Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mike (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.
Mike (3:03 PM)
The Patriots had their ninth organized team activity today, and the third that was open to reporters. Thought it was a good practice, and you can see the progress that the team has made, as well as some individual players (second-year WRs Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce, for example, caught my eye today). I go in with the goal of learning more about the team and I feel like that was accomplished. This is a good team. And there is a long way to go.
Mike, is it time to cut losses with Armond Armstead? I know that he was viewed as a possible top-3 rotation DT, but the team already has developmental types in Jones and Siliga, not to mention Easley. He can't seem to find the field--should we move on?
Mike (3:05 PM)
AM, I'd just focus on the bottom-line facts -- he's not a player they can depend on right now. I'm not sure why he's not on the field (there is a chance it's an excused absence two weeks in a row), but my hunch tells me is something medical/rehab-based. I think he probably should fall into the category of "anything you get from him is a bonus" at this point.
Which undrafted rookie has impressed you the most so far?
Mike (3:07 PM)
James, it's a passing camp, so you're eyes are more apt to be drawn to those who catch the ball or defend it. I thought CB Malcolm Butler (West Alabama) made a play or two today that had me looking down on my roster to ask, "Who is No. 29?"
Hi Mike. I believe the Pats offensive line was a big weakness last year...what's your early take on the three drafted rookies? Any of them have a chance to start out of the gate?
Mike (3:09 PM)
Al, greetings in Hopkinton, land of the Hillers. I'm also in Tri-Valley League country. Bryan Stork, the rookie center from Florida State (fourth round, 105th overall) took some reps today with Logan Mankins flanked to his left and Dan Connolly to his right. So I'd start with him. I'd also mention that at one point, he didn't appear to snap the ball on time, which led to some frustration from Brady and had Stork sent on a "penalty" lap by the coaching staff. That probably sums it up best -- he shows potential and upside, but there's a steep learning curve.
Mike - Can we all assume that Dustin Keller just isn't going to happen if it hasn't by now?
Mike (3:09 PM)
I wouldn't say that at all. A big part of this is health-related. No one has signed Keller yet. I wouldn't rule it out.
Jonas (Denmark) [via mobile]
How would you view the chemistry between Brady/Amendola compared to Brady/Edelman?
Mike (3:12 PM)
Jonas, I want to take you right on to the practice field with me today. Picture the two fields behind Gillette Stadium and one field filled with most of the players working on kickoff coverage, while Tom Brady is on the other field working in the red zone with just Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. At one point, Amendola runs a route and Brady wasn't crazy about it. So he turns to Amendola, motions with his right hand, and in a calm voice explains to him how he'd like it run. Then Amendola runs the next play with Edelman, and Brady likes what he sees, so they've made some progress. Those are the moments that these practices are filled with. I thought they had it going in these practices last year and now there is a bit of a rebuilding job between them. It's coming along IMO. The Brady/Edelman chemistry remains at a higher level.
Who has looked better: Mallett or Garoppollo? Do you think that Belichick may trade or release Mallett come training camp if Garoppollo looks good enough to be the backup at that point?
Mike (3:17 PM)
Matt, I think we'll see all three quarterbacks on the roster this year. I think it is the best value play for the Patriots given all the dynamics in play (Mallett compensatory pick in 2016, double-layered insurance, not enough value in trade marketplace for Mallett etc.). As for who looks better, I think it's too early to be thinking along those lines. No pads and just a passing camp. Both have had their moments. Both have had their not-so-great moments. I will say this: Garoppolo has a little something to him that is fun to watch -- fluid motion, ball's out quick, a respectful confidence in the way he carries himself.
How does the TE from East Carolina look?
