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What we've learned in two weeks

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  September 14, 2013 12:20 PM

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  • Kenbrell Thompkins is a work in progress. The rookie receiver needs time to get on the same page with Tom Brady, who has continued to throw the ball in his direction (17 targets) despite a number of mistakes in the first two games.
  • Aaron Dobson, who has played only one game, has the breakaway speed that the Patriots have been seeking since Randy Moss was kicked out of town. But he has the same issues as Thompkins, not consistently on the same page. He needs more time to develop chemistry. And as he admits himself, there are no excuses for his drops.
  • While we were concerned over the offensive line and the competition at right guard, the Patriots have picked right back up where they left in 2012 with the same starting quintet. Dan Connolly is back at right guard after fending off Marcus Cannon, who has been substituting in at tackle when the Patriots utilize Nate Solder as a blocking tight end. Which leads to another point ...
  • As the team strings along week to week with Rob Gronkowski on the mend, it has managed to skate through the first two weeks of the season with Michael Hoomanawanui at tight end and Solder helping on occasion. Matthew Mulligan has also contributed. But it’s clear that the team doesn’t favor Hoomanawanui in the primary blocking tight end role when Solder and Cannon are both in the game. Mulligan, for his part, may not be completely up to speed with only a little more than a week on the roster.
  • Julian Edelman just may be the team’s top receiver in 2013. After two games, he has 20 catches on 27 targets. He was targeted 18 times on Thursday with Danny Amendola out of the mix and nine times in Week 1 alongside Amendola. Surely those targets will drop once both Amendola, reportedly out up to six weeks, and Rob Gronkowski return. But if Edelman can remain healthy, he could find himself shattering his contract incentives, reportedly earning an extra $250,000 if he has 70 or more receptions. He’s on pace for 160. Again, small sample size.
  • It took all of one week for Danny Amendola to miss some time after aggravating a groin injury. He has now missed 21 of 34 regular season games since 2011 with various injuries. According to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, he could possibly miss five more games. We had wondered about Amendola’s durability. It didn’t take long for it to become an issue.
  • So far, the Patriots rookies have found their most playing time on special teams. Second-round pick Jamie Collins, taken 91st overall as the Patriots’ top draft choice, has played all of three snaps on defense. But he’s been a core contributor on special teams, playing all 58 snaps. The team hasn’t needed his talents on defense yet, opting for five defensive backs and linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower in nickel packages. Cornerback Logan Ryan, as the team’s fourth cornerback, has found himself out of the loop as well. He’s played two snaps on defense, both in Buffalo. But he has played 26 of 58 special teams snaps so far.
  • The secondary, in its current form, has proven to be much more competitive than 2012. The Patriots have allowed 170.0 yards passing per game, good for sixth best in the NFL right now. Of course, both games were against rookie quarterbacks. But it’s a big jump from the 271 yards per game allowed in 2012 and the 29th league ranking.
  • New punter Ryan Allen has done just fine. He had a franchise record-tying performance against the Jets with 11 punts for 514 yards, a 42.5 net average. And his six punts against the Bills for 234 yards, a 36.0 net average, were marred by a 19-yarder he muffed. That’s pretty good for 16 punts so far.

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Flashback to 2009
The last time Tom Brady finished a game with less than a 50 percent completion rate was Dec. 20, 2009 in Buffalo. Brady was a meager 11 of 23 for 115 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He completed 47.8 percent of his passes as the Patriots beat the Bills, 17-10

Also that year, Brady went 23 of 47 against the Jets, completing only 48.9 percent of his throws in a 16-9 loss for the Patriots. That was also Week 2 of the season.

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Stats pack

Thanks to the folks at ProFootballFocus.com, we have more insight on some of the Patriots’ top contributors.

  • Edelman was covered by eight different Jets defensive backs on Thursday and caught at least one pass against each of them.
  • Brady threw seven deep passes of 20 yards or more Thursday, something we haven’t seen in awhile. However, he only completed one of those passes, a 38-yard reception for Thompkins.
  • Dobson has a 50 percent drop rate. Again, this is the receiver that had 0 drops in his senior year at Marshall.
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Tweet of the week

If you haven’t already, check out Matt Steller's (@MCSteller collection of Madden covers. He does a fantastic job. And I would suppose this tweet, sent along just before Thursday’s game, can serve as the Patriots’ player of the week award. Of course, Edelman finished with 13 receptions for 78 yards.

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Input this

Boston.com user "albern" writes on 5 takeaways from the Patriots-Jets game:

"Don't blame Ridley. By the 2nd quarter the NY Jets were already sneaking a safety closer to the line and by the end of the game, they simply stacked the box. Ridley had nowhere to run because the Jets didn't have to double cover anyone in the secondary. When your receivers stink you can do these types of things. When you can threaten the middle of the field or outside the hash marks, then you keep the defense honest. We couldn't do any of the above. Edelman is effective in short yardage and you hope for some YAC with him. The other receivers were so out of sync that you didn't need to do much game planning for them, they pretty much just shot themselves in the foot and did the defense a huge favor. Rex focused on taking away the run because the crappy receiving corp did the job for him. The Jets lost because they have a QB that makes bad decisions when pressed and our D was pretty good last night."
It was much easier for the Jets to bottle up the running game (54 yards total) with so many in the box. But there was a much deeper problem for the Patriots in the trenches. As pointed out by Pro Football Focus, the Patriots gained only 10 yards running to the left, generally a strength for the team. And Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon, as well as fullback James Develin, graded poorly in run blocking. These guys were losing one on one battles, which is troubling given the passing attack.

What’s to come

- On Monday, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard’s will have his probation hearing in Nebraska after being cited for driving under the influence.

- Also on Monday, Jerod Mayo will be hosting the fourth annual “Mayo Bowl,” a charity event at King’s Dedham at the Legacy Place in Dedham. The event will raise money for Boston Medical Center and Pitching in for Kids.

- On Tuesday, Patriots and Revolution players will be building a playground at a community center in Waltham.

- On Sunday Sept. 22, the Patriots host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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