Thursday, May 03, 2012

Patriots Go Wide



    • With the news of Jabar Gaffney joining the Patriots (again), all of a sudden Tom Brady (TB12) is looking like his son on Christmas morning: new toys everywhere. As new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bringing the way-back offense back to 2007, he has also brought the Patriots a new outside attack that they have lacked over the past couple of years. With Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez back at tight end (and David Fells to block and act as injury insurance), this scary offense seems to be adding skill receivers all over the field.  Compare this squad to the record-breaking, Josh McDaniel coached team in 2007:
      • 2007: Wes Welker in the slot: Provided that Welker actually signs the franchise tag or reaches a long-term deal, TB12's number one target should (emphasis on "should") be back at top speed in 2012. Whether Welker holds out into the regular season is a concern, and explains why Anthony Gonzalez was signed and Jeremy Ebert was drafted.  These were subtle hints that outside of TB12, no one player is bigger than the other 52 on the roster. That said, pay the man. He's left it out on the field for the past five years and has been grossly underpaid without a single whimper or whine. Just pay him.
      • 2007:  Randy Moss out wide: Brandon Lloyd, the best deep threat in the NFL, signed on this off-season with full knowledge of the Josh McDaniels playbook from playing for him in Denver and St. Louis. Unlike Chad nee Johnson Ochocinco, he knows the playbook already.  What seems remarkably understated is that Lloyd, like Welker, is one of the best receivers in the league in this specific offense: it is tailored to his skills specifically, just like it was to Randy Moss. Lloyd is going to put up jaw-dropping Randy Moss-esque numbers. Be prepared.
      • 2007:  Donte Stallworth outside the numbers: Guess who is back? Donte Stallworth and his world-class speed is back. Another receiver who put up huge numbers in a Josh McDaniels offense and knows the system is back to give TB12 yet another deep threat.  As stated above with Lloyd, like Welker he is a proven fit in this system.  
      • 2007:  Jabar Gaffney as third/fourth receiver: Umm, is this overkill?  This guy put up almost 1,000 yards receiving in Washington last year.  He put up great numbers in New England in the past, and then he also followed Josh McDaniels to Denver and shined in that system putting up great numbers.  Gaffney is yet another professional, hard-working, knows-the-system, proven success, not-over-the-hill receiver for TB12.
      • 2007:  Nobody here of note: Deion Branch who put up 50 receptions for 700 yards in 2011 in New England is now looking like he has gone from second to fifth at the depth chart. OK, this is officially overkill.  Brach is 32, and while maybe having lost a step, still has the complete trust of TB12 and knows the offense inside and out. Branch learned the hard way that this is where the numbers are for him.  Like every other receiver on this list, his cap number is low.  Like everyone else listed above, he has past success in this offense.  
        • Anthony Gonzalez: I liked Gonzalez in Indy when he was healthy.  I don't think he has a prayer of making the team at this point, but maybe he can catch another team's eye in the pre-season games. His only hope is that Welker holds out and maybe an injury to someone ahead of him on the depth chart.
        • Chad Ochocinco: I think the Jabar Gaffney signing makes it official. So long. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.  At best, he is reduced to training camp injury insurance.
        • Julian Edelman: I hope he is studying up on the defensive playbook and working hard returning kicks and punts.  Edelman is getting squeezed and needs to beat out Gonzalez with his versatility and youth (though Gonzalez is only 27).
        • Matthew Slater: See Edelman above.  Slater is purely special teams/insurance at safety at this point.
        • Jeremy Ebert: Practice squad at best for the 7th round pick. 
        • Tiquan Underwood and Britt Davis: Training camp fodder.  Maybe they also can catch another team's eye in the pre-season games and get picked-up. 
    • This team stacked at a position of weakness last year.  After struggling to field a competent player at third wide in 2011, this year the Pats can go five deep at wide-out.  A repeat of 5,000 yards passing for TB12 seems likely.

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