Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Mike (12:00 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Lots to talk about so let's get right to it. Media members have had two OTA sessions to watch and it gives us a better feel for the team. What's on your mind?
scott, lowell [via mobile]
Hey mike, why are you so high on Jenkins? Other OTA observers have been very critical, even saying he has bad hands
Mike (12:02 PM)
Scott, I'd say my main takeaway from Jenkins is that he is most often paired with Danny Amendola in the top WR grouping. Take that for what it's worth. As we've discussed here, it's early. There is a long way to go. But Jenkins certainly has stood out to me from that perspective; if we were to put together a depth chart based on how the coaches view the WRs, I'd put Jenkins as the starter based on what we've seen of his opportunities at OTAs. A lot can change between now and then, and we'll be following it closely.
Corey (NW Ohio)
Mike, has LeGarrette Blount been present for any of the OTA's?
Mike (12:03 PM)
He has Corey, and he's hard to miss. Height: 6-0. Weight: 247. That's a big back coming right at you. Interested to see him when the pads come on.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Mike - is there an underlying philosophy/reason behind drafting 3 Rutgers players or were they the highest players on the team's draft board when it was time to pick?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Harry, I'd say the main thing with two of the three picks -- CB Logan Ryan (third round, 83rd overall) and LB Steve Beauharnais (seventh round, 235th overall) -- is that they were good players who were expected by some to be picked earlier. The outlier is safety Duron Harmon (third round, 91st overall). That was viewed by some, including personnal staffers from other teams I spoke with, as the outlier pick.
Hey Mike, how has Adrian Wilson looked at safety in OTAs? Do you predict him to start beside McCourty?
Mike (12:06 PM)
Branden, similar to the discussion with Jenkins to lead off the chat, that's the way it looks now. Adrian Wilson was working alongside Steve Gregory as the top pairing in practice, with Devin McCourty still rehabbing (shoulder surgery). Looks like he's running well and the size (6-3, 230) obviously stands out. Still a long way to go...
obviously the wide receiver competition in camp is the most exciting one and gets all the attention, but i'm actually interested in the battles at CB. after you reported arrington taking first team reps at outside corner, i'm interested in seeing if dennard retains a starting spot at CB or if he's taken over by arrington or even one Ras-I Dowling after you and Field report them all doing really well in OTAs. Thoughts?
Mike (12:09 PM)
Travis, I still think it will be Dennard, who made some nice plays on the ball Wednesday. But that will be a good competition to watch. I have Ras-I Dowling in my "don't make the mistake of overlooking him" category. He looked like he was moving as well as he has in his time with the Patriots. It's always easier without the pads on, but my feeling about his place on the roster is a bit different now than it was before OTAs. I previously thought he might be in a battle for a fifth spot with someone like Marquice Cole. I don't see it that way at this time.
Greyson Culver (Spokane, WA)
Mike I truly want your opinion, defense looks to improve and have a better year. Offense may not be as potent but still effective, are you over/under for this year verses last? I like what I see and believe this could be a great year but I realize the schedule is more demanding this year as well
Mike (12:11 PM)
Greyson, I projected a 12-4 season when the schedule came out. The passing offense is going to be a big storyline to watch because of all the changes. But I ultimately think it will be OK. To me, the bigger issue is going to be if the continuity aids the defense to produce better results.
Thad Hanglow (Willoughby, OH)
Mike,Do you think they should put Gronk on the IR and let him fully recover for part of the season? IMO they should. I would rather have a healthy Gronk come playoff time than rush him out early in the season.
Mike (12:13 PM)
Thad, I think the key with Gronkowski is to leave all options open. It makes sense to think he will start camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. What that does is leave open the option that he could be placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list when the season begins, which means he doesn't count against the 53-man roster but will miss at least the first 6 games. I'm not saying he will definitely land on the reserve/PUP list, but once he steps foot on the practice field in training camp, that option is eliminated. So that's really the focus from this perspective -- more PUP stuff than injured reserve.
Mke, Why is the absence of Brandon Spikes being minimized? I think this is the single biggest story and most outlets I've read have made mention that their sources tell them that he's simply choosing to stay away from "voluntary" activities and will be there for mandatory OTA's. Has he done this in the past? If not why now? There must be a connection to his contract in this decision and with BB appearing to clear out anyone with attitude or committment issues, this has to be a big concern and something I'm sure you will be all over when he returns. Thoughts?
