Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, New England Patriots blogger Mike Reiss stops by to chat.
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 noon ET!
Mike (12:01 PM)
Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Mike (12:01 PM)
Will get started in a few...
Mike (12:04 PM)
Here at Gillette Stadium as the locker room will open a bit later. Been a good week media-wise. Heard from a lot of players and coaches. Top storyline: Rob Gronkowski back at practice. Don't think he'll be ready until Week 3 at the earliest. Also liked what Tom Brady had to say Wednesday about how he's doing things this year that he's never done before (because of the young WRs).
Mike (12:04 PM)
What's on your mind today?
Hi Mike, Now that the preseason is complete could you pick your favorite moment from the preseason? Thanks as always for the great coverage of the team!
Mike (12:05 PM)
That's an interesting one to start with Tushin. Overall, I'm going to pick Kenbrell Thompkins and his emergence, specifically his ability to get off the line of scrimmage against the Lions. Everyone loves an underdog story. This is a good one.
Mike (12:07 PM)
It would have been a bold prediction for someone to think Thompkins would make a big impact before the season (yuk, yuk).
Mike (12:07 PM)
Zoltan Mesko (Pittsburgh)
You said Ryan Allen and I would both make the team but I ended up getting cut. Didn't take long for me to find a job though. Why do you think BB chose the other Guy (Ray)? Did I get outperformed and/or cost too much? You may have given me the Salas jink.
Mike (12:10 PM)
LOL, Zoltan. Since you've joined the chat, can I relay to everyone what I communicated to you after news of your release? How I hoped my own kids could someday handle a situation like that with such class? You are a good man and I wish you all the best. As for the decision to go with Allen over you, I think we'd both agree, the kid was impressive. And yes, economics were a secondary consideration: You were due to make $1.3m and then they'd have to re-sign you next year. Allen is on the books for $405k this year and at cheap dollars in 2014 and 2015 as well.
CB in Utah (Murray UT)
Hey Mike. Exciting week. Football starts tonight. So Danny A. has a groin injury. do you get a feeling this will affect his performance on Sunday?
Mike (12:11 PM)
CB, if anyone saw Amendola in full uniform warming up before last Thursday's preseason finale, there would be no concern. He was running well, at top speed, and cutting sharply. He'll be ready to go, I have little doubt, barring an unexpected setback. Wouldn't be surprised if he plays most every snap. He's champing at the bit.
Nick (Woburn, MA)
How can this Patriots team justify to it's fan base being $10 million under the cap? It is frustrating to me that they wouldn't spend and try and make the team better, especially when there are obvious holes that could have been filled with just a little more money (cough, cough, Wes Welker)
Mike (12:13 PM)
Nick, I think the under-the-cap stuff is some of the most misunderstood chatter is all of football. I am guessing this is talk-radio driven, and it's often misleading. Here is my take on the whole under-the-cap stuff with the Patriots: 1) They will use all their cap space this year when all is said and done; 2) You always want to leave some cap room for emergencies during the season; 3) With a big dead charge on the cap next year with Aaron Hernandez (assuming the Patriots don't get relief), strategic planning takes on added importance; 4) Some of that cap space will go to players already on the roster (Wendell, McCourty, Ninkovich, Spikes etc.). ...
Mike (12:14 PM)
... The last point I'd make is that spending money alone isn't the issue. It's spending it smartly. That's where I'd focus the criticism. This isn't the amount what they're spending, it's HOW they're spending it. Swings and misses on Adrian Wilson ($1m plus this year) and Leon Washington ($360k signing bonus), among others.
Mike (12:15 PM)
So I feel pretty strongly about this one. This perception that the Patriots are somehow cheap is way off in my view.
You think Tebow is done? Nobody signed him or any of the other Patriots castoffs except Mesko.
Mike (12:16 PM)
I think it's too early to say that, Sanchez. If Brady somehow got hurt, or Mallett did in practice, I think the door is still open for Tebow here.
Do you think Z Sudfeld gets a full workload right out the gate and how productive do you see him being?
Mike (12:18 PM)
Dom, I think we'll see plenty of Sudfeld. My feeling is that the best matchup Sunday against the Bills is the Amendola-Edelman-Thompkins 3 WR package, with Sudfeld splitting time at TE with Mulligan/Hoomanawanui depending on the situation. I'd put him in the 20-40 snap range based on that projection.
Sam (Shanghai, China)
Based on what you've seen from Zach Sudfeld, how would you rate his footwork and route-running? One knock on him in the draft was his upper body strength, but his combine numbers actually compare favorably to Gronk's
Mike (12:19 PM)
Lot of Sudfeld today. Interesting. Footwork and route-running one of his strengths. The areas I would say he needs some work to become a more complete tight end are in the blocking game. Some struggles there, especially against Detroit in Week 3.
