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 (12:00 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Mike (12:00 PM)
We're at the quarter-point of the NFL regular season and the Patriots are 4-0 and preparing for a road game at Cincinnati on Sunday. The team has also signed veteran WR Austin Collie, as reported by colleague Field Yates today.
Mike (12:01 PM)
Here are some thoughts on the Collie signing, which were posted to our blog on ESPNBoston.com: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4750274/thoughts-on-austin-collie-signing
Mike (12:02 PM)
As for Sunday's game, the one tape study I did on the Bengals was from their 17-6 loss to the Browns last Sunday. Not an impressive effort from them. They've played better in other games and I might try to watch one of those before Sunday. But that's where I am right now on that one.
Mike (12:03 PM)
As for Vince Wilfork, that's obviously a tough blow. He wasn't his usual dominating self through four games but he's still a difference-maker. Tommy Kelly and rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones are the remaining personnel at DT. That has to be a bit of a concern for the team. At the same time, we've seen them overcome big injuries in the past.
Rhino Denekamp (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Hi Mike, shout out from Amsterdam to the good work you're doing accross the pond. With the Pats depth at DT looking thin. Do you see them making a trade for a proven DT? If so, who would come to mind? Keep it up.
Mike (12:05 PM)
Greetings in Amsterdam, Rhino. The one issue wiuth trading for a DT is simply availability. Bill Belichick has said it in the past -- that position is usually one where many of the players are high draft picks because there aren't a lot of those players out there. So when you have them, you don't just give them away. That's why I think the more likely option is an internal promotion from the practice squad with Marcus Forston or A.J. Francis, or simply waiting for Armond Armstead to come off the reserve/non-football illness list on Oct. 15.
Mike (12:05 PM)
The other option is signing a veteran but I'd be leery from a health/injury standpoint bringing in someone who hasn't been in a training camp.
Hi Mike. Can we get your feeling on Danny Amendola's availability Sunday?
Mike (12:06 PM)
Chris, I think he has a real good chance to play. These things can always change, but I'm expecting him to be there in Cincinnati.
Riaz (Berea, OH)
Mike, whats your feeling on the Gronk? Does he play this week finally?
Mike (12:07 PM)
Riaz, I think he'll be there too. Again, these things can change, and I'm just making an educated guess here, but I think it's less about the medical stuff and more about the psychological stuff with him. Does he feel he's ready to be on the field? As team president Jonathan Kraft said, it's not a place to be if you don't think you're ready.
Haroon (Atlanta, GA)
Do you think Casey Hampton would be in play as a possible Wilfork replacement?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Haroon, the concern with a player like Hampton, to me, is the physically conditioning. At that weight, to have not been in a training camp, it's hard for me to imagine he'd be ready to contribute right now. It might take 2-3 weeks.
Good Afternoon Mike, Are we going to see some more of Spikes on run downs since Vince is gone for season?
Mike (12:10 PM)
Nick, I expect to see more of Spikes this week than the 6 snaps he played Sunday night against the Falcons. We know the Patriots were mostly in their sub defense against the Falcons, but the Bengals are primarily as "12 personnel" team -- 1 back, 2 tight ends. Usually that means the Patriots match with their base defense. Wouldn't be surprised to see a 3-4 this week with Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano and Chandler Jones on the line, with Rob Ninkovich/Dont'a Hightower the OLBs and Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo the ILBs. Could be the right formula in this specific matchup.
Jason panera bread [via mobile]
Mike we have seen some OT trades.. Any of these slumping teams have DL available?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Jason, I'd have to look closer at it, but the OT trades with Eugene Monroe (Jaguars to Ravens) and Levi Brown (Cardinals to Steelers) had a unique dynamic in that the teams didn't have either player in long-term plans and viewed the compensation as more valuable to them. I think the Patriots could probably get Brandon Deaderick back for a 7th-round pick from the Jaguars, but I just don't see them having any interest in that. The difference between Deaderick and what they have already, in their mind, is probably neglible. Those are the issues you get in to when considering a DT trade IMO.
Neil (South Boston)
Hi Mike, procedurally speaking, why hasn't Wilfork been placed on the IR yet? Is there an advantage to be had in waiting? Or is it simply because they just haven't made the move yet?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Sure, Neil, it keeps the Bengals guessing as to who they have to prepare for. Wilfork will land on IR. It could happen today when the Austin Collie signing is made official.
Deion Branch (Welker's vacant apartment)
Why another receiver with a history of injuries? Doesn't Bill know I'm a lot more durable than any of the veterans he has?Why no love?
Mike (12:13 PM)
Deion, it's probably the difference in physical skills.
