Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPNBoston.com New England Patriots blogger Mike Reiss stops by to chat.
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 Wednesda at noon ET!
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Mike Reiss (12:00 PM)
Just getting settled and then we'll get started. Let's plan on a 12:05 p.m. ET kickoff.
Mike Reiss (12:07 PM)
How is everyone doing today? What's on your mind?
Mike Reiss (12:08 PM)
A quick story to lead off. Earlier this week, I was on a radio interview and the connection with the hosts was a little shaky. The first thing I heard was "What do you think about Tebow?" And I'm going on and on and on about how it would probably be a beat writer's worst nightmare, and there is a follow-up question, when the host interrupts and says, "Are you talking about Tebow?" I meant "T.O."
Mike Reiss (12:09 PM)
Unreal. Tebow is already in my head and he's not even on the team.
Mike, after all the criticism of taking Tavon Wilson earlier than expected, how do you feel about the pick after one season? Do you see a player who could turn into a playmaker or another average player like Chung?
Mike Reiss (12:11 PM)
Joe, I think the jury is still out on Tavon Wilson. From my amateur scouting perspective, I don't see any standout athletic traits like we see with Jamie Collins this year. That doesn't mean Wilson can't be a solid safety -- he obviously has good instincts and is somewhat of a playmaker. Just need a little more time to evaluate. I'd say this isn't like 1997 with first-round pick Chris Canty, when it was pretty much clear from the outset it wasn't going to work out.
John (Manchester, NH)
Mike, in your opinion, what are the top 2 or 3 focus areas of improvement that the Pats will make an emphasis for 2013? (i.e. red zone, developing young WR, pass rush, etc)
Mike Reiss (12:12 PM)
The two that stand out to me, John, are pass defense and developing WRs. The second part is going to be fun to follow because we haven't really seen such youth at that position. A lot of eyes on Dobson, Boyce and possibly even rookie free agent T.J. Moe to see what they might be able to add.
Jacob (Washington, DC)
What's the deal with Edelman? Presumably his foot was fine when he worked out for the Giants? Replacing rock-solid Welker with two similar receivers made of glass seems like a bad plan.
Mike Reiss (12:13 PM)
Jacob, it's a setback for Edelman, which is unfortunate because when it comes to players who put in the work, not many are higher on the list than him. The assumption from here is that he was experiencing discomfort in the offseason program, had it checked out, and then they did some clean-up work. Not what he hoped for, but at the same time, I was told he should be fine.
Michael Hughes (Canton, OH)
Congratulations to Tedy Bruschi on his election to the College Football Hall of Fame. The offensive line coming back intact has to be a good starting point for Brady and the rookie and new receivers. Should that help his patience with the new crop?
Mike Reiss (12:16 PM)
In theory, it absolutely should Michael. After 14 years of listening to Bill Belichick news conferences, one thing he has said annually is that a good offensive line is one in which the five blockers up front all see the same picture. That has a greater chance of happening if the five blockers can develop some continuity. That said, if the five blockers were you, me, Field Yates, Mike Rodak and Pat Patriot, such continuity wouldn't mean much. We'd get steamrolled. But these five guys up front are talented players and that should help Brady be well protected, assuming good health.
Clark (Muncie, IN)
Hi MikeWill Jamie Collins replace Tracy White on special teams. Similarly will Logan Ryan look to unseat Marquise Cole as a core special teams ace?
Mike Reiss (12:18 PM)
Clark, Collins should definitely be a factor on special teams units. Whether he specifically replaces Tracy White on the four core units, I think it's too early to say. Ditto on Logan Ryan. He is a strong special teams player and should be an immediate contributor in that aspect of the game. Cole is pretty good in that area too, specifically in his work as a gunner, and I'm not certain it would be a Ryan vs. Cole situation.
Hi Mike, any update on injuries to Gronk and Hernandez? How about Boyce's status so far?
Mike Reiss (12:21 PM)
Joe, nothing has changed with any of them, as I understand it. The Gronk situation has been pretty straight-forward since we learned he had an infection about a month ago. All along, a fourth surgery was considered "very likely" and the plan was to give it some "wait and see" time for the infection to clear. We're still in that "wait and see" period and I think it's been encouraging for Gronkowski that his fitness has been able to be tested in the offseason program and he apparently looks great. There have been no setbacks. On Hernandez and Boyce, it's just rehabbing and managing as I understand it.
