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 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (11:00 AM)
Good morning and welcome to today's chat. This is officially the "quiet" time in the NFL, as Bill Belichick is vacationing overseas and there are just a few loose ends to tie up the next couple of days before I'll do the same (minus the overseas part).
Mike (11:01 AM)
I've said it before, but I appreciate everyone's participation and contributions to these chats. At this quiet time, I opened the chat for today and there are just shy of 100 questions already posted. Amazing.
Mike (11:01 AM)
Let's just open the floor to you...
Nearly every year there is a surprise veteran cut in camp ....I think its Connolly this year because of the competition - any thoughts Mike?
Mike (11:03 AM)
Hewdog, Connolly wouldn't be a surprise cut to me because of his $3 million salary. That's a lot and they have some young kids to develop that are "cheaper labor." I will be making a pre-camp roster projection and he'd classify as probably the top choice in this category of veteran who might be cut. I think Stevan Ridley will make the team, but he'd be a candidate to consider from a "surprise" category if undrafted Stephen Houston impresses.
Matt (East Brookfield)
Hey Mike,Just curious if you've had a chance to gauge the new O-line coaches mentality - Scar was just amazing and will never be able to be replaced - do we have a shot at an O-line who respects their coach and will stay disciplined for him? Happy Summer, Mike!
Mike (11:06 AM)
Matt, I'll share a quick story from practice last Thursday, which was held inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse. Because of the indoor set-up, it gave us a chance to be closer to the players than we usually are, specifically the offensive line. Usually those OL are on the far field, but indoors, I got a chance to stand right next to the drill and watch first-year coach Dave DeGuglielmo. He was intense and demanding perfection on the finer details of footwork and technique. He was very hard on the young kids, at one point making them do a drill again. There was one part of the drill that I jotted down in my notes when he demanded the blockers finish with a thrust. In his low, gruff voice, he belted out the word, "Finish!" It had a nasty edge to it. Let's see if that type of approach transfers to the game field.
Richard (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Magic Mike, thanks for chatting. Do you think Aaron Dobson can make the Second Year Jump (TM) BB always mentions after this offseason? Does he have enough time to get the work in to make the jump?
Mike (11:08 AM)
Richard, I think Dobson has all the tools to do it. He just has to go prove it now. The missed time in the spring isn't ideal, but if we remember at this time last year, Dobson was coming off an uneven spring-camp performance in which he didn't always practice because of health-related/injury-related issues. He came back ready to work and was there on the first day of camp. I see no reason that can't be the case this year.
Mr X (over the bridge)
Mike, help me out here, we know Gronk is injury prone, we know the offense is anemic without him, we know there has been no replacement for AH, we know the rest of the TE's on roster are JAG's-so what is the plan and why are the Pats doing nothing, it desn't make sense...
Mike (11:11 AM)
Mr. X, I think we'll see a de-emphasis on the TE position if Gronkowski isn't on the field and the personnel remains the same that we see now. They could have focused on the position in the draft, but ask any NFL team and they'll tell you this was one of the lightest years for TEs in recent memory. There weren't any sure-fire options in free agency as all come with some questions. I think we could still a move there (e.g. Dustin Keller), but overall, I think we need to look at this offense through a different lens than the 2-TE attack. Maybe we see more 2-RB packages. Maybe it's more 4-WR stuff. There are a lot of different ways to attack. I still think they have plenty of weaponry to move the ball and score points.
Derek (Jacksonville, FL)
Mike, can you give me an injury update on the players you can, as in, what is going on with Vince Wilfork, Gronk, Mayo, Vollmer, Kelly and Amendola??? I have heard Easley was out on the practice filed on the last day of Mini-camps; is that a sign hes going to be ready for week#1??? Thanks
Mike (11:13 AM)
Derek, from the "best guesses" department, I think every player you mentioned has a very good chance to be ready for the season opener.
Thanks for the chat Reiss. Opinions on Hightower seem to be across the board from he is a draft bust to he will be a pro bowler. Do you think Hightower takes another step forward building off a solid final few games last year or is he destined for the two back role Spikes held down and will be gone at the end of his rookie contract?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Joseph, I don't know why anyone would call him a bust. That's crazy to me. He was put in a tough spot last year and did the best he could with it. Here is my underlying thought on Hightower: He doesn't fit in the standard box from a position standpoint so a coaching staff has to be creative to get the best out of him. It was tough to do that last year because of the injuries around him, but I think this year has a chance to be different. Like him coming off the edge a bit more and playing forward.