Assuming Gronk comes back, what type of workload do you see for him out of the gate, and what sort of impact would his (and Amendola's) return mean for Thompkins and Dobson's playing time? Would Boyce be benched, even inactive?
Mike (12:16 PM)
Tim, I'd say 25 percent of the snaps for Gronkowski in his first game back. I think his presence would mostly affect Zach Sudfeld. On Thompkins, the wild card is how significant his shoulder injury is at this point. Likewise with Dobson's neck injury. I don't know the answer. My depth chart at WR would be: 1) Edelman; 2) Thompkins; 3) Amendola; 4) Dobson; 5) Boyce; 6) Collie; 7) Slater.
Hopefully all this issue with Gronk now calms down and he gets back on the field. However, i have to say i would not disagree with his party if they were concerned. I have never seen a player so unsuited to play an NFL game as Gronk against Miami last year....the way he protected his arm was very difficult to watch. Pats have to be careful here....
Mike (12:17 PM)
Mike, I haven't heard too many people who think Gronkowski should be on the field before he feels comfortable. In fact, the general sense I get is that some people would just prefer he wait until even later in the season. I think Gronkowski and his inner "circle" are being smart. It has to feel 100 percent right. Not 99.9 percent. 100 percent -- physically and mentally.
Hi Mike - when will Jones and Hightower prove they are first round talents? Hightower especially has been a disappointment and looks posied to be a run stopper in the middle next year when spikes leaves. For me not valuable as a first round pick. Where is all this athleticism he supposed to have?
Mike (12:19 PM)
I see it a little differently on Hightower, John. I think he's having a good year. The linebackers have struggled at times in coverage, for sure, but Hightower has some unique skills and at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, that's a big linebacker. To see him competitive in coverage with running back Doug Martin in the Sept. 22 game against the Buccaneers down the field, or to see him jamming Buccaneers tight end Nate Bynham with such authority that Bynham lands on his backside are plays that stand out. As for Jones, pretty solid to me as an everydown end.
Mike, The pats were able to hold down the run game vs. Atl even in the absence of big Vince. This allowed them to stay in the nickel and still remain sturdy against Rogers & co. Do you think the nickel D will have similar success against most clubs, or will we be seeing more base sets with Spikes?
Mike (12:20 PM)
Zack, they will continue to mix it up on a weekly basis based on what they feel gives them the best chance to limit an opponent's primary strength.
Bob (@ work)
Hi Mike, Love the chats. I'm wondering with Vince tearing his Achilles this season
Mike (12:22 PM)
Bob, I do see Wilfork back, but it's worth noting that his salary is $7.5 million next year. That's a big number and if there are signs of decline, that could create an uncomfortable situation for the team. Something to keep an eye on, I'd say. But you can hear it from Bill Belichick and players, how much respect Wilfork has in that building.
Adam (Irvine, Ca)
Ridley is clearly the best runner on the field but somehow does not get more carries. Blount has had two nice runs but he's not near the runner Ridley is.. Additionally, by having Ridley in the game it opens up the passing game (against the Falcons the Falcons D bit on play action everytime he was in the game). Mike, he needs the rock more! Help me understand or provide some insight. Thank.
Mike (12:24 PM)
Adam, I think Ridley is running really well the last two games. The numbers might not always show it, but it's been solid. He has a knee injury this week and hasn't practiced the last two days, so I'm thinking we may not see him Sunday in Cincinnati. The coaching staff is obviously high on LeGarrette Blount too. I think they just want to spread things around and keep everyone fresh at this time of the year. I'm not reading too much into it.
Jon (Eglin AFB, FL)
Mike, BB seems to really trust these younger front-7 guys in the wake of losing Vince. Two questions: first, when do you think we'll see Armond Armstead? Second, do you think they'll continue to use a (right to left) Buchanan - Chandler Jones - Vellano - Nink, front 4 against the pass? All 4 guys have created good pressure in passing situations from that formation. Thanks!
Mike (12:25 PM)
(1 of 2) Good stuff, Jon. I sort of take a little pride in the Joe Vellano emergence. Check this out from the first week of training camp, when we put together a list of players we wanted to see more of: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4745924/patriots-we-want-to-see-more-of
Mike (12:27 PM)
(2 of 2) On Armstead, this is what I know: He's taking part in team meetings and has been around the team. A plan is in place to determine if he will help the team this year. He is eligible to start practicing after the Oct. 13 game against the Saints. So don't give up on him helping the Patriots in 2013. ... On the sub package, I think we'll continue to see Rob Ninkovich/Chandler Jones/Michael Buchanan in sub, with the other spot rotated in between Tommy Kelly/Joe Vellano/Chris Jones.
