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 (2:59 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started around 3:05 p.m. ET.
Mike (3:07 PM)
We're eight days into training camp, and there have been seven total practices (5 in full pads, 2 in light shoulder pads/helmets). The thing that stands out to me is the defense. Different attitude. Physical.
Hi MIke, How has Brady looked in practice? From reading you the last few days it seems as if Brady is being intercepted quite a lot. Is this because of the strong play of the secondary or has Brady been rusty early on?
Mike (3:08 PM)
John, let's lead it off with Brady today and I'd say he is still making his fair share of plays. The arm strength is still good. The accuracy and decision-making looks sound. But everything is contested and that's really what we've seen in practice. The coverage and physical play in the secondary is notable.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Any consequences resulting from Browner getting into it with Coach O'Shea? Love the fact that he locked down the wrs and got over physical with them, but I'm wondering if he will get in trouble for his verbal aggression with a coach
Mike (3:09 PM)
They "hugged it out", Tman, and Browner was back on the field today. Don't believe there are any trickle-down effects of that. Just competition getting heated.
Mike, any update on Aaron Dobson?
Mike (3:10 PM)
Ty, Dobson has been working out on the side of the field and they're taking it slow with him. Doesn't seem like a return is too far away.
Mike, I was planning on going to the Pats/Skins practice, but the Skins held a lottery for tickets to practice and I didn't get in. What's the deal with that? We're talking about practice, not a game, not a game, we're talking about practice.
Mike (3:10 PM)
Ryan, I was unaware that there would be a lottery. I believe it's because they have limited space at their training facility.
Ben Cherington (Yawkey Way)
Can anyone there pitch?
Mike (3:12 PM)
Red Sox day today, no doubt about it. I don't often listen to sports talk radio, but have to admit, I have it tuned in as we chat. Curious to hear some reaction/insight/analysis.
How is the strong safety competition rounding out? I heard Patrick Chung has been making plays and Tavon wilson has been getting looks with the first team. Is Duron Harmon slipping on the depth chart?
Mike (3:12 PM)
John, they're rotating guys in and out of there. I still think it's Harmon in the end, but everyone has had some notable reps.
Mike, Is Zach Moore getting any reps? If so, how has he looked? Does he have a shot at making the practice squad as a development player, provided he's not scooped up?
Mike (3:13 PM)
Tom, he had a play today where he blew up the pocket and it collapsed as Ryan Mallett would have been sacked if there was live tackling. He's big, he's raw and I think he's more of a project.
Josh Lund (Salt Lake City, UT)
Mike,I am wondering if there are any unwritten rules about poaching other teams players when they are trying to assign them to the practice squad at final cut downs? You look at a guy like Justin Jones who is 6'8" and a potential beast in the red zone. Someone is going to pick him up. Do the Patriots have any Recourse in preventing players being poached?
Mike (3:14 PM)
Josh, no team has recourse because those players are on the waiver wire for any team to claim before they can be signed to the practice squad.
Bob Q (Coventry Ri)
Mike,Can we run the ball?
Mike (3:15 PM)
Bob, I've been surprised at how many reps we're seeing from James White, even on the goal-line. He's tough to find behind those big blockers. Curious to see how it potentially impacts Stevan Ridley, if at all. Yes, I think they'll be able to run it.
Greg (Alexandria, VA)
Any update on Stork? Are we looking at a couple days to heal or did we just lose him for the season?
Mike (3:16 PM)
Greg, wish I had more for you on that one. Significant personnel related question at a position that is arguably the top competitive battle in camp. Best case scenario would be a sprained ankle. Not sure the report there, though.
John, Scottsdale [via mobile]
Still so high in thompkins? Think you're watching a different guy to others
Mike (3:18 PM)
John, Thompkins is a tough kid who competes. He had a very nice first two days of camp. Has dipped a bit with some drops since. Think he would have drawn more than a few flags on Browner in Wednesday's practice. Runs great routes and, per Browner, has unmatchable moves at the line of scrimmage. Probably best as a No. 4 receiver, but might be asked to do more.
