forefront of his thinking, but in 5 years or so, maybe it becomes a consideration.
JJ (Liberty Twp, OH)
Mike, any word on an extension for McCourty?
Mike (1:03 PM)
JJ, have maintained it's more a matter of "when" than "if". Nothing imminent right now with the draft approaching, as I understand it.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
From all the questions the past few months, it seems clear many fans (perhaps young ones who don't appreciate what it was like both pre Brady and pre Bledsoe) don't realize how good Brady still is, how difficult it is to get even a good QB, never mind an elite one, how much of a difference Brady still makes and therefore ridiculous it is to want Brady's successor on the team in 2014 when he is still playing at an elite level.
Mike (1:06 PM)
Tman, I don't think it's that folks are anxious to replace Brady as much as they are preparing for the future. IMO, it's a bit early, but I understand the thought process.
Earl M. (Marlborough)
Mike, I still think that one of the underrated losses was LB Dane Fletcher. He was a serviceable coverage LB, knew the playbook, made the calls, had special teams value and always seemed to have a nose on the ball. Even if they pegged Woodyard as a replacement (which didn't work out), why let a known commodity go like that go on short money knowing that your depth would take a hit losing Spikes?
Mike (1:09 PM)
Let's end on this one, Earl. Fletcher is a good team guy. I think they'll be able to replace Fletcher with a younger, cheaper option who possibly has more upside. Some good off-the-line athletic LBs in this draft in the middle rounds (Jordie Tripp, Tyler Starr, Chris Kirksey) who not only test and play well, but seem like solid character guys too. Wouldn't be surprised if they actually double-dip in this area.
Mike (1:10 PM)
Thanks to everyone for the great questions. I'll try to get to some more on our blog over the next few days.
Mike (1:10 PM)
Have a great weekend.