Mike, the game plan on defense seems obvious, stop the run, stop Manuel from running and make him throw the ball. Tough task for a rookie. But where do you see the Pats attacking the field on offense? Are the Bills big enough upfront to bully the O-line like the Lions did? Thanks.
Mike (12:22 PM)
Yes, Derek, I would say the Bills' defensive line is their strength. Carrington-Dareus-Williams-Williams is one of the better fronts the Patriots will face this year. What's interesting to me is how they're being utilized in this new 3-4 hybrid scheme under Mike Pettine, and I think it suits their skills better than what we saw last year in the Dave Wannstedt 4-3. I think the Patriots can handle it, but I also expect the Bills to make some plays up front. As for the Patriots attacking the field, I think it always comes back to balance. They should have an advantage against the Bills' LBs and DBs in the passing game. Have to stay out of third-and-long; that's when Pettine gets into the Rex Ryan-type scheme stuff that can be effective.
What is your take on the all the undrafted players making the team?
Mike (12:23 PM)
A little surprised, Stan. There are 14 rookies, 7 of whom are undrafted. Some of them are more depth/developmental types, but from a pure "status" standpoint, it would make sense that anyone would feel better if 3-4 of those undrafted guys had early-round draft pedigrees.
I kind of feel like the tempered expectations with Thompkins are strictly a result of natural hesitation with what we're seeing from an UDFA. I think it's possible he's just a stud. Why can't he put up 75/900-1000-8 for the team, just based on what we've seen?
Mike (12:24 PM)
Jason, for me, the hesitation is that what happens in preseason doesn't always translate to the regular season when defenses start doing a little more. Just want to be a little cautious. Otherwise, you get a situation where someone is predicting 61 catches for someone like Greg Salas last year.
Grandjordanian (San Diego )
Mike, do you think from a conditioning perspective the coaching staff will lean on some guys this week and plan to lean on a different grouping for the 12th knowing it is early season and it is a very short week? Thinking about RBs, WRs, LBs, OL, etc.? Or do you think we may see a half by half split, especially if the game is over by halftime?
Mike (12:25 PM)
Good question, Grand. A good example for us to go back on is the season opener at Miami a couple of years ago. Pretty liberal subsitutions in that one. I'd expect the Patriots to use all 46 players on the roster on Sunday. Not a half by half thing, but a series by series deal.
Predicted snaps for Dobson in game 1?
Mike (12:26 PM)
Zero. Would probably make him one of the inactive players at this point as I think about who will dress.
Mike (12:26 PM)
One reason why is he doesn't offer much on special teams and looks to be about 5th on the depth chart right now.
Jim Keddy (Kennebunk, ME)
What was the scoop on Jordan Devey? Was the contractproblem with the NFL resolved or is he off the practice squad for good?
Mike (12:27 PM)
Resolved and he was on the field today. Probably just a language thing in the contract, Jim. That was a situation where we got to see how the sausage is made.
Mike.....I realize you must take a pro-Patriots stance in order to ensure continued access...but your "spend smartly" inference is plain homerism at its worst. Ochocinco, Lloyd, Gregory, etc etc. Belichick has whiffed more times than not and his attraction for the deal instead of true talent has been the main driving force behind NE's inability to get past physical teams. At some point he needs players that can manhandle the opponent...and those guys cost real money.
Mike (12:31 PM)
Access has nothing to do with it, ReDrew. That, again, sounds like talk-radio type spin. Please give me examples of access to anyone that has affected/impacted my willingness/black-and-white results of calling it like I see it? I work within the parameters provided to us with news conferences and locker-room access, and proceed from there. It is just so ridiculous that we're even having this type of discussion. It makes it sound like BB is feeding me some type of information in exchange for favorable coverage. It's insulting to a reporter's integrity, to be honest, and speaks to a general misunderstanding of how things work down here. Maybe there was a time when former beat writers turned talk-radio hosts rode on boats with BB on Nantucket and drank wine with him, but those days are long, long over. ...
Mike (12:33 PM)
... as for spending money, how many times do we need examples that simply spending money isn't the answer? Think of the old Redskins teams. How has that message not gotten across by now? Look at baseball and some of the teams that spent big in free agency who have fallen flat. I'm perplexed that this would even be part of the discussion. Yes, the Patriots like the deal. But do we really think they'd pick the cheap deal over wins and losses. Silly stuff, from this view.
Steve (Hamburg Germany)
Hi Mike, People are focusing on DT and OL depth as the big areas that need to be addressed but I fear that the Pats biggest needs are DBs, esp safeties. With the personnel not changing much I think that a good opposing QB will still pass for 300 yards vs the Pats this year even when facing an improved pass rush. Pats have cut a lot of vets and from what I've read are now over 14 mil under the cap. Does that suggest they're putting money aside to be able to sign (or trade for) a quality proven player? Why else would they go so far under the cap? If so, what position would they address?