Luke J (CMAFS)
Mike, hope all is well with you and the family. Assuming Talib performs at a high level this year, what do you think the chances are that the Pats try to re-sign him to a longer term extension this year? Thanks.
Mike Reiss (12:22 PM)
Thanks Luke. Likewise with you and your family. Absolutely, I could see there being mutual interest in Talib's return in 2014 and beyond if he has a big year. I think Bill Belichick liked what he brought to the team in 2012. As it usually does, it would probably come down to what the market dictates.
Anton (Bloemfontein, South Africa)
Hey mike, is it set in stone that McCourty will play at safety? Do you see pats adding another pass rusher e.g. Kyle vd Bosch?
Mike Reiss (12:23 PM)
Anton, it is not set in stone that McCourty will be at safety, but after the Patriots invested in Talib/Arrington this offseason, and with Dennard coming back and Logan Ryan drafted in the third round, it looks like safety is the projection to me.
JR Hennessy (South Shore)
Hey Mike, with all the trouble the Pats have had at drafting and developing WRs, do you have any information of how much interaction Mr. Brady has had in the process in the past as well as this year? It would seem to me that having a draft pick either worked out by TB12 or interviewed would help to eliminate poor choices or confirm good ones. Would seem odd to me that someone so important doesn't seem to be much involved, thanks!
Mike Reiss (12:27 PM)
I don't think much interaction, if at all. That crosses a dangerous line from this view, specifically with draft picks. I sort of file it in the "coaches coach, players play" category. It's one thing if Brady is talking with Bill Belichick and says something like, "It would be great if we could get Deion Branch back here." But making Brady a bigger part of the scouting process for the draft sends the wrong message. I might be in the minority on that one. Curious everyone else's thoughts.
Who wins in a fight - Logan Mankins or Tommy Kelley?
Mike Reiss (12:28 PM)
LOL Louis. I haven't met Kelly yet, but hard for me to bet against Mankins, who grew up on a 10,000-acre cattle ranch in California and as a child dreamed of being a professional steer roper.
With the success that the Patriots have had drafting a WR (little to none) I am sceptical of our WR group. Dobson seems like he could be great, but I know only what Field told me. My thought is that Amendola is a lock, and Edelman is the only other proven commodity that I see having an impact this year as he was starting to take even Welkers snaps at the beginning of last year. Edelman will miss some time, which leave us with the two Veteran FA signings to fill in. Maybe the team sees those guys as more than just filler but to me this group is weak assuming no production out of the rookies, which is reasonable to plan for. Will the Patriots try to find more help? or will they throw the Rookies in there to see what they have?
Mike Reiss (12:32 PM)
Nate, I think they throw the rookies out there and see what happens. The way I look at it, you have Amendola as the lock, and then you're hoping Dobson is your other WR. If that doesn't work out, you have Michael Jenkins (40 catches in Minnesota last year) as a possible option as that pure outside/perimeter option. It would be great if Josh Boyce could emerge as the No. 3 option, but if not you have Donald Jones as a possibility. Then Julian Edelman is a wild card. When healthy, I think he could be a factor as a No. 2-3-4 guy. So I see it as pretty well stocked at this point. The young guys are an unknown to a degree, but I think you always have that at some positions. The only way for young guys to get over that hump is to play them and see how it unfolds.
James (North Adams, MA)
Hey Mike. After the draft ended, there has been a lot of talk about which UDFA is going to make the team to keep the streak alive. I really like TJ Moe, but I think he is the only with a legit shot. Anyone else we should be on the lookout for?
Mike Reiss (12:34 PM)
James, greetings from one part of the state to the other. Moe is a good one to keep an eye on. The first thing I like to do is look at the salaries/guaranteed money given to the UDFA's because it can tell us what type of competition the Patriots had to sign them and also how they valued each player. Moe topped the list at $30k. Here is a link for the rest of the group ...
Mike Reiss (12:35 PM)
Mike Reiss (12:36 PM)
It's hard to predict anything before watching the players practice, but I will be watching some of those interior offensive linemen (McDonald/Stankiewitch) if they are still on the roster come training camp because I think that is an area the Patriots could be looking for a little more depth for the future.
Mike, was the tryout QB the only pass thrower at the rookie mini camp? I was expecting Kafka to be there.
Mike Reiss (12:37 PM)
Yes, as I understand it, just the one QB at the minicamp. There are specific rules as to who can attend, and I believe it's based on accrued seasons, and Kafka didn't qualify.
