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 (3:06 PM)
How is everyone doing today? Been a good three days of practice, with the Eagles in town.
Mike (3:07 PM)
I'll lead off with this thought: No team has it all figured out at this point of the preseason, but when it comes to the Patriots, the one area I wanted to focus on more than any other -- the offensive line -- is the spot that I think remains the biggest question mark. Hasn't looked pretty at times. Not sounding any alarms or anything like that, but just keeping it on the radar as the spot that I think warrants closer inspection in the weeks to come.
Mike (3:08 PM)
Curious what's on your mind today.
Hi Mike, I'm thoroughly enjoying Hard Knocks this year. It?s always more fun when the team has a chance to be good. BB has a bit of history with Brian Cox, any reason why he's not up here coaching the Patriots as opposed to being down in Atlanta? I love his attitude and wish he was coaching our defensive linemen or linebackers.
Mike (3:10 PM)
Like you, I'm also enjoying Hard Knocks. Not sure on why Cox isn't here specifically, as Bill Belichick is the only head coach who isn't employing a former player on his staff in 2014. The Patriots brought in Brendan Daly as an assistant to work with the d-line this year and I think one of the things with Daly is that he has a working relationship with some others on staff (e.g. Josh McDaniels) and came very highly recommended by him and others. That probably meant a lot to Bill Belichick when he was considering additions to his staff this year.
I know this is a silly question, but should us Pats fans be concerned at all that Maclin "burned" Revis during practice?
Mike (3:10 PM)
No, no, no, Will. Revis isn't going full speed half the time. He actually talked about it a bit after Tuesday's practice, and I'll pass along that link now:
Mike (3:11 PM)
Mike (3:12 PM)
When we posted that item on ESPNBoston.com, we got some flak on twitter from some who felt we were looking for a story where there isn't one. That never crossed my mind, and now, I'm particularly glad it was posted because it adds crucial context to any discussion that Jeremy Maclin was "burning" Revis.
munchkin (glenwood springs co)
Mike, the quotes form offensive lineman you have posted regarding their experiences matching up against Easley could use a little context. Were his reps in the one on ones more bull rush attempts or was he mixing in lateral movement? I would expect his quickness will improve as time moves forward and that his first step will challenge O linemen in stunts. Good to see he and Dobson out on the field.
Mike (3:14 PM)
Munchkin, the rep I saw against Todd Herremans, Easley attempted to beat him off Herremans right shoulder and Herremans got his hands into him and rode him off rather easily. The rep against third-year right guard Dennis Kelly was similar. I wouldn't call it a bull rush, as much as Easley (3-technique, outside shade on guard) trying to win with quickness and explosion. He's still knocking off some rust, and so I wouldn't read too much into it.
Mike, How has Aaron Dobson looked in limited reps since returning?
Mike (3:15 PM)
Brandon, he's just doing some individual drills and running. Probably the most accurate answer is that he's looked like one would expect -- moving well and getting himself in position to compete.
Andy (Bridgewater, MA) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, Malcolm Butler has been making a name for himself at camp thus far with great play. His play in the first preseason game 1 solidified his strong camp. With Butler's recent time spent with the 1st team at practice, is there any chance he could beat out Dennard/Ryan for the starting job across Revis week 1? Thanks.
Mike (3:16 PM)
I'd be surprised at that, Andy. I still think he needs to make the team first. With rookies like Butler, the coaching staff is mostly looking for consistency, improvement, and how they handle adverse situations. Butler is checking off boxes in those areas on a daily basis.
mike (providence, ri)
Mike - The TE position has been a problem since the draft and hasn't gotten any better since. The invited rookies havent panned out and as of preseason game 2 our depth chart of gronk dj and hooman all cant play. this should be the biggest concern, how bad can Dustin Keller be? Is Tony Gonzalez really retired? Without this position contributing to some level, we are not the same offense.
