Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (11:00 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our "bonus" chat this week.
Mike (11:00 AM)
Thursday's chat got cut a little short and I was balancing multiple things. So let's go for another 30-40 minutes today to cap it off.
What is the latest on the $$$ battle between the team and Hernandez? Thanks.
Mike (11:01 AM)
Good question, Sal, and one that I don't have a concrete answer for. I can relay that when I spoke with team officials over the last few months, they indicated to me that any relief wouldn't come for a while and would likely be determined by the court rulings. An indictment moves them further down the road, but I still think there is more that has to happen for the team to get any relief. This is just a step of sorts in that direction.
Hi Mike, Do you think that any of the rookies TE will be part of this team at the start of this season? (just looking for your opinion). thx
Mike (11:02 AM)
Willy, really tough for me to answer that without seeing them on the field. Odds tell me no, but I will say this, looking at Justin Jones and his 6-foot-8 frame, you want to believe it will work. He looks like a basketball player. My neck is still sore from interviewing him yesterday. LOL.
I have to say I liked the Patriots draft. There were no spots a rookie was going to step in and start before the veteran in front of them except for O-line. The Garrapolo pick was to cover themselves when Mallett leaves and considering his talent I have no problem that they used a 2nd round pick on him. TE is a need but they were wise not to draft someone who didn't fit their offense just to say they drafted a TE.
Mike (11:05 AM)
Rick, I felt the same way about the rookie class, for the most part. The TE class was not viewed as a good one by most talent evaluators. I truly believe the Patriots had about 2-3 TEs they felt were draftable. It just didn't work out. On Garoppolo, yes he was a second-round pick, but a late one -- 62nd overall. Ryan Mallett was an early third-round pick (74th overall). 12 spots between them. No big difference between the situations IMO.
DC (Phoenix, AZ)
Hey Mike, can you describe what you know about the severity of ACL (or in Easley's case, DOUBLE ACL) tears as it pertains to how likely a player is to have a successful career following the injury? The ONLY knock on Easley is his knees at this point and from what I understand, while an ACL tear is terrible and takes a good 12-18 months for a player to FULLY return, it's not like a concussion where once a player sees stars they will have a higher propensity to see stars again. I LOVE THIS PICK!
Mike (11:09 AM)
DC, here is what we know -- Easley came back stronger after the first ACL tear. The second ACL tear, on the other knee, remains a work in progress but signs are pointing in the right direction in his recovery. Here is what NFL scouts/GMs/personnel execs I've spoken with say: The risk is the combination of the two ACL tears, an undersized player along the DL, moving up a level to play in the NFL. Easley relies on that quickness up front, and there is an element of risk in that you're projecting his quickness will not be compromised by the recovery while also factoring in the higher level of play/bigger linemen leaning on him.
Mike (11:11 AM)
So I should probably be more clear when talking about the risk. It's not that he won't be able to play because the reconstruction is solid and he's making progress. He'll be on the field at some point, there's no doubt about that. It's just a matter of if he'll be able to be the Dominique Easley who was projected as a top-half-of-the-first-round pick before the injuries.
Mike (11:11 AM)
Every pick is a projection, but with Easley, the injuries add an element of risk to the projection that the Patriots have generally avoided with their top pick.
trent (columbus, oh)
Passing on adding another LB in the draft is being overlooked. I am curious to see who takes the role of 4th LB. My guess is that NE likes beauharnais, but he seems to be more of an inside man to me. I am still worried about OLB if one of the starters gets hurt. Curious to see how it works out, and see if Cameron Gordon is the answer.
Mike (11:13 AM)
Trent, I think this ties to the fact it was not a strong linebacker class. But the point is well taken. There is probably a reason the Patriots gave Michigan LB Cameron Gordon the highest total of guarantees among undrafted players (35k). They saw the same thing you did.
Any chances we make a run for Andre johnson or no? And has there been an update as the whether the pats may sign dustin Keller or not?
Mike (11:13 AM)
Ethan, I'd expect them to explore it if the Texans are serious about trading him (a big "if"). I rate it as a longshot because if I'm the Texans, I'd rather trade him out of the conference. On Keller, if the health checks out, no reason not to sign him if he's willing to assume a split contract that limits the team's risk.
Keenan Allen showed them what passing on a great player with an injury is like. 1,000+ yards speaks for itself. They passed on him and regretted that.
