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 3 p.m. ET!
Mike (2:52 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Will get started around 3:05/3:10.
Mike (3:05 PM)
Always nice to have another practice to talk about. The balance on a day like today is to report what we saw -- Jimmy Garoppolo's 5 INTs will generate discussion -- while also keeping it in the proper context. This is practice. It is a learning environment, more so than a competitive environment. Let's chat about it.
Chris bridgewater [via mobile]
How do the rookies look?
Mike (3:08 PM)
Hi Chris, I noticed Malcom Brown rotating in as an interior rusher in the nickel package. Without pads, it's awfully hard to make any definitive judgments so the thing I look for is that he seems to know where he's going and what he's supposed to do. Second-round pick Jordan Richards isn't here yet (NFL rules), while I haven't locked in on DEs Geneo Grissom (3rd round) or Trey Flowers (4th round) at this point. The young guards -- Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason -- are getting plenty of reps. Mason, for example, was getting coached up pretty aggressively this morning as part of the wedge on the kickoff return. I'd add CB Darryl Roberts (7th round) in there as well. He's getting his reps.
Brendan (Hoboken, NJ)
Which CBs picked off Jimmy? Were they great plays or poor decisions?
Mike (3:10 PM)
Safety Tavon Wilson, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, cornerback Jimmy Jean, safety Duron Harmon and an unidentified linebacker on a deflection on a play when it seemed like several players pulled up. Seemed more like misfires to me than anything. The throws over the middle are something I wrote down in my notebook as something to watch with Garoppolo. He's a bit shorter than Brady, so when players get their hands in the passing lanes, it could create some disruption. That's a note from this session that I documented.
Mike (3:10 PM)
Brady -- 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. Garoppolo -- 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.
With the possibility of Gronk and Chandler lining up together for 40 or 50 snaps a game, do you see a gameplan for the first few games with an inexperienced Garoppolo that leans towards the short passing game with Edelman and Amendola and finding the TEs in the seams?
Mike (3:12 PM)
That makes sense, Chris, but I think it's a bit early to be thinking game-plan at this point. The biggest takeaway for me with Chandler and Gronkowski is that they continue to work together in OTAs in the red zone. Today, for example, the ball was placed on the 5-yard line and they ran combination routes with each other (no defense) as Tom Brady threw to them. This happened while the rest of the team was working on kick return drills, so it was maximizing their time. Chandler is 6-7, 260 while Gronkowski is 6-6, 265. I call them the twin towers. Could create some havoc together, particularly in the red zone.
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Charlotte, NC)
What, if anything, would have to happen for Goodell to take suspension to zero games?
Mike (3:15 PM)
A combination of using common sense, Brady telling him he had nothing to do with anything, no knowledge of anything, and Goodell believing it would seem to be the winning "zero-game" combination.
Do you detect any emerging or vocal leaders on the field in OTAs?Big Vince is missed, but who's stepping up in that department? We have our standard guys in McCourty, Brady, Edelman, etc. Who are the faces we haven't seen before?
Mike (3:18 PM)
Dan, this is an interesting question because a lot of the top guys aren't out there. I had that thought this morning -- no Chandler Jones, no Dont'a Hightower, no Jerod Mayo. So that's still a developing picture on defense, where I think they are well-stocked with leader types (would include Ninkovich too). The offense is still Brady-led, and Julian Edelman is clearly stepping into more of that type of role. The difference between Edelman and the other receivers, in terms of crispness of route-running, is easy to see. He's at another level.
Which of the incoming players do you hear of from talk or see for yourself as being a surprise thus far in OTAs?
Mike (3:21 PM)
Alex, I spent some time today watching CB Bradley Fletcher. He was competitive. Didn't always make every play, but he's one player who comes to mind. He's in that top mix. He has a bit of a thicker build at 6-0, 200 pounds, and think he's the type who will show even better when the pads come on. Sort of reminded me a little of Leigh Bodden, circa 2009. Would be curious if Bill Belichick would agree with that comparison -- right side, bigger than the norm at the position, sturdy.
Is Brandon Spikes just saying all the right things or do you get the sense that he has truly changed for the better?