Him [via mobile]
Mike: You wrote about stork having horrid grades with injuries and he's already is out. Do you think the pats will ever change their picks? They may have done research but they seem wrong every time. I can't think when they have been right
Mike (3:22 PM)
We don't know the specific injury with Stork, so let's be careful jumping to conclusions and relating his current status to his past injury history. It might have just been back luck; I didn't see how he got injured. The Patriots have done studies and, while it's a case by case basis, they generally don't see a connection between past injuries guaranteeing future injuries. Likewise, just because a player hasn't been injured in college doesn't mean he won't get injured in the NFL.
BriN [via mobile]
Mike. Why is thompkins asked to do more. Please clarify?
Mike (3:23 PM)
Until Dobson comes back, and proves he can stay on the field, Thompkins is the next man up.
Greg (Alexandria, VA)
Sounds like Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork are recovering pretty well from their injuries based on reports from practice. With Chris Jones making noise as well from the DT spot, are guys like Joe Vellano and Sealver Siliga in jeopardy of not making the roster? Still feel like Kelly will be cut before the season starts?
Mike (3:25 PM)
Greg, I've been impressed with Kelly in the 1-on-1 drills. It looks like he's moving well. Still curious how that one unfolds, but I'd put him on the 53-man projection right now. Siliga also looks strong to me. Vellano could have an uphill climb for a roster spot.
James, mass [via mobile]
Why do you still defend thompkins. It's simple Edelman has had a great camp, thompkins is not an nfl receiver
Mike (3:27 PM)
James, I don't look at it as defending Thompkins as much as sharing my opinion on him as a player. Here is Brandon Browner's opinion: "KT's got routes at the line of scrimmage that are unmatchable. Some guys aren't as quick as that dude, so it's been competitive going against that guy."
Mike, you gotta stop posting the negative comments/questions from people that are clearly not thinking. You can't think of any picks that have been right? Is Devin McCourty still on the team? How about Chandler Jones? Julian Edelman? Nate Solder? Marcus Cannon? Sebastian Vollmer? Jerod Mayo? Matthew Slater? Logan Mankins? Vince Wilfork? I think Tom Brady might have been drafted by the team. Comments like that bring no value.
Mike (3:27 PM)
Doug, I think that question was more related to the Patriots picking players with an injury history, or at least that's the way I read it.
Robert. Cambridge [via mobile]
Lot of heat for thompkins. Must say he has looked bad but who cares as long as gronk is playing right?
Mike (3:29 PM)
Wow, Robert. A lot of heat for Thompkins in this chat. Sort of surprises me. Had a great first two days of practice. Has dipped a bit since with some drops. I think it might be tied to frustration from some that the team didn't make any big-time additions at the position in the offseason.
Mike, what's your take on Jimmy Garoppolo? I understand the ball security issues and some of the other mistakes but the reports of him having a bad camp seem overblown to me. I watched him in practice on Saturday and thought there were more positives than negatives. Thoughts?
Mike (3:31 PM)
Shaun, the quick release stands out. He's thrown quite a few INTs and I keep trying to compare it to what we saw from Tom Brady in 2000. I mean, it wasn't like Brady came in and lit things up in '00. There's a big learning curve and we're seeing it play out before our eyes. He's not ready yet. Doesn't mean he won't be ready at some point.
James, maine [via mobile]
How does thompkins criticism surprise you? The guy looks like bambi or at the very least Brandon Lloyd when he plays?
Mike (3:32 PM)
The level of venom surprises me.
Mike - Does Brandon Browner step right in and start vs. the Bengals in week 5? If so.....who's starting spot is he taking and what role does that player then have?
Mike (3:32 PM)
If the past is any indication, they'll probably adopt a rotation as they get his game conditioning to the desired level.
On the injury front, I would question Belichick the Economist if he is really getting good value for picking up players with a notable injury history.
Mike (3:35 PM)
Could be a good story to research, Eric. You have some good hits in that area -- Rob Gronkowski and Rob Ninkovich as two that stand out. Good topic -- do past injuries guarantee future injuries? I'm particularly interested in it as it relates to first-round pick Dominique Easley.