Mike (12:17 PM)
Pete, Spikes has been at voluntary OTAs in the past, so this is the first time, as I remember it/understand it, that he has stayed away. As for my thoughts, I would imagine BB is not pleased. He understands it is within Spikes' rights so he probably won't say anything publicly (unlike Tom Coughlin), but when 89 of the 90 players on your roster are there, the missing 1 sort of stands out. One could make the case it sets a bad example to the younger players, such as top draft pick Jamie Collins, and I think that stuff matters to the top decision-makers in Foxborough. So, to me, this will be very interesting to see where Spikes lines up in mandatory minicamp June 11-13. Does he just slide back in to the first unit and bump Dane Fletcher, who has put in the work that the coaches hope all players will? Or is he more on the second unit? What type of physical condition is he in? Spikes enters the final year of his contract and this type of decision could affect the Patriots' desires/willingness to strike an extension. Definitely something to monitor closely.
John (Manchester, NH)
Mike, hope you're having a great day, in the A/C while players are out in the heat. Question is this: given that every time he's been healthy, Ras-I Dowling has been a starter, so why is it a surprise when he plays well? Don't think his ability was ever in question, only his capacity to stay on the field.
Mike (12:20 PM)
John, I don't necessarily see it that way, as he played in seven games last year but didn't start any of them. I want to be careful making too much of a big deal of Dowling's work in OTAs, but the main thing that stood out to me was his movement: Last year, he looked more stiff to me and it was hard for me to tell if that's just because he's a bigger corner or if it was something else. I didn't see that same stiffness when I watched him on the field over the last two weeks.
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, what can you really take away from line play during these OTAs? What are the coaches looking for from the players in these non-contact drills?
Mike (12:21 PM)
Munchkin, probably the biggest thing you can take away from the line play is technique and mental aptitude. There was a reason that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was fired up and his voice was heard loudly during Wednesday's practice -- one/some of the linemen botched the blocking scheme.
MIKE D [via mobile]
Hi Mike. I gotta say, I'm REALLY loving ESPN's countdown of the Top 20 Coaches of all time! What was it like for you to write about Coach Belichick, and speaking about him with people like Troy Brown and Mr. Kraft? For what it's worth, I have Coach going No.3 all-time (behind Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown). But when Coach is done, he'll (arguably) be No.1. Thanks Mike.
Mike (12:23 PM)
Mike, that's really nice to hear. ESPN has a lot of great resources and some great people in the company, so there was a lot of work put into this series. My part was a very small one, speaking with Robert Kraft, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk for a piece on Bill Belichick. I'm no different than many people who follow the team; I have interest in Belichick's coaching style, why he makes decisions he does, his coaching beliefs etc. So it was fun for me to talk to Kraft, Bruschi, Brown and Faulk -- and listen to Belichick at a recent sports medicine conference -- to help formulate the piece.
Watson [via mobile]
Mike,I am excited to be reading Bequette is very active in OTA's. Care to make your sleeper pick for 2013? Which player do you consider most likely to break out. I am intrigued that the Patriots could get valuable reps out of Bequette and Dowling this year...
Mike (12:27 PM)
Watson, I'm going to hold off on a definitive sleeper pick until the pads come on at training camp, but a few early candidates to consider: DE Jake Bequette, WR Kamar Aiken, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, TE Zach Sudfeld. As for Bequette, I think the thing that stood out to me was that when I looked up in 7 on 7 drills, he was in a pairing with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower etc. For a player who was on the field for 29 defensive snaps last year to be aligned with a player like Mayo, who was on for 1,066 snaps, that was something that made me think Bequette might have some greater opportunities ahead of him if he can string some good weeks together.
Moose Mason (Manhattan,KS)
Just wanted to know your thoughts on Mark Harrison, the undrafted receiver. He seems to have all the physical attributes you'd look for in a wideout standing at 6-3, 231 pounds with an impressive 4.46 at the combine which is really good for his size. Do you think he could be a sleeper that could surprise some people going into training camp?
