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 (3:01 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.
Mike (3:03 PM)
Day 1 of training camp in the books. I'm going to lead off the chat doing something I generally avoid, and that's making a snap judgment after one day of practice. The snap judgment: There is no way that WR Kenbrell Thompkins is getting cut. The topic has come up at times this offseason about the logjam at WR and who might be the odd-man out. Thompkins was mentioned by some chatters. I feel confident after watching Thompkins today, and then hearing Tom Brady gush about him, that he'll be on the roster. Thompkins was the star performer of Day 1 from this viewpoint.
Mike (3:04 PM)
We'll lead off with that thought. I'm going to do a quick re-set, and will start answering questions in a few minutes.
Mike, I don't know if you noticed today but I saw at one point Revis and Edelman got into it a little bit after Revis give him a little bump off the line. I have to say I LOVED seeing that today. Revis has seen in the past that the WR's have been a little soft and challenging the best WR day 1 of camp is going to set the tone for camp. Did you see that? Have a thought?
Mike (3:11 PM)
That's a great observation, Dave. I missed it. The first day is always a little hectic and I don't feel like I truly can sink my teeth into practice until Day 2-3. Thanks for passing it along -- two fierce competitors. It's like many players have said -- going up against top competitors in practice should make you better.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike. Have no doubt Pats hold onto Thompkins as there is nothing to replace him with; however, didn't we see this last training camp/exhibition season where Thompkins looked good, was getting off the jam and getting separation - until he stopped playing against soon-to-be used car salesmen, insurance agents, and veterans who were working on specific aspects of their own game rather than being concerned with Thompkins?
Mike (3:12 PM)
Tman, no question Thompkins slowed down in the second half of the 2013 season. I'm not so sure it was about the level of competition (he made some big-time plays against good competition -- Oct. 13, vs. Saints, for example) as it was the grind of the season and injury. My point on Thompkins -- I think we should be viewing him as being ahead of LaFell and Boyce if we aren't already.
Hi Mike, Are you at all concerned with our LB depth? How did Anderson look out there? Feels like a light position if one of our top 4 goes down. Who are you looking for to step up and be that 5th guy that we will inevitably need.
Mike (3:14 PM)
Nathan, depth is tough to build in the NFL across the board, and that is one spot that looks light after the sure-fire top 3 of Mayo/Hightower/Collins. I watch Anderson and see the ability to open up his hips and carry a tight end down the field in coverage. He can also be a factor in coverage against RBs. That's more of his game than against the run, so he should look better in these types of practices.
mark (space coast, fla)
Mike, when do pads go on and we start seeing 1 on 1's and roster battles?
Mike (3:15 PM)
Mark, the pads come on Saturday. That's when we'll see some contact and 1-on-1s.
Jeez Mike, it's the first practice of camp. Did you just hit Kenbrell Thompkins with the Zach Sudfeld curse?
Mike (3:17 PM)
Dave, a couple things on that. First, Sudfeld really did explode out of the gate to the point that I think he shocked the Patriots' coaches as well. So that wasn't a mirage. It was real. But as BB often says, anyone can do it one day. It's about doing it consistently over time. That's the challenge for Thompkins, who did it for stretches last year but not over the course of the entire year. Injury was a part of that. Brady loves him, and I think that counts for something too. So the main point on Thompkins is just to say that I think maybe he's been undersold this offseason after the addition of LaFell and when considering the fourth-round draft status of Josh Boyce.
Guy Smith (America)
Will we see Aaron Dobson this preseason....?
Mike (3:19 PM)
Guy, that Dobson isn't ready for the first day of camp is obviously a disappointment. But I really would have been concerned if he wasn't working out on the side, and I saw him getting after it with strength coach Harold Nash. You're always balancing being smart with an injury and pushing too hard and potentially creating more problems. So I wouldn't be too concerned right now. But if we get a week or so into preseason and he's not there, that's not ideal.