Hi Mike, any scenario you see Pats chasing Andre Johnson (and what would it take if you were Houston GM to do the deal)
Mike (11:16 AM)
PJ, I think they'd love to have him, but if I'm Houston, nothing less than a first-round pick would jump-start talks. Just don't see it happening.
Hey Mike,Any observations so far regarding Thompkins development with catching the ball with his hands rather than with his arms/midsection? Do you view it as a sign of confidence (of lack of)? I'm interested in Dobson as well but obviously he hasn't been out there yet this year.
Mike (11:17 AM)
Brian, I can't say that I watched Thompkins closely enough to comment specifically about his hands. But I think he's on this team and potentially playing a top-3 role if Dobson doesn't emerge as hoped.
stan j formerly frm waltham [via mobile]
Mike. Who of the uynderafted players might be an under the radar sleeper to make the 53?
Mike (11:19 AM)
Tyler Ott, the long snapper from Harvard, has the best odds if he performs. I think the team would like that to happen based on the salary and 3-year contract compared to Danny Aiken's one-year, more expensive deal. But the on-field performance will dictate. Would also keep an eye on RB Stephen Houston (Indiana) and LB Cameron Gordon (Michigan), among others.
Mike,With the roster battles looming at several spots, and taking into account different injury situations, could the Pats stash multiple players on the PUP with the idea of getting a wave of reinforcements halfway through the season? Players like Vince, Tommy Kelly, 1-2 recievers, and perhaps an OL come to mind. What are the cap ramifications of doing that be? Wouldn't that be better off than cutting good players?
Mike (11:20 AM)
Ian, I don't think they'd want to wait past the sixth week for players like Vince and Kelly. You want guys like that in Week 1 when the focus is on starting the season off on the right foot. I think all their OL are healthy too, and you can't PUP unless there is a health issue.
Frankie (Outer Banks NC)
Jonas Gray is often the forgotten one in the RB group..does he have any shot of making this team?
Mike (11:21 AM)
Longshot Frankie, but he's the type of player where you want to see what he looks like when the pads are on. Physical runner.
Mike: he's a bust because he is a first round draft pick that will be a two down at best lb in a passing league...He's 270 pounds and can not cover... At all.... Doesn't add a pass rush... What does he do? Collins will be a better player and he's an end of the 2nd round player.... I don't get what the love for this guy is.
Mike (11:21 AM)
Has he been given a chance to pass rush? I haven't seen much of it, if at all, and I've watched every play from the 2013 season multiple times.
Mike (11:22 AM)
My feeling is there is more to Hightower's game that we haven't seen that can still come out. Play him on the edge at times. Multiple defense. Physical player. I want a guy like that on my team.
RIPATSFAN (Coventry, RI)
Your comment about Ridley is a little scary to me Mike- the Pats are thin at running back and Ridley is actually quite a good back. The possibility of him being cut points to a lack of seriousness about the running game (again). What's the deal here Mike, are they going to pursue the same short passing game that works so well in the regular season, but fails miserably in the post season?
Mike (11:24 AM)
Like I said, I'd put Ridley on the roster right now if making a projection, but would I be shocked if he's a "surprise" cut? No, because he's in the last year of his contract and maybe Brandon Bolden, Stephen Houston and/or Jonas Gray do enough to make the team consider moving on a year early, especially if Ridley has some ball-security troubles again. Just saying it's something that wouldn't shock me, not that it necessarily will happen.
Are you following the "other" football, if so in USA v. GER, what's your prediction?
Mike (11:25 AM)
Matt, I am following it, and it's why today's chat was moved from 12 p.m. to 11 a.m. Have to clear the schedule. I don't know anything about soccer, but I'm pulling hard for US obviously. Let's call it a 3-2 win, hoping for some good karma.
oka (Lawrence) [via mobile]
Mike you was very keen on the pats taking ryan shazeer at#29, he's lived up to your high thoughts of his play thus far by all reports in Pittsburg. Yes, the pats added help via free agency but do you think the pats may have missed a long term impact player by not making a better effort to move up to get him? Or is easleys upside more intriguing/ higher/impactful?
Mike (11:27 AM)
Easley is a top-15 pick if healthy, OKA. I know the Patriots feel like the injury issues won't be a concern. If that is the case, they just "stole" a top player. Explosive interior penetrator. This is very interesting to me, because my personal belief is that an injury situation like this is very risky. They see it differently, and I'm sure they've done much more research on it, and I'm curious to see how it turns out and if their research led them to a great pick or will blow up on them.