Mike (3:21 PM)
David, Justin Jones is 6-foot-8 and 277 pounds and he's getting some extended repetitions because of the personnel shortage at the position. He seems to have reliable hands (although I saw him drop one today) but is clearly a work in progress as an all-around tight end. One drill caught my eye today with him and it was a lateral quickness/change-of-direction type drill. Picture a square created by orange cones on the field, and a tight end in a pass-set and forced to slide within the box to mirror a pass-rusher in protection. From my "scouting" perspective (ha, ha), his feet seemed very heavy and he was laboring a bit. I'd be curious if TEs coach Brian Daboll would confirm my view of that. So I'd sum up thoughts on Justin Jones this way: Looks good catching the ball against air (no defense), runs well (no contact right now), catches the ball well, and we'll probably need to see him when the pads come on to get a true feel on if he could be a worthy developmental prospect or perhaps sleeper to make the roster. The game changes with pads and that projects as the area I think will be a bigger challenge for him.
Lisa (Catalina Island, CA)
Hi Mike: Is the story-line thus far, the health of the OL and DL ?
Mike (3:25 PM)
Lisa, if I had to pick one storyline, it would be Vince Wilfork and how he looks on target to be there when it counts. I keep going back to the ruptured Achilles on Sept. 29 and thinking that nothing would have surprised me at that point in terms of Wilfork's availability. It is such a serious injury, and Wilfork is such a big man, that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone said 'that's a career-ending situation.' So to see him not only on the field, but today in an 11-on-11 drill where he was exploding out of his stance and applying pressure on the left side of the offensive line, that's significant to me. So we know a lot more today about Wilfork than we did three weeks ago. That's been my biggest takeaway.
What about Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce stood out to you today?
Mike (3:28 PM)
Bryan, they caught everything thrown to them. And there were quite a few footballs thrown in their direction, by both Brady and Garoppolo. With Dobson and LaFell not practicing, Thompkins stepped in and ran quite a few routes alongside Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as more of that outside presence. At one point, Tom Brady connected with him and was so fired after the play that he went up to him and butted his helmet with his own helmet. As for Boyce, I think I counted three touchdown catches for him. He looks to be playing faster, making good reads after the snap, and playing with more confidence. I would caution anyone from getting too excited about a June passing camp practice, but I will admit I had this thought afterwards, "Is this what it could look like when the light goes on in that first-to-second-year jump?"
Lloyd Christmas (Providence)
I like James White. I like him ALOT. Vereen has showed he could be a major contributor but can't seem to stay healthy and thus can't really be counted on to play 16 games. White can/will take over for Vereen eventually. So you're saying there's a chance?
Mike (3:29 PM)
Vereen's contract expires after the 2014 season and there's no guarantee he will be here after that. But as for 2014, don't rule out both running backs on the field at the same time. Why choose one over the other when you can create headaches with both?
Mike (3:30 PM)
Obviously there will be times when you only want one RB, and I'd still give the edge to Vereen.
Hi Mike, my question is about the second safety spot. Have you seen anyhing that would indicate the direction the team is going in now that there's no Gregory?
Mike (3:30 PM)
I tried to focus on that a little bit today, Josh, and if the season started today I think it would be Duron Harmon.
Mike,Earlier you said "Who is No. 29?" I thought they practiced w/o numbers?
Mike (3:31 PM)
You have to look real closely at the microscopic numbers on the back of their helmets, Chris.
Logan (Djibouti, Africa)
Mike, if Vollmer and Solder aren't 100% good to go by season start, how do you project the line shaking out? Can Cannon play consistently well at the Left Tackle spot until either can return? #GoNAVY
Mike (3:32 PM)
Logan, after today's practice, I wouldn't think that is a concern. Both Solder and Vollmer practiced in full. I think they'll work Cannon a bit at left tackle as a third layer and I do think he could do the job in an emergency. Some good depth at that spot. Cannon played some LT at Texas Christian and is a good athlete.
Ducdog in Maine (Kennebunk)
Long time reader - first time chat. Will this Patriot Defense be able to get off the field on 3rd down?