Hi Mike, what do you think Brandon Bolden's role will be with the Patriots going forward? Do you think his role will lessen as the Patriots get healthy?
Mike (12:28 PM)
Seems to me that Bolden's knee remains an issue. So when Shane Vereen comes back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bolden get a little time to get that knee right. But until then, he's the new Vereen -- the passing back.
Mike, with all the complaining about the young receiver corp and feeling bad about what Brady has vs. Peyton, can't we start to shift the conversation. After plugging in band-aids for the last few years (Lloyd, Branch, Stallworth, etc), we are finally arming Brady with long-term solutions. Brady has at least 4 more years here. His entire current crop of WRs/TEs/RBs can all still be here in 2017, that's pretty exciting, no?
Mike (12:30 PM)
Keegan, I think the best way I could explain it is that sometimes to take 2 steps forward, you have to initially take 1 step back. If you want long-term solutions at WR, and you want to talk about struggles drafting and developing WRs, there's only one way to reverse the trend -- draft and develop a bunch of them and ride out the early wave of ups and downs. Any time you invest in youth there are going to be growing pains. It's just the way it is. The Patriots are 4-0 while integrating these young WRs. That's a credit to them.
If Ridley is inactive would we enter week 5 with only 2 active RBs? (Bolden+Blount)?
Mike (12:31 PM)
Leon Washington made the trip to Atlanta last week. Possible that he could be ready this week.
Mike, Talk about bang for your buck, is there a better value signing out there than Julian Edelman right now?
Mike (12:33 PM)
Tom, I think Edelman is one of the undersold stories of the NFL through four games. A great story. And I'm not a johnny-come-lately on this one, if we go back and read the initial analysis when he re-signed: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4741975/a-bit-more-on-edelmans-return
Mike (12:34 PM)
I'm surprised another team wasn't more aggressive this offseason in trying to sign him. Always thought he was a solid player. Just a matter of staying healthy.
Do you think this Ridley injury is new? Could he/patriots have perhaps been hiding it first few weeks?
Mike (12:34 PM)
Ryan, it looked to me like he got up slowly on his last run, an 8-yarder in the fourth quarter on the team's final drive. But not sure.
Akiva (Title town, USA)
Mike, Do you think this team has a similar team the pats teams of 03' and 04? I like the way the defense is playing in the red area, and i think that the eventual return of Gronk and DA will help us offensively in the red area. Your thoughts?
Mike (12:35 PM)
I see some similarities Akiva, in the way the three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- complement each other. Well coached. Good situational team. There is a long way to go, but I can see some links.
Curious on how you think the Pats may be vulnerable this week vs. Bengals?
Mike (12:37 PM)
PJ, a key matchup is going to be the Patriots' offensive line handles that challenging Bengals 4-man line. The line is coming off its best game, but there were some struggles for the unit earlier in the year. So I'd focus there. Defensively for the Patriots, I don't like the matchup of running back Giovani Bernard against any of their linebackers. Bernard looks like he some nice burst and playmaking skill.
Dan (Leominster, MA)
Mike, What's your take on Tom Brady's fumbled snaps? Not like he never played with Wendell before.
Mike (12:39 PM)
One of those weird things, Dan. Bill Belichick sometimes reminds players that Foxboro High School can execute the center/QB snap better than they can at times.
Is Zach Sudfeld miscast as a TE? Seems he really adds little to no value in the blocking game and struggles overcoming physical linebackers in coverage.
Mike (12:39 PM)
He's really more of a WR, Jonny. I'd agree with your assessment. After a strong preseason, it looks to me like he needs more time to build up strength. I see his snaps continuing to decline (8 last week).
Alex T (in Miami - from Lowell, MA) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, I loved the jamming Tony Gonzalez strategy a lot. It slowed him down and helped the DB. Why don't teams do this more against the Megatron, Andre Johnson type of receivers? Hope we do it more in the red zone.
Mike (12:40 PM)
Wasn't that something, Alex? It was almost like they were treating Gonzalez as a gunner on the punt team. That's the ultimate respect. I think it's a little easier to do that against a tight end than an elusive receiver.
Paul (Toledo, Ohio)
I'm still annoyed over some of the offseason moves. Nobody could have predicted the AHern disaster, and I think I understand giving up Wes, since they arguably got his best years on the field. No problems with losing Lloyd as well. But I fault BB and the scouts for fooling around with Emanuel Sanders (do you really want him or not?) and particularly for letting Woodhead go for so little. Leon Washington so far has been a poor substitute for Danny, and we sure could have used Danny now that Vereen is out for a while. This has been one of the poorer-planned offseasons, imo. Any thoughts?