Mike (3:23 PM)
Daniel, time will tell, but I'll say this: Spikes is right back in the mix with the top group and it's almost as if he never left. They called for the defense on one drill today and he's running on the field, right in the middle of the action. Now part of that is because Mayo and Hightower aren't back yet, but that caught my eye. Then you watch him on the sideline during certain drills and players gravitate to him in a sense.
Brett (Nashua, NH)
I thought that Logan Ryan had an excellent rookie season, showing long term promise. Everyone seems to be down on him after last season. How could he excel last season with Revis and Browner both playing at pro bowl levels? I'm still confident he will be a competent starter this season, thoughts?
Mike (3:25 PM)
Brett, when I looked out on the field at the start of one drill today, Ryan was the left corner and thought to myself "That would be a big jump to go from his previous role to the starting left corner." But he's in that mix, with Malcolm Butler (who isn't practicing at this time for unknown reasons). One thing about Ryan -- they don't come much smarter. If he doesn't make the play, it won't be because he didn't know the assignment.
West Texas Turbo (West Texas)
What is our 3rd string QB doing?
Mike (3:26 PM)
Garrett Gilbert mostly runs the scout team. Hardly gets any reps. Those go to Brady and Garoppolo because they are obviously the top guys.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
Mike, inside guard seems to be in serious flux. Are the Pats waiting to get a feel for the rookie guards before considering bringing Dan Connolly back, or is it a matter of playing salary chicken with him? Or, could it be that Coach Guges likes the bigger, stouter guards and doesn't want Connolly back?
Mike (3:28 PM)
Earl, when I left last week's practice, I thought to myself that Connolly might be needed. It looked lean in there to me. I still have some doubts there, but with rookie Tre' Jackson getting Connolly's No. 63, perhaps that door is closer to closed than opening. I'm a bit surprised. If the season started today, it might be Josh Kline at LG.
Of the young depth guys on the team (Moore, Bequette, Dobson, Boyce, Wright, etc.) has anyone made a strong early impression this year? It seems like many of them have been forgotten and could be a big plus to the team if they take a big step forward.
Mike (3:30 PM)
David, Bequette is now working at tight end. But of the group you mentioned, I did notice Zach Moore today. They were working on the nickel defense and he was used as an interior rusher. He is so long that he could be a disruptive presence in there. So in that sense, he caught my eye a bit. When we're talking about almost 75 percent of defensive snaps in sub, a player like 6-foot-6, 275-pound Moore might be a rover of sorts who could create some issues rushing between the tackles in those situations.
Kevin (Wadhams, NY)
Wes Welker just a fun story or their a real chance he returns? Hard to imagine another small/quick/shifty reviver would make the team.
Mike (3:30 PM)
Kevin, to me that's a non-story unless something happened to Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola injury-wise.
Does Aaron Dobson look as if he's bulked up since last season? Earlier reports indicated this was a big offseason priority of his.
Mike (3:33 PM)
Sparky, Dobson made one very nice catch today down the right sideline, high-pointing the ball with tight coverage and coming down with the throw from Tom Brady. Amateur-scout stuff: I don't see incredible explosiveness from him, but from a general learning standpoint, this is exactly what he needs. He missed last year's OTAs and this year, he's getting great reps with Brandon LaFell not on the field. At one point, I saw Tom Brady talking to him and instructing him on the finer points of a route and the way to run it. That's the spirit of what these sessions are about and I'd say it's incredibly important to Dobson based on where he's been to this point.
Lonnie Paxton (The endzone)
Mike, is that Navy kid a done deal? Might he have to serve during the 2016 season?
Mike (3:34 PM)
Should be good to go for 2015, as I understand it. But 2016 remains in question.
Chris (Hardly Workin' @ Work.)
How does the pass catching back seem to be shaking out? Also, Belichick seemed high on Gaffney. Will he getting a signifigant opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation?
Mike (3:36 PM)
Chris, Gaffney looks like he's working behind Blount and Gray at this time, more in that big-back category. On the pass-catching backs, I'd say no one has distinguished themselves at this point between James White, Travaris Cadet, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden. On one play in individual type drills, Bolden was praised for running a precise route. Lewis also received some praise. I wrote this down in my notebook: Don't overlook Lewis in that competition. I sense they might like something about him.