Mike (11:14 AM)
Evan, I'm not sure that one was as much about the injury as some other off-field questions and how he'd fit in their program.
Does anything stand out about this draft class and FA's besides the height of Justin Jones?
Mike (11:16 AM)
David, at this point, I really liked what I heard from Indiana's Stephen Houston, who is a 230-pound back hoping to take the same path BenJarvus Green-Ellis did in 2008 as an undrafted thumper looking to break through. He seemed to have the right attitude and has made an immediate connection with RBs coach Ivan Fears. Also heard a lot of special teams chatter from them -- they know that's their main ticket to earning a roster spot. And many of them (LB Cameron Gordon, LB Deontae Skinner, CB Travis Hawkins etc.) have extensive experience in that part of the game.
Dallas Clark is still a free agent. i realize he is getting up there in age but he seems like he could be a good fit for the New England offence and may still have a little bit left in the tank. Thoughts?
Mike (11:17 AM)
J.C., possible, I suppose. Just not sure he's that much of a difference-maker compared to what is already on the roster, when also factoring in upside of some of the youngsters.
With the TE's we brought in why should I not feel like like Justin Jones is just another Zach Sudfeld? Looks great on paper, has prototypical size, will probably wow us during camp and preseason then....cut maybe?
Mike (11:19 AM)
Hector, I'm glad you brought that up. I learned a great lesson from a "covering the team" standpoint on Sudfeld last year. Anointed him way, way, way, way too early. Now, I think there was some genuine excitement with the team as well. I think the team brass believed Sudfeld would be more of a factor in 2015 than 2014, yet he exploded out of the gates so quickly I do think it surprised them.
Mike (11:20 AM)
This is such a great example of how players develop at different rates. Some peak early and fade. Some start slow and gradually build up to a peak. Others are just a slow and steady progression. Sudfeld peaked early and faded but he did enough early that he couldn't be sneaked on to the practice squad.
Mike (11:20 AM)
Let's keep this in mind as we evaluate, opine and dissect these youngsters this year. And I welcome anyone holding me accountable on those lines. Don't want to make the same mistake again.
Mike, Do you think Jeremy Gallon has a shot and making this team? I'm sure Brady would love to throw to a fellow Michigan guy
Mike (11:22 AM)
Yes, Dave. History tells us if he produces, they will find a spot for him. He just has to go produce. Did you know he holds the Michigan single-season record for receiving yards? So he's produced in college. Can he do it here? Will be a fun one to follow. Side note: I always root for the little guys (miss you, too, Danny Woodhead).
Mike, did anyone have Easley as the Pats' 1st round pick on their draft board? I don't think so. So why does everyone waste a huge amount of time trying to predict what the Pats -- and other teams -- will do on draft day when it almost never happens the way people think it will?
Mike (11:24 AM)
A couple folks had it, Michael. Props to them. I always say on the pre-draft work, predictions are part of the fun as long as they are kept in context. But the biggest part of the pre-draft work is to learn the players, how they might fit in different systems, and store that info away because a lot of these players are going to be in the league for the next decade or so. We'll also see them as opponents.
Anthony (Indiana )
Mike, how do you feel about Roy Finch any chance he makes the roster?
Mike (11:24 AM)
Finch looks to me as more of a "gadget" guy -- exciting guy with the ball in his hands. Would call him a longshot right now, but we're only 5 days in. Excited to see him on the field.
Big Dick Seymour (Bedford)
With Spikes gone, who brings the flavor to the defense? they lacked this in 09 post-rodney and pre-spikes
Mike (11:26 AM)
Good question. When I think of the flavor, and the vision of what Bill Belichick wants, I picture Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner just mauling opposing WRs on the outside and beating them up to the point that they can't get off the line. That would be the flavor that comes to mind from this viewpoint.
Daniel (Oslo, Norway)
Hey Mike, big Pats fan living in Norway. My question is regarding our young wide revievers. Dobson is injured and will not be available for OTA, how much do you think that will impact his development? Are any of our other recievers injured? Do you think this will be a make or break year for Amendola? What I mean by this is, it gets cheaper to cut him after this upcoming season, if he can't stay healthy, will we see him on the roster next year? I mean he has a big salary compared to our other recievers.
Mike (11:27 AM)
Daniel, thanks for checking in from Norway. Great stuff. For Dobson, you always want to be on the field. It's not ideal, but I wouldn't classify it as a deal-breaker or anything like that. Absolutely a make-or-break year for Amendola. No sugarcoating that one.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Mike - If second round seletion Jimmy Garopollo is the replacement for Tom Brady when he retires what will the Patriots do with Ryan Mallet now entering his 4th season with New England ?