Mark [via mobile]
Belichick seems to value run stopping ability in his corners. I wonder if he over values it. McCourty had to be moved to safety. Wheatley, and Dowling haven't been able to cover well. In a pass league, is he drafting for a run defense? And does this put his blinders on to great coverage corners who are weaker in run defense?
Mike Reiss (12:40 PM)
Mark, I could see the viewpoint, but I don't see it that way myself. He definitely likes a corner who is strong in run support; no arguing that. But I didn't sense that was Dowling's strong point coming out of Virginia. I spoke with some who evaluated him who felt he wasn't that great in that area. Wheatley too -- smaller, quicker guy. So I don't think he picks his corners by having the run support trump the coverage ability. He's looking for a combination, ideally, and sometimes he hits, sometimes he doesn't.
Mike Reiss (12:40 PM)
P.S. -- Very impressed with Talib in that area. Didn't think he was advertised as such coming here, but that is one tough corner playing the run.
Jonathan (Dover NH)
Hi Mike,Why will Dobson and Boyce be more successfull than past patriots WR draft picks such as Chad Jackson, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price?
Mike Reiss (12:41 PM)
We don't know if they will be, Jonathan, and that's the truth. But I'll give you my first instinct on both players -- their smarts, work ethic and overall program fit is at a higher level than the aforementioned three. Let's see if that leads to better results.
Ryan Clark (Pittsburgh)
So, what do you think about my 'Ghosts' comment?
Mike Reiss (12:45 PM)
Ryan, I thought your analysis was fair and accurate to a point, but I think you're going to regret it. I appreciate it when a player speaks honestly and shares what's on his mind (it's better than canned answers), but if I was a teammate of yours, I'd be disappointed that you used a national television platform to share those thoughts. The Patriots host the Steelers this year and I feel fairly certain that Tom Brady won't forget those remarks. It won't play a role in the outcome, but if Brady has a chance to make you eat those words, it seems fair to think he will. It's that "199th overall player selected" chip on his shoulder, and you just contributed to making that chip a bit larger today.
Chris (NE CT)
Hey, Mike. I'm worried about Gronk. Can you outline the best case and worse case scenarios regarding his forearm injury?
Mike Reiss (12:49 PM)
Chris, I'm actually more "optimistic" at this point than I was four weeks ago. Gronkowski has had a tough go of it this offseason with the infection, but the fact he's working out in the team's offseason program -- and keeping his conditioning/fitness level up -- was more than I anticipated at this point. He very likely will require another surgery, which isn't a news flash at this point. We should know in a couple weeks, and then you hope he gets a solid couple months of healing and then can pick things up in terms of getting himself ready for the season. That's where we are right now, as I understand it.
Mike Reiss (12:50 PM)
These things can always change, and it's obviously not ideal, but I wouldn't think doomsday scenario with Gronkowski.
Hey mike why do you think Brandon Lloyd hasn't signed with a team? Is there still a chance he resigns with the pats?
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
Max, I'd be surprised if Lloyd is back with the Patriots, Max. Maybe if there is a run of injuries, but at this point, seems to me the team is happy to move on.
Matthew (MA) [via mobile]
What are your thoughts on where Boyce will play?
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
Matthew, as they often do with all of their receivers, I anticipate they will work him at all the spots because they want their pass-catchers to have that flexibility. In the perfect Patriots world, I think he settles in as the No. 3 target in a Dobson/Amendola/Boyce trio.
any word on the abraham/freeney situations?
Mike Reiss (12:53 PM)
Don't know anything more than what is out there: Abraham visiting the Titans this week and apparently the sides could work out a deal (credit: Adam Schefter). Didn't sense Freeney was the Patriots' guy, but that's just more of a feeling than any concrete info.
Teams must see something on film in Abraham and Feeney's game to not sign them at this point. It might be salary but if you can secure the services of a good pass rusher, you wouldn't wait. Agree?
Mike Reiss (12:54 PM)
I do think it's money, Larry. Good players, but at what cost?
max (my cube)
Mike, how do you forsee the snaps being split at the running back position, esp. with Blount now in the mix?
Mike Reiss (12:57 PM)
To me, Blount could be anywhere from not on the roster to a 1B option for the club. A real wild card in that regard. Last year, it was Ridley (45 percent of the snaps), Woodhead (34), Vereen (12), Bolden (7) at running back. If everyone is healthy, I could see something similar with Vereen seeing the biggest uptick because he has the skills most likely to replace Woodhead.