Tom, Florence, Italy [via mobile]
Mike any news on the status of Butler, Mayo, Hightower
Mike (3:38 PM)
Tom, the main thing to me on Mayo, Hightower and Jones is that those are heading in the right direction. No setbacks, as I understand it. Butler, I'm not sure what's going on there. I don't read too much into the health stuff at this point, other than to document those players as potential PUP candidates when camp starts. It's only June. Would sum it all up this way: Don't think there is any reason for concern there.
Neo (Philadelphia, PA)
Any insights/guesses on why Butler and Lafell are missing?
Mike (3:40 PM)
Guess would be muscle tweak for Butler and shoulder recovery for LaFell. Would stress those are guesses.
bill (portsmouth nh)
are you surprised the pats have not picked up a veteran qb with the brady storm cloud hanging over the first 4 games- have to have more than 1 qb on the roster if he is suspended.
Mike (3:42 PM)
Bill, one thing you quickly notice watching these practices is that you basically only have so many reps to go around. It's basically like a 49-49-2 split between Brady-Garoppolo-Gilbert. So if you bring in a No. 4, there's no work for him. Now, that might change if you have more clarity on Brady's situation and you want to bring in someone like Matt Flynn/Brady Quinn at that point. But right now, I don't see the set-up being conducive to making that step.
Dunc. Denver [via mobile]
How has Dion Lewis looked in camp. He was very good at Pitt when he followed Shady McCoy. He has had a tough couple years with injuries. Does he have a real shot at making the team. Hail to Pitt
Mike (3:45 PM)
Lewis caught my eye today. They had him returning some kickoffs, and the coaches called out his name for some positive things. He's 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, and he hasn't played since 2012. So he's a bit of a wild card right now. But I'm not counting him out.
Mike - what are the chances that Gaffney becomes another Jake Ballard? What seemed at the time as a screwed move, picking up a cut player after a major injury, ends up getting cut before week 1.
Mike (3:46 PM)
That's possible, as I wouldn't put Gaffney as a roster lock at this time. He did catch my eye today running scout-team kickoff coverage drills, as he was first down the field and easily made the play. Whether that was a blown block or just a good play, I'm not sure. But I think he's running well, as evidenced by that play.
Whats your prediction on the Tom Brady suspension?
Mike (3:47 PM)
I think the idea that it could be reduced to 2 makes sense. I'm just not sure if Brady is willing to accept that. It might be 4 or 0 to him.
Mike, I haven't heard anyone mention Edelman as an emergency backup QB instead of bringing someone in if the suspension sticks. He is a great athlete and obviously knows their offense. Seems like a better option than Brady Quinn for emergency
Mike (3:47 PM)
Rob, I'm not sure Julian wants to mess with his perfect passer rating. LOL.
Mike (3:47 PM)
Seriously, perhaps they would consider that. That seems like you might be weakening two spots, though, and that would be my concern.
Roger Goodell (In Hiding)
Mr. Reiss,It's Roger. Is it safe to come out yet or is Patriots Nation still out for blood?
Mike (3:48 PM)
Roger, just so you're "generally aware," it's "more probable than not" that they will not welcome you here with open arms. Thanks for reaching out.
Mike, Interesting news this week about Welker being open to coming back. I say why not take a flier on him for $1-2M/yr with minimal guarantees. There is nothing but upside to that move, assuming there is mutual interest from the Pats.Tom
Mike (3:50 PM)
Tom, I love Welker, but he'd probably be fortunate to get anything more than a veteran minimum deal that includes an Austin Collie-type injury waiver. The end-of-year tape wasn't kind to him in terms of showing the ability to separate.
ashley(worcester) [via mobile]
Hi Mike, You wrote last week that Malcolm Butler was missing from OTA's, with our secondary a big question mark, is this something as Pat fans we should be worried about?
Mike (3:51 PM)
I wouldn't worry, Ashley, although you always want all players on the field as much as possible. It's something to note, but I'd keep it in the proper context.
Nick (Chapel Hill, NC)
Mike, I have seen you make the point several times that you can't believe the commish has allowed Brady's reputation to be tarnished like this. What is your honest assessment as to why he allowed it to happen? For me, the only logical conclusion is that in order to cover up a shoddy process on the part of the NFL, he allowed a hall of famer to be thrown under the bus. It was all about making the NFL look good and not expose anything unseemly. Thoughts?