Mike (12:43 PM)
Paul, I still don't understand the Woodhead decision. I wrote it at the time that I think they made a mistake. On Emmanuel Sanders, it's always easier to say in hindsight that they should have offered more than $2.5m. I actually thought it was a good strategic offer and there's nothing that says they can't sign him again in the offseason. Sanders probably feels good about the Patriots earning him a $1.2m raise from the Steelers this year. So other than Woodhead, no qualms here.
mike - what about bringing back kyle love? he seemed to hit his stride in 2nd half of last year....
Mike (12:44 PM)
Possible, Sam, but something tells me they've moved on at this point. Just my sense but I sort of get the vibe that maybe they felt he got a little comfortable.
Milo (Berryville, VA)
What's so special about Mayo, Spikes and Hightower that prevents Collins from getting on the field? We will need him in December and January when many games are won and lost because our LBs cannot cover in space
Mike (12:45 PM)
They're working Collins in there, Milo. We saw some of the growing pains with him in the second quarter on Sunday night (he really struggles). It's going to be a process and they're grinding through it.
Mike - I'm sorry but Paul (Toledo) is just wrong. Vereen's role was to step into the Woodhead role. If he can't do that, then why is he here? It made sense. Nobody knew Vereen would get injured. Washington was depth only, maybe kick returns, never a straight up replacement for Woodhead. Sure, now with injuries, keeping Woody looks good, but if Vereen was taking all the 3rd down reps and didn't get injured, when would Woodhead even seen the field? Can't predict injuries, which alter your plans.
Mike (12:48 PM)
I understand the viewpoint, and perhaps that was the Patriots' thinking, but I think they undersold Woodhead's dependability and clutch play. Based on the money he signed for, I think it was more than reasonable to keep him as insurance (Vereen had struggled with injuries before) and a role player if everyone was healthy. Sure, he might not have played 34 percent of the snaps like he did in 2012, but even at 20 percent with the insurance element, that's a player I want around, especially at the modest money he signed for.
Curious about our coaching staff and it's "depth chart". If BB were to retire, is it Josh McDaniels team or Matt Patricia's?
Mike (12:49 PM)
Mitch, I think it would be McDaniels.
Richard Seymour (Couch)
Hey Mike, tell Bill i'll play for $20 million! Hahahahaha
Mike (12:52 PM)
Exactly. Not happening there. We know that Seymour isn't playing this year because he had a large financial difference in what he was seeking and what the Falcons were offering. The Patriots won't be breaking that bank. And Seymour doesn't want to be here ... and to be blunt, the Patriots don't want him around.
Mike (12:52 PM)
That didn't end well.
Mike, re Woodhead what you're missing is that Woodhead might not have wanted to back up Shane Vareen. He's got the job in SD that he had with the Pats. Given that he wants to play and progress his football career, why would he have signed with NE?
Mike (12:53 PM)
Peter, had the Patriots stepped up, I feel pretty strongly that he would be here.
Mike (12:53 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Ryan (South Boston)
With Cincy's top corners looking like they will miss the game (or at least be limited with injuries), might we see Kenbrell Thompkins holding some pom-poms and doing his best Ochocinco impression in the endzone on Sunday?
Mike (12:54 PM)
Ryan, the one question on Thompkins is how serious is his shoulder injury? The first question is whether he's healthy enough to dress. But if he does, I could see him scoring a touchdown.
alan (new hartford, ct)
has anyone made the correlation between the patriots rebuild (on offense) this year and the red sox rebuild? and for that matter you might as well throw in the celtics rebuild too. not like the patriots had a god awful season last year like the sox did, but that just seems like a storyline someone would have pick up on by now.
Mike (12:55 PM)
Good storyline, Adam. While we're on the topic, here's hoping the Red Sox finish this great ride. To me, it's a great example of how simply spending money isn't the answer, but it's spending it on the right kind of players and building a true team.
Pete (San Diego)
With the way he's played, do you see Aqib Talib getting a long term deal after the season?
Mike (12:58 PM)
Let's end on this one, Pete. I do see Talib getting an extension. He's been everything the Patriots could have hoped for. If he's willing to assume some of the risk, and defer some money (any team, you'd think, is going to have some concerns about being one step away from a league suspension), I don't see a major hurdle. It's a hot-button topic, especially given some of the issues in play with Aaron Hernandez's extension, so it's a good topic with a lot of layers given Talib's past. I think they will sign him in the end.
Mike (12:58 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week.