Scott (Monroe CT)
Mike, given the lack of depth at LB, is that a position we should expect the Patriots to make a claim on after last round of cuts just prior to the season starting.
Mike (3:24 PM)
Let's talk it out, Scott. We know the locks are Mayo/Hightower/Collins. I think James Anderson is probably the No. 4 and that's not a bad top backup to have. You have some position flexibility to play Rob Ninkovich there if you need to. Steve Beauharnais (2013 seventh round) has some potential upside as does Darius Fleming (2011 fifth round/49ers). Chris White/Josh Hull/Cameron Gordon/Ja'Gared Davis are more special teamers and two could stick because that's a big part of the game. So I'm not sure what you get on the waiver wire is going to be a huge upgrade. My hunch is that the answers are more in-house than another roster, unless it's a real unexpected cut.
Darrelle Revis (Revis Island)
How would you grade my first day?
Mike (3:26 PM)
Your yellow footwear was blinding. Do you wear those so people can locate Revis Island?
Ricky (Tiverton Rhode Island)
Hey Mike I still would like a catching Tight End added to the roster . Maybe Dustin Keller
Mike (3:27 PM)
Ricky, we've spent quite a bit of time talking about Keller in these chats. If he's healthy, I think he's worth a look. D.J. Williams has some upside that the Patriots seem to be intrigued with. Don't want to oversell him, but let's not sleep on him.
Brandon Browner (Foxborough)
Was my performance the best of the corners today?
Mike (3:28 PM)
Can't honestly say I saw enough to grade it, Brandon. You are one big man, though. 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds on the corner is unique. A potential pairing with Darrelle Revis will be unlike anything I can remember in Bill Belichick's 15-year coaching tenure.
alan (new hartford, ct)
hey mike, wondering if you saw anything from Tavon Wilson today? i know he got almost no time at safety last year, and the last we saw of him he was getting burnt on deep routes repeatedly, but i heard he was getting some first team reps today next to McCourty, and he was in Arizona gettin tutored by Revis, McCourty. I still like Harmon as well, but Wilson has the build to be the thumper everyone wants back there. Any chance that this is the year everything starts to click for him?
Mike (3:31 PM)
I'd be surprised, Alan, simply based on how far he slipped last year. When you go from playing 473 defensive snaps in 2012 to 18 defensive snaps in 2013, that's not the right direction. I think it will be Harmon in the end, but let's see how the competition plays out.
Lastexposfan (Brookline, ma)
When Julian Edelman was a rookie recruit, you quickly identified him as an unknown player to watch. You proved to have a keen eye. Which late-round pick or undrafted rookie intrigues you the most this time around?
Mike (3:34 PM)
That's an impressive memory. Thanks for remembering that on Edelman. This is obviously early, but I think their young corners have made some plays on the ball in the spring/today that have caught the eye -- Malcolm Butler, Daxton Swanson, Travis Hawkins. At the least, they could have some practice squad potential. I also looked up at one point and jotted down Nos. 44 and 45 today on defense - Darius Fleming and Cameron Gordon -- as those I wanted to see a bit more of in the days to come.
Mike (3:35 PM)
On offense, it's the two big RBs -- Jonas Gray and Stephen Houston -- who I'm curious can make a mark when the pads come on. Know I mentioned a few. Leaving myself a cushion until we get to see more.
I know this is a near sacrilegious question: the OL performance in 2013 was uncharacteristically poor. Is it possible that Scarnecchia's retirement was not 100% voluntary?
Mike (3:36 PM)
Peter, I don't think the OL performance was as good as it could have been, but I truly believe that wasn't the reason for Scarnecchia's retirement. He had actually targeted it for 2012 and they squeezed another year out of him.
Mike (Canton, OH)
Some on the O-line failure can be attributed to the receivers inability to get quick separation thus forcing Brady to shuffle more in the pocket and the line looking bad.