Mike (3:55 PM)
Nick, my feeling on that is that the people working under Goodell were so aggressive the night of the AFC title game, and I believe they had no knowledge of the science of footballs losing air pressure as they launched their investigation. Because of that, they created a situation that was bigger than it really was. To acknowledge that would be embarrassing, but they got so far down the road, they simply couldn't turn back. That brings me to Ted Wells' remarks that the league wouldn't want to bring down one of its star players. Consider the alternative: "You just spent $5 million of your money on my investigation and what I've found is that you completely overreacted." Hmmm, I wonder what the league would have preferred between those two.
Mike, who would win in a 40 yard dash... You or Tom E. Curran?
Mike (3:56 PM)
It might take me 100 steps compared to Curran's 70, but I think I might take him. LOL. And if I don't, I definitely feel like the 3-cone drill might be my thing.
As a fan I was disappointed that Robert Kraft didn't put up more of a fight against the NFL, but at the same time he felt that he was doing the right thing. Thoughts?
Mike (3:59 PM)
Jeff, I don't think he had anywhere else to go. I wrote that consistently, which is important to me to point out because I don't want to make it sound like I'm just going along with it. I said he'd fight it publicly as loudly as he could, and then move on. My thoughts on that were based on any appeal being dead on arrival because you're appealing to the person who handed down the penalty. So then you're talking about taking your business partners to court and I never saw Kraft doing that, in part because he had little chance to win (let alone have a judge agree to hear the case). The one thing I think Kraft could have done to help himself was say in his remarks, "I disagree with Roger Goodell's ruling, have questions about the process and leadership, but I reluctantly accept because there are no other realistic options for me." Had he done that, I wonder if the reaction among some of the fan base would have been as extreme.
Mike (4:00 PM)
Let's take a few more.
TB helmet (Berkeley, CA)
Mike, any early observations on Tre' Jackson or Shaq? These guys could be the ones who protect Brady until his career ends. I feel their early development is critical!
Mike (4:01 PM)
TB, Mason sort of stands out because he's short for the position. At 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, he's a bit different than you expect to see there. With no pads on, awfully tough to say anything definitive.
What's your sense of Scott Chandler as a blocking tight end? Was he effective blocking for the Bills? Or was he mostly just a receiving tight end?
Mike (4:02 PM)
Mostly just a receiving TE for Buffalo, playing detached from the line. Tough to tell much from his blocking specific to OTAs.
Mike, The team has some pretty restrictive rules regarding what reporters may report on regarding what they see at OTAs. Do other teams have similar rules?
Mike (4:03 PM)
I think I saw one from Jacksonville where reporters get to watch all OTAs but can't report anything. I'd have to check that. And Jacksonville is generally viewed as one of the NFL's more transparent organizations.
Kevin (Harrisburg, PA)
Hey Mike, you recently brought up a trade scenario (Solder for a 1st rounder) and I wanted to know how this would work with the draft pick punishments, which stated the higher selection in the round (if the team has more than one) is taken away. Does this essentially prevent Bill from trading for a first rounder, but only before the draft? Theoretically if he traded for the 15th pick on the day of the draft, would they immediately remove it and give the team's initial pick back (assuming after 15th)? Bill is a draft wizard, and I think this clause was specifically added with him in mind (and an attempt to create parity). thoughts?
Mike (4:04 PM)
Correct. The Patriots would have to forfeit the higher of their two first-round picks in 2016.
Mike (4:05 PM)
He could trade for a first-rounder now and the Patriots would only get to keep the lower of their two first-rounders in that hypothetical scenario.
Mike, gut feeling. Opening night, Patriots offense takes the field for the first time... who's under center?
Mike (4:06 PM)
I'd say Garoppolo at this time, only because I view Brady's fight as a challenging one.
Nikhil Gupta (Houston, TX)
I know its extremely early, but considering all the personnel turnover and the Brady suspension, what would you say is the ceiling for this team going forward? Super Bowl?
Mike (4:08 PM)
Let's end on this one, Nikhil. I think this is going to be a challenging season for the Patriots by the high standard they have set. Even before the Brady suspension, I thought 11-5 might be the record for them. I would never count them out because I don't see another team that I say, "definitely them over the Patriots" but I do see New England sliding back a bit (but still very good) and others making up some ground.
Mike (4:09 PM)
Thanks to everyone for the chat. One of my favorite parts of the week. Off to write up some practice observations.