Mike (3:35 PM)
Welcome to the chat up in Maine. Very nice. Last year, the Patriots ranked 26th in the NFL on third down, with opponents converting 42.2 percent of the time (98 of 232). I generally prefer to avoid predictions, but I'm going to make one for you: They will be better on third down this year. If not, no Super Bowl championship.
There has been some focus on the TE position, and rightfully so, What we aren't hearing a whole lot about is the optimism that comes with having Gronkowski potentially back in the lineup. Is there a feeling that he will go back to being the normal Gronk we know and love?
Mike (3:36 PM)
Randy, I don't sense any concern from the coaching staff, or the player himself, that they will be working with a half-Gronk. Everything looks on course for full-Gronking.
David (North Attlebourgh, Ma)
I am with you Mike in thinking that the health of Vince Wilfork is an important thing to look at in the OTA's. Wilfork has always been fast for a big man. Did you see any signs of his old speed and quickness?
Mike (3:39 PM)
David, I specifically watched him in the 11-on-11 drill (it's hard to miss him, really), and I did notice that he was moving well in exploding out of his stance (again, no contact or o-linemen leaning on him) while applying pressure to the left side of the offensive line. When the pads come on and there is hitting and big men bearing down on him, it's a whole new ballgame. But what I saw was 'the same old Vince' to me in this setting. I was surprised, to be honest. Like I said earlier, given the severity of the injury, I wouldn't have been shocked if that was a tough one for him to overcome.
Realistically, how many receivers can they keep on the roster, not counting Slater? I see Edelman, Dobson, Amendola pretty much locked in, LaFell and Boyce almost a certainty, which means maybe one spot left for Thompkins, Gallon, Dunn, etc. Injuries may take care of the "problem", but I'm curious how you see it playing out absent injuries.
Mike (3:40 PM)
Six sounds right to me, JVC, and I'd be surprised if Thompkins doesn't make it. I think Brady really likes him, which counts for something significant to me.
Hi Mike Have you noticed anything good or bad about Zach Moore??
Mike (3:42 PM)
Pete, one thing I noticed today is that they are working with him covering kicks. Probably something he's never done before given his size. Otherwise, you can't tell much with the on-the-line players in this setting. That's one of those spots where you really need the pads.
Concerning Dobson, why did he wait until February to have his surgery? how's his re-hab coming? and is he starting to become someone who is constantly injured?
Mike (3:44 PM)
My understanding is that they wanted to see if rest would do the trick. As for the injuries, that was a concern of one personnel man from another team I spoke with about Dobson coming out of Marshall; there was a little concern in that area. I wouldn't read anything into the foot injury/rehab at this point. It's June. No need to rush him. It would do more damage long-term. Last year, Dobson came to spring camps and wasn't in the best of shape. He was able to get it together for training camp when it counted. So a long way to go here.
Mike, i know the DL don't have much of a chance to stick out during OTAs but have you noticed anything from Michael Buchanan? Specifically has he added any bulk and where has been slotted in the rotation (ie 4th 5th option)? and what about Chandler too?
Mike (3:45 PM)
Shaun, he was a big part of the kickoff coverage drills today and then saw him lining up on the left end, which was a bit different from last year. He's a good one to keep an eye on going forward because I think he could help them as a pass-rusher/special teamer. He showed some flashes last year, but it was probably a bit too much, too soon.
Amy (Baton Rouge, LA)
Confused Mike - can the Pats pay Revis $20M to play in 2015?
Mike (3:46 PM)
They certainly could, Amy, but it's more likely to me that the sides would extend the contract in some form before that happened.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hey Mike, how are the kickers doing? No competition this year? Allen should be settled in as a vet now, I would think, right?