Mike, have Stephen Houston and Jonas Gray been getting any notable Special Teams reps? Seems like that is the key if one of them is going to beat out Bolden for that 4th RB spot. Have either of them impressed you with their physicality running the ball?
Mike (3:35 PM)
Hunter, Houston and Gray have not been notable contributors in special teams. Bolden has. Can't say I've seen anything from either player that makes me think, at this point, they'd oust Bolden.
Never had a chance (like you:)) to watch a practice but from my limited observation from TV, I love how KT get off the LOS. Yesterday Browner confirm his talent. Not sure why people don't see his talent. Just one thing I did not like about his game is his awareness of the sideline. Do you think he can improve that?
Mike (3:36 PM)
Can always improve, 22, and would add that Thompkins could also be better from a consistency standpoint when it comes to his hands. But his ability to get off the LOS is solid, as Browner noted. Tough kid. Brady likes him and that counts for something too.
Guy Smith (America)
MikeHere is a wild card question for you... how has Jake Bequette looked? He was a green player with some potential, any chance he sticks around?
Mike (3:38 PM)
That is a wild-card Guy. He's shown up in some of the rush drills. More of a speed rusher than a power player, but I sense he knows he needs to do something notable to stick. It shows. I think he's quietly done a nice job, specifically in the rush drills. Today, for example, I watched him loop inside and take it to reserve OL Jordan Devey in a 2-on-2 rush drill.
Ry [via mobile]
Mike: Any change we will see Anderson and Collins in pass coverage instead of mayo? There is no question both can cover better then mayo. I thjnk it's a shame if they don't use them Like that
Mike (3:39 PM)
I'd be surprised if they take Mayo off the field, Ry. No disrespect to Anderson, but not sure he belongs in the discussion with Mayo when it comes to on-field performance.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
Mike, we've heard a lot of questions about offensive "weapons" for the Pats, and it seems that Shane Vereen seems oft-forgotten. He made some memorable plays on the outside last year, and can help with pass protection. Can we expect more of this? And should we expect a more liberal dose of scren plays?
Mike (3:40 PM)
Earl, that's a good point. For as much as we've discussed some of the questions at TE, I think the club feels like it can make up some of that deficiency with more production in the passing game from the RB spot. Let's see how it unfolds.
Mike. Chatters seem cranky today. Passionate? I saw that Garaoppolo took a couple snaps with the read option. A sign of things to come? Good practice for weeks we play mobile QBs? Getting a preliminary feel for the Skins next week? Thoughts?
Mike (3:42 PM)
Garoppolo also worked on holding field goals before practice, Enrique. To me, this gets filed in the category of playing to the strengths of your players. In 2008, for example, the Patriots tweaked their offense when Matt Cassel was called on to start in place of injured Tom Brady. Let's just say it ever got to that point with Garoppolo, maybe then we see something like the read option at times.
Dominic (Broomfield, CO)
I know they love James White. me too. but any chance he's getting such an extended look to find out if they can depend on him "like a veteran" so they can cut Ridley and keep Houston?
Mike (3:44 PM)
Dominic, I've wondered about Ridley, only putting him in the "near lock" category in our "checking the locks" series leading into training camp. So it wouldn't surprise me. But if I was putting together a 53-man roster, I'd keep Ridley at this time. Let's see how the rest of camp plays out.
Ry [via mobile]
Of course mayo is a better overall players but I'm pass coverage vs rb and te? Anderson can run. Interesting how it plays out
Mike (3:45 PM)
Ry, I think one of the issues with taking Mayo off the field is that he's the QB of the defense, with all the important calls and checks. I just don't see them considering it.
Matt (Bristol CT)
Any thoughts on the Red Sox fire sale?