Why do I have to keep reading the Patriots are the most disliked team in the NFL (FOX sports) when every team out there would sell their families to get a TB or BB?
Mike (11:29 AM)
I think you just answered the question yourself. Jealousy?
Lastexposfan (Cooperstown, NY)
Rich Cimini of ESPN says that the Jets are quite taken with Ras-I Dowling, but you caution that Ras-I also looked really good a year ago at this time, before the pads went on. This got me wondering whether Bill Belichick ever cuts young players (still on their rookie contracts) who later go on to do great things. Do any come to mind or is he really good at sizing people up once sees them up close?
Mike (11:30 AM)
I wouldn't say Darius Butler has gone on to "great" things but he's one example who comes to mind. OL Corey Hilliard from the '07 draft has stuck around a bit. K Robbie Gould ('05) is probably the most egregious and one BB has said he regrets.
Ed (Queens Village)
What are your thoughts on playbookgate?
Mike (11:34 AM)
Ed, that was unfortunate and a good reflection of some of the challenges in our business when things are moving so fast, and little pieces of a story can be spun into something bigger before order is restored. Do I think the Patriots have the Jets' playbook? Yes, because it's online for you, me and anyone else to have too (2010 version). Some Patriots playbooks are on there too. So it's not a major deal and I get a bit disappointed when these things happen because it sort of diverts from what the real stories are. At the same time, there is a professional duty to follow through on one's responsibilities and see the story to its fruition. I take all that stuff pretty seriously.
Steve (Los Angeles)
In response to Alvyn's question, jealousy may explain part of it, but only a small part. As a Pats fan living outside of New England, most people despise our fan base as much, if not more, than the team itself. Our fans come across as whinny and entitled and never satisfied, even though we have one of the best teams in the NFL. Most other football fans believe we should feel grateful that we have a great team to cheer for and we never show that gratitude.
Hunter (Rochester, NY)
What are the chances Tommy Kelly makes the team? I see him having a Gerard Warren role this year, going through camp, getting cut, and possibly brought back during the season. Especially if they decide to keep Armstead, which would give them Easley, Jones, and Armstead as penetrating DTs.
Mike (11:37 AM)
Hunter, I've pretty much crossed off Armstead at this point -- something going on there that is keeping him off the field and no indication it is changing at this point. Kelly could be a "surprise" cut, but I'm putting him on my projection right now. Big guy, moves bodies inside, and I think they need a player like that.
CB in Utah (Murray UT (Via Watertown MA))
Hi Mike. There was an article yesterday regarding teams with the most depth. The Pats were not on the list. What areas would you say the pats are thinnest at?
Mike (11:38 AM)
TE, LB and S would be the spots that look a bit light to me.
Mike, how many catches for Greg Salas this season?
Mike (11:38 AM)
61, of course.
trent (columbus, oh)
I have generally noticed a feeling of concern in the chats/blog recently. I think I have read every possible version of the following questions: Will Gronk/Dobson/Easley/XYZ be healthy? Why hasn't XYZ developed? Why have they not done anything to fix the TE depth? Too much effort stressing about these questions in June. Why can't we be content to wait and see how the summer plays out? Personally, I am so excited to see the defense come together--I think it can really be something special. Everyone needs to accept the fact that the defense might have to pick up for the offense at times this year. Isn't it great to actually be optimistic that the D has the potential to come through in that case? Thanks Mike, I hope you have an enjoyable break from all of us high-stress fans before training camp.
Mike (11:42 AM)
Trent, I think what you're seeing is a bit of the 365/24/7 cycle of NFL coverage these days. These are some of the pressing questions facing the team, and in the past, we'd generally pick them up at the start of training camp. Now we talk about them year-round. Bill Polian, who I know is not very well liked among Patriots followers, once shared some insight on this that I will pass along. He said one of the eye-openers to him in making the transition from team GM to media member is the stark difference in how things are viewed. Media members look at the current-day snapshot while a GM is thinking big-picture and long-term. So you really have two worlds and opposite perspectives colliding. To me, the key is try to find the happy medium. I believe we can still have a productive, meaningful discussion at this time, but keeping it all in context is critical.