Mike (3:41 PM)
Surely, Mike, and then there were other times when they were just beaten. I think we can all find plays with each of the five linemen had that happen. Sometimes you tip your cap to the other player -- they're good too. But I expected a bit more from that unit last year.
remember when Dobson had trouble catching and looked like a wall? you heard it here first, LaFell is not a lock. Man has stone hands. I just hope his blocking wins him a roster spot
Mike (3:46 PM)
I put LaFell into the "near lock" category in our "checking the locks" series. He had a bad drop today in practice and that caught the eye based on reports I heard of inconsistent hands in Carolina. The one thing on LaFell that I think has some value is his size (6-2, 210), especially in the red zone. He also has some versatility. They gave him $3 million to sign. That's a big hit to take. That's one reason why I think he probably makes it in the end.
Why are the players carrying pads if it's a no-pad practice?
Mike (3:46 PM)
Shoulder pads are allowed.
Love the Scarnecchia talk, though I have a different view from Peter. Our OL wasn't great last year AND we are losing the best offensive line coach in the NFL. At least we have some new young talent. I think one of the bigger story lines of camp is how the OL transitions to the new coach.
Mike (3:50 PM)
Carl, this might be the most important storyline to follow on offense this year. In training camp, the offensive linemen practice in the far corner, which is hard for us to see. With this in mind, I took a trip over to Bass Pro Shops on Wednesday and bought a new pair of stronger binoculars. No joke. I figure I'll be watching a little more OL this year. So what I'm saying is that I'm on board with where you're coming from here.
Jason D (NYC)
Mike, a position battle I am really interested in is at Center, where a fairly average Broncos defensive line blew us out of the water last year - a huge factor in the game. Any early thoughts on Stork vs. Wendell? Even more curious about what 12 thinks of who should win that battle but that I doubt we will ever find out.
Mike (3:51 PM)
I think they'd like to see Stork take the job. He'll get every chance to do so. At the end of practice today, Stork spent some time shotgun snapping to Brady as Brady worked on some pass routes with Gronkowski. We'll get a chance to see more when the pads come on.
Matt (Dedham, MA)
Can you pass along to the other Pats reporters to temper the excitement on an unknown playing well in camp so that we don't lose him to the Jets like we did with Sudfeld last year?
Mike (3:54 PM)
Matt, Sudfeld is a good example of tempering excitement and focusing on which players sustain rather than flash. But here's the thing: Sudfeld even surprised the coaching staff, which figured he was at least a year away. Because of that, it put the team in a tough spot of having to devote a roster spot to him initially because the club rightfully figured another team would claim him on waivers before he could get to the practice squad. This goes back to something BB sometimes says. You have players who rise very steadily. Some rise initially and then flatline. Others start real slow and ultimately get there but it takes a while. That's the challenge of personnel in the NFL.
Parlicheck (South Shore)
Mike Is it more than just coincidence that Pepper and Spikes ended up together in Buffalo? I'm thinking Pepper must of been Spikes best friend on the Patriot coaching staff
Mike (3:55 PM)
They are very close, indeed.
After reading your post this morning "Has the Offense Done Enough" it's fairly clear the answer is "no". They've added only one player to a relatively weak unit and we really can't assume James White is going to be Shane Vereen's equal. This is a Defensive Football team with an Elite QB. The results have been to everyone's liking with that balance in the past.
Mike (3:57 PM)
My main quibble here is the definition of the Patriots' offense as a "relatively weak unit." Man, if every relatively weak unit in the NFL ranked third in the NFL in points scored, does that mean the other 29 teams have terrible offenses too?
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Charlotte, NC)
Good to hear Gronk was on the practice field. Did they have him line up at wing on the extra point team?
Mike (3:57 PM)
No, that's Chandler Jones' role now and he's not giving it up :)
munchkin (glenwood springs, co)
Mike, if Tommy Kelly is not going to be on the roster this season there will have to be big improvements from the likes of Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones. Those two players are capable backups/rotational players but did not fit the bill as full time starters. Kelly and Vince provide the much needed experience and bulk to pressure the opposing team's offensive line making the Linebacker's job easier. I am hoping that Kelly is on the final 53 man roster. I believe the team needs him to be successful.