Mike (3:18 PM)
Mike, the one thing with Keller is that it's not like he's signed with another team, so whatever it looks like is viewed the same way by all 32 teams. He's probably just not ready yet; that's my assumption. Not sure on Gonzalez, but seems like that's more of a dream-like scenario than something that has a high likelihood of unfolding.
Hi Mike, Bottom line, Hightower and Collins, give me a quick analysis, grade of their camps to date.
Mike (3:20 PM)
John, Collins has been one of the team's most impressive defenders, particularly when it comes to pass coverage. The Eagles have some tough RBs to match up against in LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and he's right there. Hightower, I think, is primed for a better year. At the same time, we still see some of the same struggles in coverage when he's asked to chase/cover RBs.
Hi Mike, if Boyce was not a recent 4th rd pick, does he even make the team this year? Even if he does make the 53 as a KR, does the team really have the room to put him on the 46 man gameday roster? I feel an extra DB (Chung, Butler, etc) would provide more value to the team. Thanks
Mike (3:22 PM)
Fair question, Jared. I don't have all the answers, for sure, but I was expecting a little more from him this year. Been a bit underwhelmed at this point. That doesn't mean he can't emerge, and it also doesn't mean what I see is the same thing the coaching staff sees. But after an offseason of talking about the jump from Year 1 to Year 2, my expectations for him were a bit higher than what I've seen unfold on the field.
Mike, how much playing time for the starters tomorrow night? Seems like Brady wants get a lot of reps in. Also, where is Brandon Lafell ranking on the WR depth chart?
Mike (3:24 PM)
Drew, a lot of it depends on how it goes. If the offense strings together a brilliant 15-play opening TD drive, that would probably be it. If there are two three-and-outs to open the game, they might play until halftime. I'd put 20 snaps in the ballpark estimate. As for LaFell, he looks like the No. 4 right now behind Edelman, Amendola and Thompkins. When Dobson comes back, it could bump him down to 5, or perhaps he overtakes Thompkins. I think they like him in the red zone (6-2, 210), especially if Gronk isn't there.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
auto-update not working, Mike?
Mike (3:25 PM)
It tells me it's on, Brian. Not sure why it isn't working.
Blindo(PA) [via mobile]
Hey mike there were reports recently that white was getting reps with the first teamers, does that mean anything significant? Also do you know what's keeping mayo from practice? Thanks
Mike (3:26 PM)
Don't know for sure on Mayo, but my educated guess is that it's more of a personal matter than injury. On White, he's going to play a significant role this year on offense -- they're counting on it -- but I wouldn't read too much into the 1st team, 2nd team stuff at that spot right now.
Mike, Your comment about Moss sometimes going half speed surprised me. As I recall, you never said that when he was on the team although you quoted Jaworski when he said it. Is my memory wrong??
Mike (3:27 PM)
Ron, I'm pretty sure I said that at the time. Or some variation of it as it related to Moss as a practice player.
DJ (Ann Arbor)
Wondering about the safety spot next to DMc. Any chance the Pats do some game plan changes with that position, going with a run stopping SS type (Chung or Wilson) against run-first offenses and an other FS (Ryan or Arrington) against the pass-first teams? I worry about Chung and Wilson in coverage but also about another CB against good running games. Or is it still Harmon first, and the reps we're seeing other guys get are just in case (of injury or bad play)?
Mike (3:32 PM)
DJ, my read on that spot is that it is still Harmon's job to lose in the base defense. But certain game-plans could lead to others lining up there, such as against Baltimore and a Gary Kubiak-coordinated offense. We saw the Patriots run a base defense with a cornerback as the second safety (so 3 CBs) against Kubiak's Texans teams. So it's a game-plan defense and I could envision that spot having some variation depending on the week.
Jean(NY) [via mobile]
Mike what chances do you give Jerel Worthy of making the roster and if he does what role do you envision him taking?