Mike (11:28 AM)
Rich, I think the team fully expects Ryan Mallett to seek out a starting job next year. If it works out well for the team, it will receive a 2016 third-round compensatory draft choice when Mallett does so.
Hi Mike. You know how Bill hate those error repeators. Rookies with most guaranted mobey last year: TJ Moe, Zach Sudfeld, Elvis Fischer. I'm rooting for Roy Finch. Gotta love his explosiveness!
Mike (11:29 AM)
Great memory, Emil, and a reminder that guaranteed money doesn't guarantee anything. Joe Vellano had no guaranteed money last year -- but he earned the spot. It's a meritocracy, as it should be. Draft status, for the most part, means little.
JB west hartford [via mobile]
Mike help me understand this. A 2nd round rookie contract is 4 years. Brady as at least 4 good years left in him if not more. Wouldn't it have been more wise to wait a couple years so you could have an overlap between bradys retirement and the expiration of his successors rookie contract? If brady is still playing at a high level in 4 years isn't this basically a waste of a pick like Mallet... Don't give me this "it's in te teams best interest to develop a solid backup" backups are drafted in later rounds or undrafted.... No need for a second round pick to never see the field. Lets push all our chips in and get brady 2 more Super Bowls so he can be the winningest qb of all time!
Mike (11:32 AM)
JB, in terms of positional value, no spot is more important than QB. I'd sum up my thoughts this way, which is also what I wrote as part of a Boston Sports Media roundtable ...
Mike (11:37 AM)
"I understand the line of thinking that the Patriots should be surrounding Tom Brady with as much talent as possible, not necessarily considering a possible succession plan. If someone like C.J. Fiedorowicz (selected three picks later at No. 65) becomes a star, it will indeed look bad. But at the same time, I think many are underestimating the importance of the backup position in general and how if you don't have that spot layered accordingly, you put the entire team at risk because of the value of the position and how it touches every part of the team. It's not so much a succession plan for Brady (that's a smaller part of it) as it is having someone ready should he sustain an in-season injury like Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers did in 2013 and you need a bridge to get through a few games, or perhaps more. Would we ever accept it if the Patriots didn't layer the running back spot accordingly? Or cornerback? So if Shane Vereen was injured, Bill Belichick might just say, 'We're not going with any running backs today.' Never. I also think perception is a big part of this. We hear "second-round quarterback" and it makes it sound especially rich. But if we look beyond the perception and consider that Jimmy Garoppolo as a late second-rounder was picked just 12 slots ahead of Ryan Mallett in 2011, it's really no different to me. For what it's worth, I've talked to two scouts who absolutely loved the Garoppolo pick -- both for the player himself and the value it represented."
Louis (U of MD - finals week)
Pittsburgh drafted Wheaton last year and Shazier this year - two prospects you were particularly high on each year. All this "scooping" talk; maybe Pittsburgh scooped you! :)
Mike (11:38 AM)
LOL, Louis. If Wheaton doesn't emerge this year, I might have to go back to the scouting drawing board. I've learned a lot from Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, so maybe that's the tie-in. Good football man IMO.
Dominique Easley (UF/Pats)
Any reason to believe I won't be headed down the list of failed Florida Pats? Failed is a strong word, but I mean look at Hernandez, Spikes, Jackson, etc...
Mike (11:39 AM)
You, Mr. Easley, seem like a different type of Florida guy to me. I also think it's notable that you came out of Will Muschamp's program and not Urban Meyer.
Mike - you dont pick a back up QB in the second round - they picked him because they think he will replace Brady - if thats what they believe then fair enough to them but this is important context. For what its worth Mettenberger to me was the better college QB and would have been a better pick
Mike (11:40 AM)
Jimmy, I think the succession plan is part of it, similar to what the Broncos are thinking with Brock Osweiler (57th overall, 2012). But that's not the driving force IMO.
a back up QB in the 2nd round? come on. Thats not value. You only sell it to me if you say they think he is the guy who will take over from Brady
Mike (11:40 AM)
Broncos, 2012, Brock Osweiler, 57th overall.
Mike (11:41 AM)
So the two best teams in the AFC have drafted a QB in the second round (late) in 2 of the last 3 years. Think they know a little something about how to build a team?