Mike (3:59 PM)
Munchkin, if they get the Tommy Kelly from the first four games of last season, I agree. I just think banking on that is a little risky -- a 33-year-old with a lot of mileage on the odometer coming off a torn ACL at that position.
How did Vince look?
Mike (4:00 PM)
Big. LOL. ...
Mike (4:00 PM)
No, seriously, he was a full participant from what I could tell. Nothing holding him back. Big day for him Saturday, I assume, with the first full contact.
AT mike (DC)
Does those other 29 teams have a top 3 QB in history? There were games last year were they could not complete a pass...Did you see what Manning did last year? yes, it is a very weak unit that get's covered up by Brady... Please reply.... Any of those other teams would be near the top with Brady too...Don't just look at stats.
Mike (4:02 PM)
Manning had a great year. He also didn't look too good to me in the Super Bowl. In the end, it's about building as complete of a team as possible. I think the Patriots will be in the mix, but a long way to go.
I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but with the TE position being thin after Gronk and Hooman, any chance the Pats take a look at recently released Joel Dreessen?
Mike (4:04 PM)
Will, my sense is that they are committed to what they have. I think they knew back in May that they would be bringing in Nate Byham, so I'd be surprised if they altered course now. They were just waiting on Byham to pass his physical.
Mike (4:04 PM)
Going to go a bit longer today ... let's extend things out until 4:30.
Did the Broncos do markedly better than the Patriots last season? They had the most talented offense ever and it took a depleted Pats roster for them to make it to the Super Bowl only to get trounced. This talk about the Pats not having enough offense has got to stop. We have a bunch of good WRs and one great player in Gronk. We're fortified the depth at all positions (OL, RB, WR) and we have Tom Brady. Is the goal to break records or win Super Bowls? I'll take our team over any other
Mike (4:08 PM)
Shaun, I think it's a fair question to ask if they have made enough moves on offense this offseason. No one truly knows the answer because it's hard to project development (thinking 2nd-year WRs) and rookie performance (thinking OL there), as well as health. All that said, I do think this team is a Super Bowl contender because it's not just about one unit. It's about the sum of all the individual parts -- including coaching.
Echoing Shaun's comments: A healthy Gronk completely changes the game in regards to offensive potential/success. Edelman, Amendola, Gronk, and a year of experience for the young guys should add up to plenty of options for Brady. Gronk back and healthy is huge.
Mike (4:09 PM)
I agree, Daniel. Gronk changes everything. Can he play the full 16 like he did the first two years of his career? Has played 18 of 32 games the last two years.
hey mike, i think the patriots shouldn't cut jeremy gallon. i loved his highlights in college. he is speedy, gets seperation, elevates to get the ball. at least i think he would be a great kick returner, sort of like trindon holliday. do u think the patriots might make an exception and add one more receiver to the roster, and maybe one less O-linemen>
Mike (4:13 PM)
Jim, with Gallon starting training camp on the PUP list and having missed time in the spring, it's going to be hard for him to catch up. One thought is that he could stay on PUP if he's not ready to be cleared, not count against the roster, and they could see how it looks in Week 7 of the season. I'm just not sure the status of his injury.
Derrick (Bristol) [via mobile]
Has Duron Harmon really shown that he can be a reliable starter? Also, do you really believe (in your roster projection) that the Pats will elect to have only 2 tight ends (Gronk and Hooman) on their final roster. With Gronk being an injury concern and Hooman primarily being a blocking tight end, I think its ridiculous to think that no one else would make the roster.
Mike (4:15 PM)
Derrick, Harmon only has three career starts on his resume, so the answer is he hasn't proved it. But what stood out to me from last year is that he started in some of the big-stage games (at Carolina, vs. Denver) and the game didn't look too big for him. Played 36.9 percent of the overall defensive snaps. Tackling somewhat inconsistent. As for the TE spot, I'd probably lean towards a third TE and go with D.J. Williams at this time. Maybe then Justin Jones and/or Asa Watson add depth on the practice squad.