Mike, if Chandler Jones stays healthy all year can he be a double digit sack guy?
Mike Reiss (12:57 PM)
I believe he can, Ian. I think Chandler Jones has the potential to be special.
Joe (Waltham) [via mobile]
Do you think Spikes will be traded this season?
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
I don't think Spikes will be traded, Joe, but I'm real curious to see how he performs in a contract year. Big middle linebacker who has been a liability at times in the passing game but also one of the team's real high-energy, impact-play contact guys.
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
Not sure how that one is going to turn out but fascinated to see it unfold.
grandjordanian [via mobile]
No way mesko is our punter on day one.
Mike Reiss (12:59 PM)
I still think it's Mesko. But keep an eye on rookie free agent Ryan Allen, out of Loiusiana Tech. A two-time Ray Guy Award winner who is in camp as a rookie free agent.
Mike Reiss (12:59 PM)
Let's go for another 5 here...
Do you think that Dont'a Hightower was playing out of position last year? He seems most comfortable playing middle linebacker and played that role in college, and I wonder if you think the Collins pick has implications for the roles of the other linebackers.
Mike Reiss (1:02 PM)
Jeremy, this sort of ties in to what I was saying about Spikes. I think Hightower can do a lot of different things. I'm not sure if strongside LB is his best fit. That said, I'm not sure I like him as much in the middle. Similar to Collins, I don't think there is one answer when it comes to Hightower's position. I'd actually be curious to see him rush a bit more. Another interesting one to see how he's employed in 2013.
Do you think that the Patriots will keep Love and Deaderick again this year?
Mike Reiss (1:02 PM)
Paul, if everyone's healthy, it could be one or the other depending on how the competition plays out. With Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead in the fold, the competition increases.
Peter (San Diego)
Hi Mike, how about your guess on wins-losses next year?
Mike Reiss (1:03 PM)
Peter, in my "ridiculously early and you can mock me later" predictions, I think I went 12-4.
James Walker, the ESPN blogger came up with some less than flattering stats that support Ryan Clark's assertions that Brady gets flumoxed if the timing routes get disrupted. Seems an indictment that Brady is a system QB instead of a natural gunslinger.
Mike Reiss (1:03 PM)
Brady is far from a system QB, ReDrew, as he's one of the best of all-time. I think the point Clark made about solid man coverage could apply to any QB.
Speaking of Ryan Clark's comments...who was the safety/cb that TB abused in a steelers game, then went up to and talked trash to after a TD?
Mike Reiss (1:05 PM)
That was Anthony Smith, Matt. This has the potential for a repeat scenario.
I think alot of people are sleeping on Donald Jones. I think he will provide us with some good production. He had a good season for Buffalo last year and showed promise in quite a few games.
Mike Reiss (1:06 PM)
Branden, I look at Donald Jones as a depth option in the Nos. 4-5-6 role if everything goes according to plan. I think relying on him for more comes some risk, and that's why the hope for the Patriots is that the rookies rise up. If not, Jones is one of the fallback options from this view.
Charlie Weis said it best (paraphrase) --Brady is definitely a system quarterback --he'd be great in any system you put him in.
Mike Reiss (1:06 PM)
Jason (Tulsa) [via mobile]
What potential impact do you think Armstead has this year?
Mike Reiss (1:07 PM)
Jason, I think he could be more of a penetrating presence next to Vince Wilfork compared to what we saw last year from Kyle Love/Brandon Deaderick. Played 3-technique at USC, and has some flexibility to play end.
Hey Mike, If the Patriots do not make another move this off season, are they a better team than they were last year in your humble opinion? I find it hard to be convinced that this team has made any improvement in the off-season and dare say they are actually worse. I know some of the guys SHOULD get better in their second year, but let's assume that they play at the same level, where has this team improved? The pass rush is still mediocre, our DB's are essentially the same - 5 years ago Wilson would have been a nice add not sure if he is a difference maker at this point, and the offense is worse. No way to sugar coat it.
Mike Reiss (1:09 PM)
Lav, let's be honest here, there is no way to answer the question with decisiveness. We have to let it play out. We know the role of injuries in football and what we see now isn't the picture of what we'll see when the games count. I think their depth is better. I think they had some key retentions. That said, there are questions (WRs and health of TEs) that naturally lead to some concern. In the end, I think they'll be in the hunt again. Whether that will be good enough for the ultimate prize, the truth is no one knows.