Mike (11:41 AM)
Glenn (New York)
Mike, what are your thoughts on the Stork? can he be an instant contributor?
Mike (11:42 AM)
Glenn, interesting guy. I know some coaching staffs around the NFL that just felt they couldn't connect with him. I bumped into former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia yesterday and he said the Florida State coaches loved him. I'm interested to see how it unfolds with him. Feel like they've been trying to upgrade center the last few years. Maybe they have with Stork.
Right, and Osweiler will replace Manning.
Mike (11:44 AM)
We'll see, Greg. Osweiler has two years left on his contract. He'll be a free agent after the 2015 season. If Manning wants to keep playing, and is playing at a high level at that point, Osweiler probably takes the Mallett route and looks for a starting job elsewhere.
Todd (Michigan )
Mike I think you hit the spot about layering the position. However, we did not layer the TE position and it hurt us last year not having a pass catching TE on the field because of how it opens the defense. We have Mallet as a layer at QB for this year, that's why people are so upset that the QB pick was so high. Linebacker is in the same predicament as TE. If we hadn't had Collins, we would have been in serious trouble when Mayo went down.
Mike (11:45 AM)
Todd, agree that TE remains an issue. Tough spot for the team, which obviously wasn't expecting what unfolded with Hernandez and then to have a 2014 draft class not deep at the position. It's why I think it would behoove them to consider Mark Harrison, the big first-year WR, as an option.
Seems to me that the Garopollo pick has less to do with Brady and more to do with Mallett.
Mike (11:46 AM)
Hunter, my feeling is 80 percent Mallett/20 percent Brady.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hey Mike - do you think the drafting of a few linemen this year speaks more to the need to see what DeGuglielmo will do with linemen? As opposed to Scarnecchia, who had proven he could make lemonade with undrafted free agents - they want to make sure the new coach has some more proven talent first....
Mike (11:48 AM)
Brian, the thing that interests me there is if the Patriots will now be looking for different type of linemen. I used to think of position versatility/flexibility, but in Cameron Fleming (OT/Stanford) and Jon Halapio (G/Florida) they really picked one-position-only guys. Halapio, it would seem, also projects more to a power scheme. Just something I'm interested to watch unfold.
Tim ( NC)
Back to the question on Andre Johnson. Why not look into a Mallet for Johnson trade. That way Houston gets a look at Mallet they would never get with him sitting on the bench in NE.
Mike (11:49 AM)
Tim, don't think Houston is interested in Mallett, and don't think Mallett could get the team anything more than a 6th or 7th round pick. I think this is a case where the media has a perception of the player's value that isn't aligned with the actual marketplace for him.
Alex (New Jersey)
Mike, I don't see how Kenbrell Thompkins makes this roster. Top of the depth chart is Edelman, Dobson, Amedola. Then include Lafell because of his versatility to line up anywhere. Matthew Slater will stay because of special teams. Assuming there will be 6 WRs on the roster, that leaves one spot between Boyce, Thompkins, Gallon, Harrison, etc. My guess would be Boyce based on kick returning and speed. Is it possible we keep 7 WRs? (barring injury)
Mike (11:50 AM)
Yes, Alex, it is possible. Also consider that injuries sometimes help these things shake out. Another thing: With Brandon Browner suspended for the first four games, the team can keep an additional player it wouldn't normally otherwise because Browner doesn't count against the 53-man roster.
you miss the point - if jimmy dosent pan out as Brady's successor its a wasted pick. I dont buy you need to draft a guy who will just be a back-up for 4 years in the second round - to me thats not smart
Mike (11:51 AM)
Greg, I don't think I miss the point. I think we just see it differently and I respect your view. I just don't agree with it.
Niel(Virginia) [via mobile]
Mike could you see the Pats making a trade with Houston with Mallet and Amendola for CJ Fiedorowicz?
Mike (11:52 AM)
Niel, I don't see Mallett being traded at this point, and I feel like those who follow the team were probably misled a bit on the topic over draft weekend. I expect Mallett, barring a surprise, to be with the Patriots in 2014.
so Mike, you think Mallet was a good use of the 3rd round pick?