Mike (3:49 PM)
Matt, honest thoughts: I'm a fan with limited knowledge of the dynamics of baseball. I think the thing that has fascinated me the most is the four-year, $70 million offer the Red Sox made to Lester that seemed to be the main thing that sparked this ending. I keep thinking back to how the Wes Welker situation unfolded and I see a connection. The Sox came in so low, it cast a dark cloud over things and seemed to lead Lester to not even want to talk. In turn, Welker's camp had come in so high, it did the same thing with the Patriots -- the only difference is that it was the player with the so-far-off-the-mark offer, not the team. So I guess my main thought is that when you enter into negotiations, it can be a very sensitive situation -- no matter the sport.
max (my cube)
Mike, what is your opinion of how the OL is shaping up under the new coach? I read about the nice comments Bellichick had for him..
Mike (3:51 PM)
Max, I think they're trying to figure out the best combinations inside at center and right guard. No answers right now. Seems to me that Marcus Cannon is better at RT than RG. Don't think sixth-round pick Jon Halapio is ready to compete for a top job at RG right now. Maybe Josh Kline is a darkhorse to watch. Very curious to see how the Bryan Stork injury situation unfolds, as I think they were hoping he would seize the center job.
Farenzeks [via mobile]
Mike I'm curious as to which (if any) corner stays with the team between Swanson, Butler, and Green based on everything we've seen thus far. Also, could Finch really stay on da 53 man roster as a primary kick returner, and what specifically about him do you see that would be an important addition to our team?
Mike (3:52 PM)
Malcolm Butler would be the choice, but all of those young CBs have made plays on the ball through the first 20 practices (13 in spring, 7 in training camp). As for Finch, I don't see him on the 53-man roster at this point, but could envision him on the practice squad.
corky (NPR Florida)
This is great, love hearing about punch ups and players getting chewed by a coach, haven't read much in years about feisty camps.Bloody practice jerseys love it! You have been covering camps forever, what is your take on this one, has the Rodney spirit returned??
Mike (3:56 PM)
Corky, there was a great moment in camp today that I'd like to share. It came in goal-line drills and the first-unit defense made a terrific stop, creating a wall at the line of scrimmage before safety Devin McCourty burst through to stop running back Stevan Ridley for a loss. Physical play and all the defenders start jumping up and down, McCourty is screaming in excitement, and all of a sudden all 11 defenders and those on the sideline are chanting, "Hell no, we won't go! Hell no, we won't go!" We're not supposed to quote, paraphrase, or report the comments made by coaches or players during a practice session, so technically I am violating the team's general practice reporting policy. But I think the spirit of the rules would allow that one to be reported in this forum, because it reflects a group that is having a lot of fun and playing with an edge.
sportzznut (Cape Cod)
Mike, I am interested in watching the growth of James White as a RB. I feel McDaniels wants to be able to use him in a split back formation with Shane Vereen where both backs are matchup nightmares for LB's depending on whether a traditional draw or trap is run or they can flex out to the flat on a pass play. In order to do so, White will need to be able to recognize blitzes which is not always an easy thing for a rookie RB. Excited for the possibilities because he looks like a well rounded back coming out of Wisconsin.Thanks!
Mike (3:58 PM)
I think you're on to something, and it's also a part of the game that Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com summed up nicely in his camp report: "Vereen and White give the Patriots the "hybrid" players who will challenge personnel decision-makers on defense. If opponents put a sub defense on the field, the Patriots can hammer the run. If the defense goes with a base package, I could envision matchups in the passing game the offense will love to see."
Mike (3:58 PM)
Here is the link to Kirwan's piece: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/writer/pat-kirwan/24639930/patriots-training-camp-tom-brady-and-the-offense-show-off-versatility
Mike- I haven't heard a single word about Amendola, how he looks in training camp, or the progress of his recovery..... Can you fill us in?
Mike (3:59 PM)
Mark, he's been on the field for every practice, going back to the spring. So I think it starts there. He made a very nice play today up the right sideline, hauling in a pass from Tom Brady (Kyle Arrington in coverage). He's healthy. Would say it's been mostly positive when it comes to Amendola.
Greg (Alexandria, VA)
Mike - when are you going to update your 53 man roster projections?
Mike (3:59 PM)
I think those are scheduled to update every Monday morning. Thanks for the interest.