Mike what do you think of Jamea Thomas? Does he have a shot at safety? Could ST or positional versatility help him get a roster spot?
Mike (4:18 PM)
Jeremy, I've been interested in Thomas because I didn't get a chance to see much of him in the spring. When I watched him today, he was playing more of a slot CB role. We know he has that position flexibility from his time at Georgia Tech. I think that flexibility, plus special teams, will give him a chance to stick.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
This was a great chat. It's so good to have football back.
Mike (4:19 PM)
Checking out early, Tman? Five-yard penalty for leaving the field before the game is over.
nathan (northampton, ma.)
This injury to Aaron Dobson might turn out to be significant to his career path, not because its a serious injury however. He has missed time during a stretch when most players are making their greatest strides of development. Players improve their game during practice and then perfect it on game day. If he misses significant time this year during training camp his career path could flat line or be stunted. You have often made the case the importance of the second year jump for young players, so does this seem like a fair assessment? After all, Brady relies on training camp as much as anyone to develop chemistry with his team.
Mike (4:22 PM)
Nathan, as long as he's back in the near future, I think he can overcome it, but it's not ideal. Last year at this time, he had some ground to make up after what I'd call a rocky spring and he did it. I think he can do it again, but it's hard for me not to notice that Kenbrell Thompkins is taking those reps and making the most of them -- going back to the spring.
Scott (Monroe CT)
How do you see the depth chart on CB going into the season, does Logan Ryan have a chance to surpass Dennard and Arrington? If I rememeber correctly, Arrington got a 4 year $16M contract, now we have 2 new veteran starters in Revis and Browner, that is a lot of money tied up to a slot corner who might only play 30?0% defensive plays or less
Mike (4:23 PM)
Scott, I think Arrington is safe right now, but Ryan and to a lesser degree Jemea Thomas have some flexibility to play the slot and they could ultimately challenge him as training camp unfolds.
Had a question about BB's press conference on Wednesday. Watched it live and noticed that although you and Curran arrived close to the start, you both got seats upfront. Does ESPN and CSNNE have reserved seats or are you two the only ones brave enough to sit upfront and ask questions?
Mike (4:27 PM)
Pete, fun inside-the-media stuff. No reserved seats. I just like to sit there because it helps me pay attention. It's sort of like I remember my old lecture-hall classes in college. When I sat in the back, I wasn't as dialed in. Move up front and you're on guard a bit more. Tom is one of my pals and he just sat down there so we could catch up a bit and I could compliment his Ralph Lauren shoes.
Tyler(Oklahoma) [via mobile]
I saw on that Grantland piece about Nate Solder being one of the most valuable assets in the league. I think Big Nate knows that he is. So how far will the patriots be willing to go in terms of that price tag to resign him next offseason
Mike (4:30 PM)
Tyler, they declared intentions to pick up his option, so technically Solder won't be an unrestricted free agent next year. Branden Albert signed a reported five-year, $47 million with around $25 million in bonuses/guarantees. That could be the ballpark we're talking on Solder, unless the market really spikes in 2016.
Pascal (Enemy Territory (NYC))
I've said it before and I'll say it again, KT looks like a young Chad Johnson without the ego. Then look at their combine stats...really excited to see him play this year. Do you think TB likes him because he sees a bit of himself in the late round/undrafted, hard worker, not the best physical specimen, but technically sound?
Mike (4:33 PM)
Pascal, Brady actually said that today. Direct quote on Thompkins: "He works his tail off. I think that's one of his best attributes. There is nothing that's ever been given to him. It's great to see a competitor like that."
Mike (4:34 PM)
We started with Thompkins, so let's end on him too. Nice to have the chat after the first day of Patriots training camp so there could be some tangible things to relay. We'll do it again next week. Appreciate the questions.