Mike (12:29 PM)
Moose, the first step for Harrison (foot injury) is getting on the field. Once he does that, I think his most likely landing spot would be the practice squad, but one never knows how things will unfold. I'm anxious to see more of him.
Veronica Lodge (McKinney, TX)
Hello Mike! I have two questions: 1) Why did the Patriots cut Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love instead of trying to trade them? I can see how we could've got at least a fourth for Love and probably a sixth for Deaderick? 2) Is it likely that the Patriots try to trade to get another solid, established WR? Thank you!
Mike (12:31 PM)
Hi Veronica. I'm sure the Patriots attempted to trade both players but found no takers. Let's put ourselves in the position of the other team: The Patriots call and the first thing you figure is that they are probably going to release the players if they can't find a trade partner. So you really have to want the players to give up a draft pick when you might have a chance to claim them on waivers. As it turned out, only one team put in a claim on both Love and Deaderick, the Jaguars. So that's a clear-cut indication there just wasn't a trade market. On the solid, established WR, I don't see it right now. Maybe if things don't unfold as desired in camp.
Archie Andrews (Carmel,IN)
Who do you think will be the opposing DE to Chandler Jones? Do you think Jamie Collins or Michael Buchanan could do a better job than Rob Ninkovich next season? Assuming that Collins could be used as a DE.
Mike (12:32 PM)
Archie, I think it will be Ninkovich, who in my opinion is their most well-rounded DE/OLB.
Mike (12:32 PM)
On Jamie Collins, the primary area I saw him was at strongside linebacker in 7 on 7 drills. We'll see how that manifests itself going forward.
I'm interested to hear your comments on Gronks surgery....i feel as thou we can wait a little, get the big-guy healthy and utilize Hernandez and our wr/rb....once hes healthy and gets back to the team its a potent weapon back on a highly potent offense! Thoughts!
Mike (12:36 PM)
Thomas, my main take on Gronkowski is that this wasn't the way it was drawn up. Tough offseason for Gronkowski and now the possibility he isn't ready for the season is something that is in the discussion. I remember Gronkowski saying earlier in the offseason that he had the luxury of time to rehab his forearm and he was taking the long view. But the timeline was crunched because of the infection in the forearm. So now I think the idea of not rushing it is a good one. Make sure it's right, and even be a little cautious on top of that, before he takes the field, even if that means missing some time.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Rookies will be Playing for the Patriots on Opening Day?
Mike (12:39 PM)
Interesting question, Chris, because I wouldn't be surprised if we're closer to the 2012/49ers type rookie class (limited contributions) than a 2012/Patriots type rookie class (big contributions), at least in the early going. Obviously, the two biggies are Jamie Collins and Aaron Dobson. You can see their athleticism and talent on the field, but also how they have such ground to make up. Can they do it? I think they can, but it's very much an unknown right now. Whereas last year, I felt like we could be pretty certain that Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower were going to play big roles. I think the top picks this year have a little bit longer to go to get to that point.
Mike, would you say Jake Ballard is more like Gronk, more like Hernandez or neither? What are his strengths?
Mike (12:41 PM)
Dave, I'd say more like Gronkowski. He's 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, and he's a strong blocker at the line of scrimmage. We might not notice as much of a difference in that aspect of things, but the big difference is with running -- Gronkowski runs better than Ballard, which is something Ballard noted Wednesday as well. Big guy. Pretty powerful. Slower. Good hands. Seems to have a good feel for the game from a mental perspective.
Tim (Washington State)
Hi Mike, do you think maybe Jenkins is working with Amendola right now because they don't want to just hand the "starting" role to Dobson on day one? Make him work for it a bit, since he's a rookie?
Mike (12:43 PM)
Tim, that's certainly part of it. As a rookie, the first thing you have to do is come to camp in good physical condition, and be ready to work. I think Dobson is learning quickly about how this is a big jump from Marshall to the NFL. If he can just hang on through these OTAs, which are a grind, I think it gives him his best chance to potentially to emerge in training camp. His upside is obvious.
Tim (Washington State)
Why on Earth would Spikes stay away from OTAs when he's heading into a contract year? I guess I could see trying to minimize the risk of injury, but he needs to perform big this year if he wants a nice contract. You'd think that would be enough motivation to show up, and if it isn't then you really have to wonder where Spikes' head is at, don't you think?