Mike (12:34 PM)
Steve, if we want to criticize the Patriots/BB for their player evaluations, I think this is a fair place to start -- the defensive backfield. They've struggled to get it right. In many ways, the secondary looks similar to last year. Fair to question if that will be good enough.
Minneapolis [via mobile]
I'm huge fan of Aaron Dobson. He's a big target WR. How is he doing and what do u think about him -- Is he a starter or a development guy?
Mike (12:37 PM)
Dobson probably has the highest upside of the three rookie receivers, but I think he currently has the longest way to go of the group. Right now, I'd call him a developmental guy for them. Also note that he has been limited at practice with a hamstring injury.
Matt (Essex Jct, VT)
Hi Mike, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the release of Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis. Why not place one or both on PUP or IR?
Mike (12:38 PM)
Matt, this is something I hope to write a little more about on Sunday in our regular "quick-hit thoughts" blog entry. Seems like more teams around the NFL are using the waived/injured designation on players, showing less patience than maybe they would have in past years. Would expect both to get injury settlements. Not sure the Patriots' thinking on why they felt those players weren't worth waiting around for.
Jim (Brisbane, Australia)
MikeBe interested in your perspective on the the other three AFC East teams and whether they have strenghtened or declined over the off season? Strikes me that when people bemoan aspects of the patriots roster, they forget how difficult it is to remain competitive from year to year.
Mike (12:39 PM)
Jim, here is a quick link to our AFC East predictions this year.
Mike (12:39 PM)
Mike, on the Patriots being cheap. I do think its a real issue. Its the prism of every move they've made this offseason. Welker v Amendola, they go with the cheaper option. Brandon Lloyd Vs rookies, cheaper option. Fells vs Hoomanawanui, Cheaper option. Mesko vs. Allen, Cheaper Option. Not to mention Brady restructuring his contract for what seems like zero reason, other than to give Brady more money when he'll be too old to be effective. Spend some damn cash so our back up DT aren't undrafted rookies Mr Kraft.
Mike (12:41 PM)
Thanks for sharing the viewpoint, Joe. They like the deal, as we said before. But if we look at their total cash payouts over the last few years, they're in the top half of the NFL if I'm not mistaken.
Best guess on Gronk's return - Tampa or Atlanta?
Mike (12:42 PM)
I'd lean Atlanta, just on the conservative side.
Jason D (NYC)
Well Mike looks like I was wrong on Wilson and again we roll with Gregory at SS. The problem is, he does nothing very well. Does not run very well, does not hit very well, and does not create any type of intimidating presence back there. The pass rush better be much improved or this team will not get off the field on third down again this year.
Mike (12:45 PM)
Jason, Gregory was a topic of discussion yesterday at Gillette and it came up in the context of one of BB's coaching philosophies: "We like to say that dependability is more important than ability." I think when they look at Gregory's strengths, that dependability on a day-in and day-out basis is near the top of the list. I'm with you, I wonder if essentially being back at the same point they were last year will be good enough.
Simple question, who generates a pass rush from the interior DL this year?
Mike (12:47 PM)
Anthony, Tommy Kelly looks like a key player for them in that regard. The 32-year-old has been moving bodies in there this preseason. He's 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds. Has "long levers", as BB said. Powerful guy. I think he's going to help them.
Mr. Scratch (Somewhere Hot)
Mike, feel free to inform the readers that the current NFLPA numbers have New England roughly $13.5M under the cap as of today. In 2011 that was in the neighborhood of $12.5m at this time and New England ended up with $6.7M in carryover in 2012. Last year that was $10M at this time and New England had $5.7M in carryover into 2013. This is pretty much business as usual as that money does not sit idly all year and considering that the Patriots already have over $120M on the books next year with the free agents you mentioned... well just think how giddy most people were when they were up to $25-26M in cap space back in March... they won't be in as good as shape next year as the they were heading into the past 2 years. The cap is not a one off/ single year dynamic. And there is method to the madness.
Mike (12:48 PM)
Thank you, Mr. Scratch. Always helps to bring facts to the table. NFL salary cap, in my view, one of the most misunderstood aspects and maybe I can do a better job explaining it going forward.
Coreen (Sydney, Austalia)
Mike, what are your thoughts on Boyce. He seems like a Boldin-type receiver, but much faster. Obviously a really high comparison, but the style seems to fit.
Mike (12:50 PM)
Coreen, when I think of a comparison for Boyce, it's more of a speed receiver than a Boldin. They have been working to get him in the ball down the field and in the running game (on reverses etc.).