Paul M (New Boston)
With roster spots tough to come by at this point in time, why would the Patriots not release Armstead right now and sign depth at a position of need like Tight End or DE (Babin)
Mike (11:43 AM)
Paul, my sense is that this is a sensitive situation and when you're dealing with a 90-man roster, there's plenty of fat there ... I don't think they are sitting there saying, "I wish we could add this player but we're all jammed up at the roster limit."
If your recent O-line projections hold up (Wendell and Connolly cut), then we'd have four veterans, three rookies and a second year player, with at least one rookie starting. Whereas I think Wendell and Connolly can be improved upon, isn't it taking a risk with so much youth protecting Brady?
Mike (11:44 AM)
It is a risk, Mark, and I think you've done a nice job pointing it out. All depends on how fast the kids come along and this is why I'd rank that among the top issues/questions to monitor in training camp. I am pumped to see that competition unfold. I think it's going to be a good one.
ALAN (new hartford, ct)
RE: Alvyn in Boston's question about why people hate the Pat's.The same reason people (myself included) hate the New York Yank-me's, because they win....a lot. If it's not your team, it gets pretty old after a while, especially if your team is in the same division as them. Sprinkle in a few cheating rumors and scandals and viola!! Everyone thinks your a bunch of over privileged jerks.
At steve (NYC)
It is funny bc most of my friends are NYG fans or otehr fan bases. They hate us because they think Bill has an ego the size of the world.. They also think our fan base is the most kool aid drinking base there is... Every player is perfect...Every pick is perfect...Bill is perfect ect
Tom Hamilton (Pittsfield)
Mike you said the playbook story was a non story and way overblown but yet you were the one who asked Belichick about it? Why did you even bother if you thought it was not a big deal?
Mike (11:46 AM)
I did ask BB, Tom, because it was my professional responsibility to do so. I was asked to carry out an assignment and if I don't do the job, they'll find someone else to do it.
Matt (Bristol CT)
What happens with Marcus Cannon next year? Do the Patriots keep him around long-term or does he leave for a starting job elsewhere?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Matt, the Patriots are very high on Cannon and my sense is that they are resigned to him signing elsewhere next year. He's a starting-caliber tackle and those are hard to find. Hence the draft pick of Cameron Fleming, who could potentially fill the Cannon-type role. Always have to feed the pipeline.
Mike, do you have a sense of what they've got in their rookie OLs? Or are we assuming based on recent history that OLs they take in the middle of the draft will perform?
Mike (11:51 AM)
Peter, here's what they feel they have: In center Bryan Stork, a tough, smart player who has extensive experience in a winning program at a high level of competition, with good size. He has Patriots-type qualities when you think of what the team likes in its o-linemen -- blue-collar work ethic. ... In Fleming, highly intelligent, comes from a pro offense (rare in today's college game), big/strong/physical player who has excelled as a run-blocker ... In Halapio, toughness-plus, a very physical player. Grinder. Road-grader. Quiet kid off the field, nasty temperament on it. ... Let's see how it all turns out.
Bob (Alexandria, VA)
I live near DC, and asked somebody why everybody hates us so much. His answer? "Because all your teams win too much". I actually get it. I hate other teams that win all the time.
Jim (New England)
The Pats recent track record of taking on medical risks (through FA and the draft), hasn't gone well. Yet, year after year, do you think it's a case of "swinging for the fence", hoping these guys don't get hurt again, or do they view them just as likely to get injured as any other player?
Mike (11:54 AM)
Jim, I think they've done extensive studies on whether players with injuries are more prone to injury, and if those who haven't been injured are less prone to injury ... and I don't think they see a correlation or definitive conlcusion there. It's interesting because I personally see it a little differently, but I'm not inside the building or privy to any of that data.
Bill Bilicic (Brazil)
Mike, You were just told to "Do your job". I've heard that somewhere before and respect that.
Mike (11:58 AM)
Thanks for the understanding BB. You didn't seem too pleased when I asked the question about the playbook. From an "inside-the-business" perspective, one thing to pass along is the timing of it all. At the time BB was available to us, I hadn't been in position to read the original Pettine story or anything else related to how the playbook became such a big media-related issue. I was just asked to get BB's comments on the whole thing. So it's not the easiest position to be in, and I'm not looking for any sympathy, but just passing along that context as to how a reporter can ultimately feel one way about a story but still be the one asking the question.
