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Patience is a virtue with Patriots rookie wide receivers

Posted by Erik Frenz  September 18, 2013 08:00 AM

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We're two weeks into the season, and some New England Patriots fans are already ready to give up on the team's rookie wide receivers. Bad call.

After the draft, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said his team was going through a "re-do" at wide receiver. A few drops later, we're demanding he hit the reset button? Get real.

The Patriots already have talented receivers on their roster. Their names are Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.

These receivers were dominant throughout training camp, and proved in one practice after another that they are loaded with athleticism. These guys can run, cut and jump with the best of any group the Patriots have fielded in recent years.

Thompkins, Dobson and Boyce are two games into their pro careers. The worst thing the Patriots could do is stunt their growth by putting them on the bench. The San Francisco 49ers didn't throw in the towel when wide receiver Jerry Rice had a bad case of the drops to start his career. Seems to have turned out pretty well for them.

That's not to say any of these receivers will necessarily go down in legend as one of the best of all time, but their career stories are much closer to the beginning than the end.

Yet one by one, the list of potential adds pops up on Twitter as possibilities the Patriots should explore.

The Patriots explored signing Emmanuel Sanders as a restricted free-agent, giving him an offer sheet this offseason. The Steelers would have received the Patriots 2013 third-round pick as compensation for Sanders, but they chose to match the offer sheet instead. As a result, Sanders will be a free-agent again in March. Why give up something for him now when they can wait and sign him in six months? At that point, they would still have to sign him to a new contract if they wanted him to be with the team beyond 2013.

Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt recently tweeted his frustrations with his team. If the Patriots couldn't deal with Brandon Lloyd's personality, there's no way they'll tolerate Britt's generally sour attitude.

Perhaps he doesn't want to be picked up. He turned down offers from six teams -- including the Patriots -- according to ProFootballTalk. He may also have other career prospects in his future.

Seems like any receiver is a better option than the Patriots receivers right now, given the reaction to the early struggles.

A couple clichés come to mind here: "throwing out the baby with the bath water" and "cutting off the nose to spite the face," for example.

For one, it's not as though the Patriots receivers were having a hard time getting open against the Jets.

Both sides, however, share in the blame for the lack of production.

Brady, at times, was struggling to get them the ball. A bad read, an underthrown deep ball, an overthrown deep ball and a couple of inaccurate passes were among the mistakes by the franchise quarterback.

missed kenbrell 1.png

The most notable from Thursday night was this deep pass to Thompkins in the first quarter.

The rookie ran a wheel route on the right side of the formation. He got instant separation from cornerback Antonio Cromartie off the snap, and raced down the sideline, throwing his hand up in the air to catch the attention of his quarterback.

missed kenbrell 2.png

Brady wound up and delivered the pass, but it was well short of where it needed to be. If he led Thompkins into the throw, it would have gone for a touchdown.

missed kenbrell 3.png

Instead, it looked like he might have ran the wrong route.

Brady has to make it easier for his receiver. That's the expectation of a future Hall of Famer. Instead, his mistakes are being magnified by the shortcomings of the wide receivers, and vice versa.

Make no mistake -- they can't afford to continue to drop catchable passes like some of those they dropped on Thursday night.

dobson drop 2.png

There are plenty of drops that could go in these spots (four, to be exact) but these are two of the more memorable ones, particularly because they happened in sequence. The first was on an out-route on the left sideline, on a ball that hit Dobson square in the hands.

Can't excuse that one.

The drops, however, weren't always entirely the fault of the receiver.

dobson drop 1.png

The very next play, Brady went deep to Dobson as he came open behind the secondary, but the ball was slightly overthrown. It bounced off his hands, so it counts as a drop, and those passes aren't going to land in the receiver's chest every single time, but if he had made the catch, it would have been one of the most impressive and difficult receptions of the season so far.

The conclusion: this offense is close to finding its stride. A little improvement from each side and the offense could be moving at a torrid pace. A little more chemistry between the two -- and more concentration from the receivers when it comes to catching the football -- will go a long way in this offense looking more like the high-powered unit that has taken the league by storm for years.

Developing that chemistry is a process, though, and will require patience from everyone: Brady, the receivers, the coaches, and the fans.




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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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