Mike (3:33 PM)
Jean, I haven't seen enough of Worthy to have an informed opinion at this point. My educated guess would be he doesn't make the roster, but the health of Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga -- and how long they might be sidelined -- could alter the picture.
nathan (northampton, ma.)
Mike, I am prepared to happily eat my words on the progress of Aaron Dobson. It's good to see that he is able to practice again. With that being said, do you think either Dobson or Gronkowski will see the field during any of the preseason games? I think Dobson needs some real game reps soon more so than Gronk.
Mike (3:35 PM)
Nathan, wouldn't be surprised if we don't see Gronk or Dobson in the preseason. If I had to choose one over the other, in terms of who we do see, it would be Dobson.
Hey Mike,Count me in as one of the ones super pumped to see Arrington working in as a safety. I kept asking about it early in the off-season. IMO the best backfield is Dennard, Ryan, Browner, Revis, DMac and then the next safety. Arrington is a great tackler, has the reactive athleticism and ball skills to play back there, and though little bit small, he's thickly built. His year's as a gunner prove can take the punishment. How did he look back there and what are your thoughts on him?
Mike (3:36 PM)
Shaun, it was more in the dime package that he was back there. There really wasn't a large enough sample size to make a definitive judgment, but he certainly didn't look out of place.
Sean (Quincy )
Patrick Chung stood out to me in the first preseason game with his strong open field tackling, something the Patriots have struggled with, especially in the secondary. Do you think this could lead him coming back on the roster?
Mike (3:37 PM)
I agree, Sean. I thought Chung and Tavon Wilson both tackled well in that game, and tackling is generally something that doesn't look so good in the preseason opener. I think Chung has a chance, but on the most recent roster projection, I had him on the outside looking in.
What have you seen out of Will Smith? Does he seem like he could contribute if needed? Is he 100% healthy (or as close as you can be at this point in season)?
Mike (3:40 PM)
Anthony, the first thing that stands out is that Smith is a consummate pro, the type of guy you want to have around. Power rusher. Not sure if he'll be able to carve out a spot. I had him on the outside looking in from the latest roster projection.
From the reports seems like Darius Fleming has a good chance to make the roster. What's your take on him?
Mike (3:41 PM)
Misha, when it comes to those backup linebackers, I think there is some added value in a player who can back up two spots -- outside and inside. That's what stands out to me from Darius Fleming, how he plays on the line and off the line. Those are really two different worlds. I had him on the team in the latest projected roster.
TJ (TorontoH [via mobile]
Hows Domnique Easley looking at practice and whats his status for week 1
Mike (3:42 PM)
TJ, Easley has only participated in individual drills and pass-rush drills. So really too early to tell. I hesitate to write this, because it's not fair with just having watched a few of his rushes, but nothing stood out at this time. He's still shaking off the rust.
Hey Mike. Do you really thing BB is ready to give up on Boyce after just 1 season? He was drafted fairly high, and in my opinion can still turn out to be a good receiver.
Mike (3:43 PM)
Mike, I'd be surprised. Sort of like Jake Bequette at this time last year -- you probably wait a little bit longer to see if the light goes on.
At Sean/Mike (Home)
The people with Chung/Wilson is not tackling...It's that they can't cover.... Kind of an important thing for a safety in a passing league...
Mike (3:43 PM)
Fair, but there were times when I thought the angles Chung took from a tackling perspective were way off.
Ryan E. (Modesto,CA)
Hey Mike! Love the chats and I rarely chime in but, I read every post that pertains to the Patriots on here or other websites, and I cannot remember reading this much optimizm about the defense. I am seriously jacked up to watch the D this year. You cover this team better than almost anyone(besides the Greg Salas prediction LOL) and I fully trust your eyes. How do you see this year for us loyal fans when the other team has the ball? Are we going to cringe watching our defense or will we go nuts like we did in 01-04?