Mike (11:55 AM)
Jimmy, not something that can be definitely answered at this point. If he tears it up this preseason and signs a big deal next offseason, and the Patriots get rewarded with a third-round 2016 compensatory pick, that's super. If he is forced into action and delivers during the 2014 regular season, it's the same category. If he is called upon to play and falters in 2014, not so good. At the least, if he served as a 3-to-4-year insurance policy so the team felt comfortable to make other moves to fill out the roster and then he moves on, I'd say that's an effective-but-not-over-the-top use of the 74th overall selection. Certainly better than Tavon Wilson 48th overall.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
Are you suprised the Pats weren't aggressive in trying to draft Nix, especially as he dropped in the 2nd round?
Mike (11:55 AM)
Scott, I think teams were concerned about the knee.
sean Roc [via mobile]
With all these dbs I hope Logan Ryan still has a home. Do you think he is forced to play safety? We didn't address the need this tells me were stayung in house
Mike (11:56 AM)
Sean, they're going to give Ryan a look there. The key to consider is that they play some 3 CB packages in their base defense (think Houston game-plans) so there's some scheme specific stuff in there. I like Ryan at corner better, but I do think there is a feeling among the staff that he's too good of a player to not be on the field. So they'll explore ways to get him on the field.
Thanks Mike - love the back and forth and always happy to hear differing views. Thanks also for accomodating us on Friday due to shortened Thursday session - appreciate it
Mike (11:57 AM)
Right on, Greg. If we agree on everything, that's boring. I appreciate the discussion.
Ultimately the verdict on Jimmy G will have to wait and see what sort of player he becomes - for me it was a waste but the definitive verdict will have to wait
Mike (11:58 AM)
Sounds good John. Hot topic today.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
Mike, do you think that Josh Hull or one of the UDFAs will be sufficient to fill the coverage LB role in sub packages, or will there be more movement? Given the frequency of time used, and the importance of calling the plays, I think the loss of Dane Fletcher is perhaps undervalued.
Mike (11:59 AM)
Good question, Earl. I know you've been on the coverage LB spot for a while now. I wouldn't expect it to be Hull. Maybe thinking bigger safety there. Something we have to keep an eye on.
Mike (11:59 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Mike, hindsight's 20/20 with regard to the Mallett pick. If you'd known that Brady wouldn't miss a down, maybe you would've done something else. But you'd have been nuts to assume that.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Right on, Peter. It's an insurance policy.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
FWIW, Broncos fans hate the Osweiler pick also. Yeah, QB is the most important position and you need depth, but if Brady or Manning are injured on the first play of the season. the Pats and Broncos, respectively, are done for the season, at least in Super Bowl terms...the talent discrepancy betweent eh starter and backup is too great.
Mike (12:02 PM)
I just disagree with the thought Scott. Look at Green Bay last year. They lost Rodgers for multiple weeks during the season. They struggled to stay afloat, but due to a number of circumstances (others in their division imploding etc.) they were able to sustain enough to make the playoffs. Rodgers returned. They were a contender. Why do we overlook that scenario and just assume that every injury is going to be season-ending? I don't understand why that isn't discussed. It's a clear-cut example from last year.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
I would have liked the Cassel-led Patriots' chances in 2008, if they hadn't been squeezed out on "BCS tiebreakers."
Mike - Insurance policies are not free. They come at a cost. If you get the cheapest policy, you get the worst coverage. If you want a policy that really protects you, you have to pay for it. That was Mallet was (3rd round) and Garappolo this year. A "good" insurance policy.
Mike - does Armond Armstead talk to the media?
Mike (12:03 PM)
Yes, Dan, we spoke with Armstead last year. Haven't talked with him since, though. He's cordial in the locker room.
Dave, Guam [via mobile]
Mike I agree with you on garappolo. I think one thing people are forgetting is how much money back up qb's are getting. It makes economic sense
Mike (12:03 PM)
Top backups with starting experience are at $4 million per season.
Todd (Michigan )
Cameron Gordon was a Saftey in college for two years. Is it possible he gets a look at that position?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Todd, I'm not sure, but my guess would be LB is his spot.
Why is everybody forgetting about Brandon LaFell?
Mike (12:06 PM)
Let's end on this one, Brandon. To me, what LaFell represents is a veteran who could be counted on if the Patriots run into the same situation they did last year and sort of being stuck on relying on players who probably needed more seasoning. Furthermore, LaFell isn't someone who overwhelms you when watching him. More of a solid guy with some inconsistencies and those players can sometimes be easier to overlook.
Mike (12:07 PM)
Glad we could chat today to extend it out a bit. Lots of great topics. We'll do it again next week, maybe a bit later in the day.