Mike (12:46 PM)
Tim, I think you answered the question within the question. You see what happens to players like Michael Crabtree (Achilles, 49ers) and Henry Hynoski (knee, Giants) in these OTAs, and that would be the big concern to a player like Spikes. Last week, we had some talk in the chat that OTAs were glorified "captain's practices" -- meaning it was more fluff than substance -- and that couldn't be further than the truth. These players are competing out there. We also saw a fight in a Buccaneers OTA.
Jim Keddy (Kennebunk, Maine)
Tom Brady stated recently that the wide receiver situation wouldnot be resolved until midway thru training camp.
Mike (12:47 PM)
Yes, Jim, he said that on sports radio WEEI. Another thing he said that drew my attention was that some guys get it right away, and he put Moss, Welker and Branch in that category. I'm curious if Dobson can enter his name into that discussion.
To add onto the Jenkins-Dobson battle, is a part of it that Dobson isn't under contract yet? You never really want to put an unsigned player as a starting wide receiver when they aren't even signed.
Mike (12:48 PM)
I don't think that's it at all, Travis. That contract should be pretty easy to execute. If they have a holdout with the 59th overall pick in the draft, someone on either side (team/agent) probably isn't doing their job well.
Trent (Bethel, ME)
Hey Mike, do you think the passing game will change based on the new receivers the Patriots have brought in? I envision that they will move away from the shorter routes we saw with Welker/Lloyd/Branch, into more down the field throws. Have they been running those plays in OTA's or are we still seeing short/ intermediate attempts?
Mike (12:50 PM)
Too early to tell, Trent, although we saw a lot of downfield passing attempts on Wednesday. That was my big takeaway from practice -- it was a good chance to watch those outside WRs and how they track the ball, and then catch it.
Mike, what's your take on the QB competition? Is this the year that Mallett finally puts Brady out to pasture?
Mike (12:51 PM)
No, Pierre, I don't think we'll see Mallett take over for Brady. But I was pretty impressed with a few throws Mallett made on Wednesday. What a rocket. Interested to see how he looks managing the offense in a preseason game, which will be the real test. Truth is, you never really know with a backup until they get into a game situation. You can only simulate it so much in practice.
Not much talk on Boyce, have you seen him around?
Mike (12:52 PM)
Max, just working off to the side (foot/toe injury from before the draft).
Phil (Medford, MA)
I've heard of NFL players incorporating MMA training or boxing into their offseason workouts. I was wondering if you're aware of any Patriots players that do that. Do NFL teams have the ability to restrict players from participating in that sort of thing to avoid any potential injury that may result from it?
Mike (12:52 PM)
Phil, Chandler Jones was talking about doing that a bit. His brother is in MMA, which is a natural tie-in for him.
Nate (Oxon Hill Md )
Simple mike , is Cunningham out ?
Mike (12:54 PM)
Nate, I'd say Cunningham is closer to the bubble. Are there any injuries in camp?
Mike, what is your take on Ridley's increased body mass and muscle? Do you think its a concern? Or is he building into more of the Corey Dillon mold?
Mike (12:54 PM)
Dave, I think Ridley looks pretty good in terms of his conditioning. Wouldn't think it's a concern.
Alex W (Des Moines)
Mike you interested me with that last bit about Jamie Collins playing strong side linebacker ... with all this spikes stuff going on looking at Hightower's size (if i'm not mistaken he is around the 6'2" 265lb mark) he seems to have the size to play in the middle so is there a chance we could see him moving to MLB in the future with mayo and collins on the outside?
Mike (12:56 PM)
Alex, I think Hightower is an option to play in the middle. Right now, they have Dane Fletcher in there. But I do think the combination you mention is a possibility to consider as well if Spikes isn't part of the mix.
Mike (12:56 PM)
I think Hightower can do a lot of things.
Max (North Conway, NH)
When watching Amendola run his routes, are you having flashbacks to Welkers routes? How similar are they?
Mike (12:57 PM)
Looks similar Max. This is to take nothing away from Welker. Special player.