Hey Mike,Wondering about Patrick Chung. Has he shown any improvement since his last stint here? I was actually a Chung supporter because of the intensity. I thought he brought to the back end (not quite Rodney mind you). The negatives obviously being that when he made mistakes they proved to be big ones. Has he cleaned up the angles he takes, poor wrapping up, etc...?
Mike (4:02 PM)
Nothing has stood out to me, and it's been notable that Nate Ebner is the primary personal protector on the punt team, which tells me Ebner is more of a lock than Chung. I still think Chung has an uphill climb for a roster spot, but maybe an injury changes the picture.
Andy (Greensboro, NC) [via mobile]
Mike, The Anderson signing seemed like a steal in the offseason, but he's barely been mentioned. Do you foresee him not even making the team or is he just a quiet, hard worker that often gets overlooked?
Mike (4:04 PM)
Andy, I'd like to see more from Anderson; just haven't been able to lock in on him. Part of the reason is that when the RBs and LBs go one-on-one, I'm usually locked in on the OL-DL pass-rush drills. I really want to focus on the line of scrimmage in this camp because I think there are more important things to follow there. Right now, I'd put Anderson on the club, but usually that top backup LB has a core role on special teams and I don't think Anderson will, which makes me hesitate slightly.
Buchanan and Beauharnais updates please? Also, as best you can tell who's the leader in the clubhouse for the 4th and potentially 5th LB spot?
Mike (4:07 PM)
I think both have showed up a little bit more over the last two days. Makes me wonder if Michael Buchanan could pressure Will Smith as a top backup behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Buchanan has those long arms and when he gets his hands into the chest of offensive linemen and extends, it looks pretty good. Beauharnais stood out to me the last few days with a nice hit in the Oklahoma drill and a solid run fit on the goal-line. He leads the huddle as well. So I'd go Beauharnais and Anderson as 4 and 5 LB right now.
Mike (4:08 PM)
Let's take a few more...
max (my cube)
Mike, how has Dennard looked?
Mike (4:09 PM)
Just came back yesterday, Max, and is only working individual drills and conditioning. Too early to tell.
Brian (Mansfield) [via mobile]
Early educated guess for you Mike: Browner - needed infusion of attitude & toughness or unwanted aggression from a newcomer to a veteran team?
Mike (4:14 PM)
Brian, I think we'll get a little bit of both. Some people you talk to in Seattle have said that his clutching and grabbing grew excessive at times, in part because he was struggling to run/agility-wise. I thought he probably would have been penalized 3-4 times in Wednesday's practice had officials been present, and that part would concern me slightly if Browner struggles to adjust to that in a game. It looks to me like he's running well enough. I watched him today as receiver Brandon LaFell got behind him along the left sideline, but he showed some catch-up speed as safety Devin McCourty showed range to come over and help.
Hi Mike, thanks for chatting. Do you ever wish the excitement of more trades happened in the NFL, or does the 24/7/365 nature of the National Football League already keep you busy enough as it is? (grin)
Mike (4:17 PM)
Let's end on this one, Matt. I think what we get in the NFL with free agency is sort of similar to the baseball trade deadline. It's almost like a season in and of itself. Then you have the draft, which is the same. The cycle never really ends, except for a stretch from late June to early July. It's fun to adjust to each one and the current stretch we're in -- the start of training camp and building that foundation for the season with fundamentals in mind -- is one of my favorites because we get to watch full practices. You can really learn a lot about the team.
Mike, Patriots Hall of Fame induction tomorrow... What's your favorite Ty Law moment?
Mike (4:17 PM)
Had to sneak this one in ...
Mike (4:19 PM)
Dave, I think it's the pick-6 vs. Rams in Super Bowl, but the 3 INT performance against Peyton Manning and the Colts was classic too. Ty was one of my favorites to cover because of his flash and pizzazz. At one point, he asked me if I was writing for the "Daily Bugle." Seriously. He had personality, he came to play on game-day, and he delivered on some of the biggest stages. Congrats to Ty Law. I look forward to his induction.
Mike (4:20 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next week before the preseason game against the Redskins.