Chris (NE CT)
Hi, Mike. I really like the idea of Vereen and White in a double-screen formation, one left and the other right. If Brady sees blitz, he can audible for one of them to stay behind and block. Then there's the fake-left, throw-right screens. Plus, they can have a 7 man line (5 + 2 TE), look for Gronk, fake-left, throw-right. And that doesn't even take into account Dobson / Amendola and Edelman stretching the D with their routes. How do you feel about the double-screen formation? I really hope they do it. Could be fun!
Mike (12:00 PM)
Chris, they had the 2RB package on the field for one play all of last year -- AFC divisional round game vs. Colts, and it produced a 25-yard catch-and-run from Julian Edelman. If everyone's healthy, I'd venture to guess we'll see it much more than one time in 2014.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Mike,Do you mind crossing sports for one question and telling us who you think the Celtics will pick in tonight's NBA Draft?
Mike (12:03 PM)
LOL Barrett. Sounds like Danny Ainge and Bill Belichick have some similarities in that they like to wheel and deal. Guessing a trade, but sort of hoping Joel Embid slips to 6 and they take the plunge. Would be a neat story. But have to tell you, I know absolutely nothing about NBA and basketball. Trying to keep up with the Patriots is hard enough.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
The RB committee seems to lack a reliably-handed, big-bodied bruiser for short-yardage and goal line pushes. Can Steven Ridley be their guy, or will this go to James Develin or an unknown FA? This is further exacerbated by what appears a roster logjam at WR that might pull a roster spot from RB. Your thoughts?
Mike (12:03 PM)
Earl, I think Ridley and Bolden are capable of handling that. Let's also see if first-year player Jonas Gray or rookie Stephen Houston could apply any pressure on them in the battle for a roster spot.
Mike:I'm not sure a player has been pumped up higher who has never dominated anywhere he has been like Aaron Dobson... I feel like it's the old day on your blog comment section where people would say Tate and Talyor Price were going to be stars... Like Dobson, neither ever dominated in college against weak players... I hope Im wrong but when you compare him to a guy yesterday that had 90, 1450 and 7 tds I shake my head.... What have you seen on film from college or pros that says Aaron Dobson is a 1500 yard wr? Seriously, please link film or something bc I'm so confused on this player...I feel like it's more hope that Bill is right once on a wr or you can say see Bill does put real WR around Tom.... I just dont get it. I see a guy that was out of shape coming in last year...Never had 700 yards in college...Teammates did... I see a soft guy that doesn't have that I'm going to kill to make the play...I see a soft player that will have 45 catches... 700 yards that is a solid 3 wr at best...More of a 4...He would never hit the field for Denver... Just a little rant. Thanks for your time.
Mike (12:05 PM)
Fair, Scott, and I obviously didn't do a very good job explaining the context of that comparison with Dobson. It was the potential of what he could become -- somewhere between Malcom Floyd and Alshon Jeffery. I'm not saying he is Jeffery. Not close. But I see tools there that if he develops, he could possibly get there.
Scott (Columbus, IN)
Hi Mr. Reiss,One thing that I'm looking forward to this season is the impact of Brandon LaFell, a bigger bodied (6'2", 210 lb.) receiver compared to the rest of the Patriots' receiving corps. It's my understanding that some undisclosed injury has kept him either limited or off the field during OTA's and mini-camp. Have you seen him work with Brady? If so, how has he looked? What are your expectations for him this season? Do you think he's capable of making a strong impact early on, or will he take time to be integrated into the system and get on page with Brady (i.e. Brandon Lloyd)?Thanks for your input!Scott
Mike (12:07 PM)
Scott, he made one play in the red zone, catching a TD on a flag route to the back left-hand side, that was pretty sweet. I think he can help in a variety of ways, but his hands are a bit inconsistent from what I've seen. I'd temper expectations when it comes to big-time impact, but I think he can be a piece of the overall puzzle.
Huge fan of all your mailbags here! Since Jimmy Garoppolo is being heralded by some as Brady's successor, I've become very interested in his development. How did he look with those extra reps at training camp? Also, I plan on going to a preseason game and I'm hoping they decide to start Garoppolo instead of Mallet, since Garoppolos development is more necessary. Any chance of that? Thanks
Mike (12:09 PM)
Let's end on this one, Will. I think they are very high on Garoppolo, and I can see why. He's their type of guy from an approach standpoint. Quick release. Intelligent. Tough -- physically and mentally. He should play plenty in the preseason. There is no telling which game it wil be, but I'd expect him to have extensive action in either Game 1, 2 or 4.
Mike (12:10 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll take a few weeks off and then it's back to the chats on Thursday, July 17. Catch up then.