Mike (3:48 PM)
Brian, nothing really stands out to me with the kickers, other than Stephen Gostkowski ribbing Ryan Allen a bit today by calling him "Hercules" because his punts were sailing through the end zone and into the stands. Allen was also out at practice early, catching footballs through the jugs machine and working on his catch and drop.
oh man... this is why you shouldn't chat while you're doing work! If only I had a more generic last name... alas. Mike touching on the 6 WRs - that makes for one awful tough cut. Who do you think it's going to be? I mean seriously - wow. Would this be the year maybe Slater is a surprise cut due to his salary and the upside that the younger WRs offer?? I honestly think they somehow keep 7.
Mike (3:48 PM)
Shaun, Slater is arguably the best special teams player in the NFL. He'll be on the roster, no doubt. I mentioned those 6 WRs before because the way the question was phrased was "not including Slater, how many WRs do you think they would keep?"
Bronko, Andover, Ma [via mobile]
Haven't heard much on Jeremy Gallon. Any idea how he's looked from what you've seen? He was very sure handed in college. With a problem of dropped passes last season, if Gallon is consistent through preseason, is there a chance he makes the team or is he a practice squad guy?
Mike (3:49 PM)
Bronko, I'd say more practice squad at this point, if everyone is healthy. It just takes some time.
Aaron (Boston) [via mobile]
Mike, what has been your impression of sealver siliga during OTA's? In my opinion he was a key piece in fixing the run defense after it was obvious that Vellano & jones were not cutting it. I like jones as a penetrating tackle on 2nd & 3rd downs as he has a knack for making himself small and getting to the quarterback; and well I liked Vellano's effort during the season, too many times he was getting blown off the ball. I truely believe that this possibly one the best defensive lines (if all are healthy) we've had since 03-04 years and I feel siliga can be a huge part of that. What are your thoughts. Thank you
Mike (3:51 PM)
Siliga has changed his number to 96 and I keep looking at him and thinking, "When did Jermaine Cunningham get so big?" That is the problem for me, Aaron, because I have to recondition my thinking when looking for those little numbers on the back of the helmets. Siliga is getting a lot of reps given some of the injuries/rehab at the position. But truly hard to tell much without contact/pads. I'd just say he has a chance to help them once again, more so from a depth perspective behind Wilfork.
Some of the draft reports on Fleming projected a move inside to guard. We heard similar things about Cannon coming out of college. With the need for a starting right guard to replace Connolly, do you think he gets a look there? Which player on the team right now has the best chance to start at right guard by next season?
Mike (3:52 PM)
Good question, Peggy. Today it was solely right tackle. I'd think Jon Halapio, the sixth-round pick from Florida, is a good RG projection for 2015.
Will, NH [via mobile]
Have you heard anything regarding Devin McCourty's contract extension? Has there been any progress?
Mike (3:54 PM)
Will, that's one of those "when" situations to me more so than "if." I believe it will ultimately get done because the player wants to be here, and the team wants the player because he represents what they want their leaders/top players to be. I don't even think they've really talked at this point. Just an introductory type chat that probably went something like this, "We value Dev, and will be circling back to talk when the time comes. Hang tight." What you'd expect.
John Heisman (Boca Raton, FL)
Andre Johnson is a no show in Houston, what number will the Patriots be giving him?
Mike (3:55 PM)
John, here's the question me: What would you trade for him assuming he was available? I was on a local TV show on Sunday and when it was asked 'Would you trade a first-rounder for him?' my first response was no. But the more I thought about it...
Mike - word is Harmon is a lot bigger.... any truth? Players dont gain muscle unless they are asked to... Strong safety?
Mike (3:57 PM)
Mike, he was a pretty big guy to begin with. I spoke with him in April and he said he's most comfortable at 205/210 pounds. He's 6-foot-0. They don't really play the traditional free/strong roles at safety in the system, but I think Harmon can be effective in the box when called upon. But they'll need him to cover too.
Mike who do you think ultimately ends up returning kickoffs this year, and do you think we will see a few TDs from that unit, or at least better field position?
Mike (3:58 PM)
If the season started today, I'd say Josh Boyce, kais1man. One thing stands out to me about the three returners I've seen (Boyce, Dunn, Finch) -- they all fly. Speed guys.