Chad (Orlando, Fl)
Hey Mike, I play highschool football and we have a 'joker' type player in our defensive system that I honestly think sounds just like what would fit Jamie Collins best. It's a 4th linebacker in a 4/3, usually the most athletic one that can run, cover, and come off in late blitzes so as to use his talent in terms of explosiveness and speed/agility. Is there any such role in the NFL? If so, does my idea of Collins fitting there work? Thoughts please. Thanks!
Mike (12:58 PM)
Chad, I could see that with Collins. In fact, if I had to project his initial role with the team, that would probably be it. Also consider the high number of sub packages the Patriots play (57 percent in 2012). Teams need athletic players who can play in space. Collins could fit that bill.
Mike (12:58 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
CB in Utah (Murray UT via Watertown MA)
Hi Mike. Can you talk to us about depth on the D Line, now that Love and Deaderick are gone. We have Vince and Kelly on the inside and Chandler and Nikovich on the outside. I know its early, but Who do you see subbing come start of season.
Mike (1:00 PM)
CB, on the interior, it looks like Armond Armstead and Marcus Forston could be top backups. At end, it's an interesting mix with Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan etc. Maybe even Jamie Collins in some packages.
Mike,Interested in your thoughts on the Patriots' additions this off season. I'm noticing a trend and I?m not sure if it was a point of emphasis or more of a coincidence. To me, the Patriots have added a lot of size to the roster. Welker vs Amendola; Dobson vs Lloyd; Kelly vs Love/Deaderick; Adrian Wilson vs Patrick Chung are a few that come to mind.I thought that if there was one weakness of the team last year it was that they got pushed around by the more physical teams (49ers, Ravens), so this approach would address that.
Mike (1:01 PM)
I'd agree with that Mike. Bigger in several spots. Is bigger better? Looking forward to finding out.
Hi Mike, at the risk of sounding like a debbie downer, (although I really beleive the Pats will win 11,12 games and be right in the playoff picture) what makes this year different than the last few? Meaning, what does this team have that will help them win the superbowl as opposed to just coming close? The coaching staff is the same (with Boyer being the most controversial) and overall there has probably been a talent reduction not addition to the roster. Thanks
Mike (1:04 PM)
Jared, the Patriots should contend. If they don't, that would be a big disappointment -- no sugarcoating it. I think they believe they are a deeper team, and we know the importance of depth, and that continuity/playing together for a second straight season is something that can sometimes be tough to quantify. I'm not sure I'd agree that there has been a talent reduction on defense. On offense, I think that's fair if you're talking about a Gronk-less TE position. While I think the loss of Welker hurts, I don't think it's a definite that the WR position won't be better/deeper/more versatile than it was last year.
Mike (1:04 PM)
Long way to go. Have to see how it develops.
Mike you never answer my questions! I'll try a different one. Regarding Spikes, you keep saying that BB is probably "not happy" about Spikes not being there. Does that mean you know for sure that he didn't have a talk with the staff and have a good excuse (family stuff, health issue, etc)?
Mike (1:06 PM)
Jason, sources have said that Spikes simply decided he wanted to work out on his own. It's always possible there is more to the story, but I don't think that is the case here.
Mike, is Ridley in for a down year due to defenses likely keying more on the run game with Welker gone and Gronk likely out?
Mike (1:06 PM)
I wouldn't say that, Bort. On the flip side, the entire starting OL from the beginning of 2012 returns intact.
Ike (Rochester- NY) [via mobile]
Hey Mike I was wondering if you were planning on updating the Patriots roster by contract length at some point? I find that helpful when trying to predict what direction the front office may take in the future.
Mike (1:07 PM)
Sure thing, Ike. Will use your comment as a springbaord to putting that together over the next couple of days.
Craven Morehead (lunch break)
Mike...What matchup are you looking most forward to this season? Has to be the Broncos, right?
Mike (1:09 PM)
Craven, let's end on this one. The Patriots-Broncos game will be a good one, for sure. I look at the season in quarters, and the first one I'm most excited about is that Sunday night road game in Atlanta in Week 4. Just a different type of test. High-flying offense. How far has the Patriots' defense come? That will be a good test to give us an indication.
Mike (1:10 PM)
Thanks to everyone; as usual an enjoyable chat. Let's plan on doing it again next Thursday.