Mike (3:47 PM)
You still dogging me for the Salas prediction, Ryan? LOL. I'm sure it won't be my last one that was way off the mark, but Salas is still kicking around and fighting for a spot on the Jets. I wish he had a better chance to emerge here. As for the defense, I'm a little more cautious in this area. I still wonder about the pass rush, and have some depth-based questions along the defensive line and safety. So not to come across all negative here; I do see great potential, but I also think there are some questions that still need to be answered.
As an Eagles fan our media has painted a picture that the Eagles have been winning the week in practice, especially their defense vs. the Patriots offense. Obviously your take has been different, which team have you viewed as winning the week overall ths far.
Mike (3:48 PM)
Alex, I've been impressed with the Eagles. They've made it harder on the Patriots' offense this year, so it's been a noticeable difference. I think each side has had some wins, but my biggest takeaway is that the Eagles have been very competitive and I'd probably give them the slight edge.
Mike (3:49 PM)
As for a specific example, the 1-on-1 drills from Tuesday were pretty decisive in the favor of the Eagles' defense. They took it to the Patriots' OL.
John(NJ) [via mobile]
Hey mike do you think any of the rookie offensive lineman have a chance of getting into the starting lineup or are they going to end up as depth guys for this season?
Mike (3:50 PM)
Good question, John. Bryan Stork, the fourth-round pick from Florida State, was the best chance for a rookie to break through at center. But he's been out since the fifth practice of camp and that's a lot of ground to make up at this point. I don't see Cameron Fleming (beaten soundly by Brandon Graham in 1-on-1 drills on Wednesday) and Jon Halapio as being ready at this point.
mike - do you think we stand pat at the TE position here? we picked up 3 and dropped 2 in 24 hours!
Mike (3:51 PM)
Mike, no truth to the rumor that Christian Fauria's phone was blowing up. I think they'll add another one.
Greg Bedard said Gronk had a noticeable limp and was favoring his right leg at practice this week. By most other accounts he has been moving well....your thoughts?
Mike (3:52 PM)
Mike, I didn't see the same thing Greg did, but that doesn't mean it wasn't the case. It's hard to stay on top of every little detail at these practices. I've spent more of my time on the offensive line, to be honest. Just see that as such a key area, and with the coaching change, a lot going on there.
Tim (Newport, RI)
My wife keeps on having awful luck with her favorite players staying. Now she really likes Devin McCourty. Do you think he will sign an extension at some point soon?
Mike (3:53 PM)
Tim, I think McCourty will ultimately sign an extension here. But nothing imminent.
Mike, has Malcolm Butler been playing on special teams as well as cornerback? He seems to be playing pretty good but our depth there is stunning.
Mike (3:54 PM)
Dash, that was one thing that stood out to me in film review from the preseason opener. Third quarter, opening kickoff, who makes the tackle? Butler. That's how you help your cause to make the team.
Alex (Burlington, VT)
Should we be concerned about Easley's lackluster practice performance so far? Or should fans ramp back their expectations as he recovers from injury?
Mike (3:54 PM)
Alex, no concern. Have to give these guys some time, especially those coming off injury.
I heard a lot last week about Brady and the O slicing through the Washington D with no problems, but I haven?t heard much this week about how they fared against the Eagles D, who would you say won the practice?
Mike (3:55 PM)
Aaron, I'd give the edge to the Eagles. The "stats" might not bear it out, but I think stats in a training camp setting can be a little deceiving. How hard was it to make the throw? Was it a live pass rush? How often did he have to go through his full progressions? have to give credit to the Eagles -- they made life tougher on the Patriots than the Redskins did the week before.
Todd Hockney (Queens)
Do you think we will see either Easley or Dobson in Friday night?s game, or will they hold them out until week 3? Thanks and keep up the great work.
Mike (3:55 PM)
Definitely not seeing them, Todd.
Dean Keaton (NYC)
Hey Mike, why are the Pats taking flyers on nobody tight ends when Keller and Finley are out there. I know Finley is looking into his $10M insurance policy, but Keller is still available. It has to be medical, right? BTW, I?m glad Jimmy G is looking good, but I can?t help think that a TE in the second round might be more valuable right now.