Mike, Prediction for tonight's game? I think the Ravens are under-rated, despite just winning the Super Bowl.
Mike (12:51 PM)
Looking forward to the game, Walt. Tough to win that opening game on the road. I'd lean toward the Broncos, but I wonder if they'll be good enough on defense.
Earl of Mangwich (Planet Earth)
Mike, putting aside the exciting talk of RB depth and young WRs, the offense is only as good as its protection - and RG is already at contingency backup options. If Svitek can't go, who is ready to step back in from their cadre of previously injured OL? Thx!
Mike (12:53 PM)
I'd expect the following o-line on Sunday: Solder (LT), Mankins (LG), Wendell (C), Connolly (RG) and Vollmer (RT). Cannon is the top backup at T and then they'll probably have either Braxston Cave or Chris Barker as their top interior backup.
Who are your 7 inactives this week? Dobson, then who?
Mike (12:54 PM)
I want to think more about it. Definitely Svitek. Either Cave/Braxston. Probably DT A.J. Francis. LB Chris White. Gronkowski. Need to pick a few more. Don't hold me to Dobson just yet, but wouldn't be surprised.
Gary (Arlington, VA)
Hi Mike, is it possible that a front four of Ninkovich, Wilfork, Kelly and Jones could actually strike fear into the hearts of opponents come playoff time?
Mike (12:55 PM)
Gary, it could be the best they've had in recent memory. Not to strike a negative tone, but the depth has to be a concern. Significant drop-off after those four.
Notice the trend line from this chat Mike: we cheer but trust our eyes and don't think the defense has enough hitters and playmakers.
Mike (12:56 PM)
Fair, Charlie. Trust your eyes a good philosophy to have. I understand the skepticism. Let's see how it turns out.
Mike, you and Tedy touched on the 'newness' of the Bills this year (coach, OC, QB, etc.) do you feel that the Pats' defense is ready, at this point, to handle 'on the fly' formation, tempo, scheme changes and sight adjustments? I think this is a little more of a test for them then most people realize and I'm curious to get your take.
Mike (12:58 PM)
Derek, I'm anxious to see if they can match the Bills' speed when in their sub defense. When Spikes and Hightower are in there in sub, they look slow to me at times. From what I've seen of the Bills, they can make a slow defense look even slower. Understand the concern. It's legit in my view.
Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska)
Hey Mike. Am I starting on Sunday?
Mike (12:58 PM)
No, Alfonzo, that will be Kyle Arrington in your spot.
Mike (12:58 PM)
Let's take a few more.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What has prevented the defensive 'genius" Bill Belichick from correcting the issues on defense that have plagued the Patriots since 2004. A top 12-15 unit would have resulted in he and Brady having at least one more ring at this point? Will the 29th ranked pass defense improve significantly this year?
Mike (1:00 PM)
Tony, it's probably the biggest question I have for BB. When the NFL changed its rules to really favor the offense, it seemed like he adjusted accordingly (e.g. go get Moss, Welker etc.). But with that change, I have wondered if he's had the same type of adjustment defensively. To me, the story of the defense this year is how continuity and development of young players like Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower potentially elevates them to a higher level. Have to wait to see how it turns out.
Mike, understanding that of course your not some sort of PR toady, don't you have to be a little careful about taking the team to task for this or that knowing that you're going to be around the team the next day and long-term?
Mike (1:02 PM)
Peter, the fundamental principle to go on is this: If you're fair, it's all fair game. Call it like it is. They might not always like it, but they can respect it. Fairness first. This means you have to work to account for both sides of the story. In doing so, we also account for the thought that no one is perfect. I don't always get it right, but it won't be for lack of effort.
Richard Hertz (Holden)
The Patriots are lucky the AFC is so weak. ....But unlucky because the lack of serious competition will hurt their chances vs NFC opponents
Mike (1:04 PM)
Glad you brought this up, Richard. I've been so locked in on the Patriots that when I had to make picks for our ESPN.com season preview, it struck me how much deeper and more competitive the NFC is compared to the AFC. Seems like not long ago the script was flipped.
Shaun (Boom) (Boston)
Does Gregory play 70% or 80% or even 100% of the snaps Sunday? If he comes off who comes in Tavon or Duron?
Mike (1:07 PM)
Let's end on this one, Shaun. I think Gregory plays them all. In nickel, I'd expect Dennard to come on and play on the outside, with Arrington in the slot. Then in the dime, Tavon Wilson comes on in the linebacker-type role. The one change, depending on his conditioning level, could be Dennard. That spot could go to Logan Ryan.
Mike (1:08 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Good stuff. Like that we integrate differing opinions and all viewpoint respected (even when we don't agree). That's the fun part of this. Have a great day, and we'll plan on doing it again next Thursday.