Jackie (Mendon, MA)
Hi Mike: Very much value your objectivity and analysis - but I think you're stuck on this "second year jump" Players rise and fall all the time - McCourty regressed after his first season, Ninkovich was a late bloomer, after 3 seasons we don't know what to expect from Ridley, etc. The game may slow down a bit during the second season but talent prevails in the NFL.
Mike (3:59 PM)
Fair point, Jackie. I don't think it's black and white -- just because of the second year, the player automatically gets better. But if he has some tools or top traits to work with (e.g. Dobson, Boyce), I generally like the chances of improvement in year 2.
alan (new hartford, ct)
hey mike, so Justin Jones is basically this years Zach Sudfield? Tall, can catch the ball, has alot of potential, not very quick, but will get everyone pumped up before the pads come on, then......
Mike (4:00 PM)
Alan, are you talking about "Baby Gronk?" LOL.
Duane (Atlanta) [via mobile]
The TE position is to me the #1 position that the patriots need help in. If not Keller or Finley who else is on the patriots radar to help us at this very thin position?
Mike (4:01 PM)
Duane, if not Keller or Finley, it would probably be a player who is on another roster right now (e.g. Hoomanawanui when he first arrived).
Mike (4:01 PM)
Let's go for a few more here...
Alex [via mobile]
Have you seen Jeremy Gallon in practice? Is he any good?
Mike (4:02 PM)
Haven't seen too much of Gallon, Alex. Not much to report with him, other than that I saw him walk off the field as one of the last players to depart today. He was putting in some extra work.
Mike,I'm concerned about the Offensive Line. When you combine the injury situation of Solder and Vollmer, the retirement of Dante Scarnecchia, and the occasionally weakness the center position displayed late last season, I see reason for concern. Please talk me out of my fear!
Mike (4:05 PM)
Robert, there is some change there, but I think that's a more solid unit -- with more long-range upside -- than it was at this time last year. The coaching change is significant and I expect some growing pains but I think they're going to be OK there. Wendell played very well in 2012, not so much in 2013, so you know he has it in him. Connolly is an option there. Stork, the rookie from Florida State, could step in.
Mike, what's keeping the team from signing DT Kevin Williams? Seems like he's a solid fit to join the rotation and that he's at a point in his career where he's willing to share time.
Mike (4:07 PM)
Joe, my guess would be a combination of money (would think the Patriots aren't offering much more than the minimum), Williams possibly not interested in a new team after spending his entire career in Minnesota, and the Patriots' other players at the position and their condition (Kelly, Armstead etc.), among other things. All the pieces just don't fit now, for one reason or another. Not sure how much of that is on the team or the player.
Jacob (Texas) [via mobile]
Revis wasn't pleased when he got tangled up with Amendola? Why is that?
Mike (4:10 PM)
Jacob, I don't think any player likes to land on the ground in an organized team activity, especially one that had a torn ACL in 2012. Nothing personal with the players involved, just players going hard and an accidental traffic jam that led to a collision. I wouldn't read too much into it, one way or another. But I noticed that Revis seemed to be taking inventory as he walked off through the end zone to the sideline and when a defensive teammate reached out his hand to give him a five, Revis didn't return it, likely because he was still gathering himself. Again, not a major deal, and I wouldn't blow it up to be anything other than players going hard and things happening.
Mike...in the case of Cameron Fleming and others like him who can't report to the team until their class graduates, are they at least able to be given the playbook so they can start studying?
Mike (4:12 PM)
Let's end on this one, Dave. Yes, Fleming had access to the playbook and could study up. It looked like he did a pretty good job because he hung in there pretty nicely today from what I could tell. He's a big man over there at right tackle.
Mike (4:13 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Some great questions, and almost 300 in total. Apologies to those who asked that I couldn't get to. I'll try to circle back to some on our blog tomorrow.