Mike (3:56 PM)
Has to be medical IMO. On Garoppolo, he really took a big step this week from this viewpoint. I know some Eagles folks were pretty impressed. Ball comes out quick. Making good decisions. Given the value of that position, I can't quibble with the pick.
Hi Mike, could Brian Tyms 4 game suspension actually help the Patriots? I mean the Pats won?t have to cut him before the season, which gives them an extra 4 weeks to decide if Josh Boyce or another fringe player is worth keeping over Tyms. Am I correct in that assessment?
Mike (3:58 PM)
You are correct, Fenster. The other point I'd make is that Tyms was working against a player who is now unemployed -- first-year CB Peyton Thompson (San Jose State) -- in the preseason opener. He had free released on almost every route. I don't think the Patriots will make their analysis on Tyms based on that game. It was impressive but let's see how it looks against better competition.
Mike,The only thing scaring me about Butler is possible Sudfeld Syndrome.Your thoughts?
Mike (3:59 PM)
Patrick, that's possible because some players flash early like Sudfeld and then crash suddenly. That's why we have to be careful on rushing to judgment and see if Butler can keep stringing those good days together.
Mike, how does James Develin look at TE? Is it realistic to think he'd be one of their TEs this year?
Mike (4:01 PM)
Peter, Develin looks like a roster lock. It should also be noted that he was one of the team's offseason award winners. He's more of the H-back type yet he's not as fluid as a wide receiver type. Tough kid. The FB position is sort of naturally linked to the TE spot, so he does project there, but he's not a pure TE.
Earl M. (Marlborough, MA)
I had asked about DL depth last week, and they went hog wild on activity over the past few days. With so many spots based on post-injury effectiveness, will we see more DL on the final depth chart to account for the unknown (spots for somebody amongst Smith, Vellano, Forston - whom were off your last projection)? How do you see the recently acquired DL fitting in, and do you forsee Chandler Jones playing more inside as a response?
Mike (4:02 PM)
I wouldn't put Bass or Worthy on the team right now, Earl. I think they just add a little depth with Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga banged up, which could help them manage some of their other guys from being overworked. Depending on the defense, and specific situation, I think we could see Chandler Jones playing inside, traditional DE in the 4-3, or OLB in the 3-4.
Mark (Chicago) [via mobile]
Mike great stuff, can you explain the thinking behind the pats TE moves? Why sign a guy for two days? Seems like a waste of time and effort. Why not hold on to ASA and try to get him on practice squad.
Mike (4:03 PM)
Thanks Mark. Not sure if you saw, but BB said that when a player stops improving, they feel it's time to move on. That was the thinking on the TE moves.
Mike (4:03 PM)
Let's take a few more...
what's the word on brian stork?
Mike (4:03 PM)
Still sidelined, Chuck. Maybe one of the more underplayed storylines based on the fact I thought he was legitimately competing for a starting spot at center.
Who has made the biggest jump in the last week?
Mike (4:04 PM)
Hi Mike, I've read a lot about the Pats going back to the 3-4 on D, and that both Chandler Jones and Nink are dropping back off the line. Are they dropping back together or alternating, with one of them staying on the line? If the are both dropping back at the same time, doesn't that squeeze out on of the top 3 LBs??
Mike (4:07 PM)
Steve, they're showing a lot of different looks on defense and that's one of them. One thing I've learned is that it's hard to declare any definitive intentions from the Patriots in the preseason. I've seen them attack relentlessly some years and then play more passive in the regular season. Other times they've shown little in the preseason and then attacked more in the regular season. They have a lot of different options. Don't mean to skirt the question, but just think we have to let it play out a little more. We've seen a lot on the practice fields.
Mike (4:07 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Enjoyable, as always. We'll do it again next week.