Max (North Conway, NH USA)
Do you feel Adrian Wilson's prior experience in the NFC will negatively or positively impact his play with the patriots? In general, how do you feel these conference switch players perform?
Mike Reiss (1:10 PM)
I don't think it will be much of a factor, Max.
Hi Mike, I think we should have doubled dipped on corner backs too, it's obviously our weakest positions. Is there a possibility that we did double dip and Harmon is a potential corner or is it more likely they can both play safety.
Mike Reiss (1:12 PM)
Jon, I think Harmon is a safety more than a CB. I think the CB depth chart looks pretty solid from here -- Talib, Dennard, Arrington (slot), Ryan (solid pick), Dowling, Cole. While it's make or break time, I haven't ruled out Dowling showing the potential that made him a borderline first-round pick. Something you can't count on, but I'm not ready to rule out just yet.
tom (Somerset mass)
Do You think the Pats sign a Defensive End
Mike Reiss (1:14 PM)
Tom, have to be honest here, never really saw the major need as others did. I like Jones/Ninkovich as the top guys, and then you have Collins/Francis/Bequette as possibilities, with Cunningham also in the mix. I know you can never have enough pass rush, but anyone that was signed, I figured would be a situational Mark Anderson-type on third down. If they felt they needed that, I just assumed it would be someone like Trevor Scott returning, or maybe dipping into the Abraham/Freeney waters if it wasn't too expensive.
Mike Reiss (1:14 PM)
Maybe I'm midreading it, but I sort of felt like Ninkovich was a little undersold in that discussion this year.
Straight Truth (Portland, OR)
Hi MIke, Agree 100% re your contention that giving Brady (or any player) too much influence over roster-building decisions crosses an inappropriate line. Even if he made good personnel decisions, it could poison the locker room by divying up the roster into "Tom's guys" and "not Tom's guys," or guys who agree with Tom vs. not.
Mike Reiss (1:15 PM)
And I guess that's the "Straight Truth." Thanks.
Joe (my house)
I guess my question about Jake Ballard wasn't worth an answer. thanks
Mike Reiss (1:16 PM)
Joe, it certainly was. The struggle, as it often is in these chats, is that there are so many questions I can't possibly get to them all. Like you, I'm interested to see Ballard and what he might provide to the team. The first thing I want to see is how well he runs after undergoing that serious knee surgery. All indications are that he's made progress to the point that he could compete for a roster spot. I haven't heard otherwise at this point.
Both Bolden and Cunningham were shadows of their earlier play after coming back from PED suspensions. How much does that put the team in a bind--if they show up looking and playing great in training camp, doesn't the team have to wonder if they'll have *that* player all season long?
Mike Reiss (1:18 PM)
Matt, I think you've hit on something that I've felt with both of those players since the suspensions. They have to win back the confidence and trust of the staff after letting the team down in 2012. The two situations might be different (I don't have all the details), but I do think it's a factor to consider.
From your experience, who's the most fun to be around in the Patriots locker room (Coaches included)? I've always wondered that due to how serious they all portray themselves in the media. An answer would be amazing for this lonely Patriots fan in New York. Haha.
Mike Reiss (1:20 PM)
I don't think there is a lot of "fun" in the media/player interaction, but Rodney Harrison was someone who was always a "look-forward-to-it" exchange. Of the current team, Brandon Spikes always seems to bring a little extra spark to an interview, similar to the way he plays.
Hey Mike, How can we track Brady meeting with his new receiving core to practice or just create a bond. The next few months are going will be alot of anticipation to see Tom throw that first pass to Dobson.
Mike Reiss (1:21 PM)
Jon, this next stretch of time is critical -- the organized team activities and then the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. A major foundation is laid in this time and that's what I would focus on when it comes to Brady and the young receivers.
Mike, ESPN Boston is getting like the Patriots playbook. Getting harder and harder to keep up with all the audibles. No wonder Ocho couldn't hack it here!
Mike Reiss (1:22 PM)
LOL. Let's end with this one, Dan. Had to move the chat to Wednesday because I'm tied up Thursday. But Field Yates will be chatting Thursday at noon, so make sure to check him out.
Mike Reiss (1:22 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today and we'll do it again next Thursday.