Reche Caldwell spent just one season with the Patriots, but he made it memorable: 61 catches for 760 yards and four touchdowns.
“The reason Caldwell was so successful as a Patriot was because he ‘got it,‘ ” former Patriots offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger explained. “He understood his role, quickly learned the playbook, earned Tom Brady’s trust by making plays, and completely embraced the Patriot way.
“There are certain players who epitomize the Do Your Job mentality of New England; Caldwell’s short stint is a shining example.”
Caldwell, who was killed in a shooting in Florida in June, had one of the best one-and-done seasons for the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. Who else is on that list? Here’s one writer’s take, with an assist from Ohrnberger and former linebacker Matt Chatham
A couple of ground rules:
- This is the Belichick Era, which means from 2000-19.
- Players like Martellus Bennett, Andre Carter, and Donte’ Stallworth aren’t included because they left and later returned, even it was just for a cup of coffee. This list pertains strictly to one-year players.
1. Darrelle Revis
The gold standard. His 2014 season was the best one-off year for any defender in franchise history.
“The first word that comes to mind with Darrelle is ‘control,‘ ” Chatham said. “He entered the league in 2007 as a teammate of mine in New York, and what immediately struck me about him was how effortlessly he made it look marking another guy running a route.
“He just had a knack, an instinct, an ability to feel and anticipate what the other guy was doing and react unusually quickly. There were rarely situations where he’d need to panic or rush to get back in phase on a route.
“And he brought that to New England in 2014 with one of his best seasons as a pro. He stopped in for one quick year, and did his job at such a high level that he earned a first-team All-Pro nod, as well as a ring, That’s the pinnacle of one-and-done play.”
2. Trent Brown
The big man. Steady and soft-spoken, Brown was rock-solid at left tackle for New England in 2018, and cashed in appropriately when it was all done, moving on to the Raiders.
“Brown’s character, injury history, and abilities were all in question prior to playing with the Patriots,” said Ohrnberger. “He played a single season with New England and then inked the richest contract an NFL offensive lineman ever signed.
“So … how does that happen? Two words: Dante Scarnecchia.
“If you’re coachable and talented, Scar will make you better. Scarnecchia has an incredible motivational capacity, especially with young, malleable talents. ‘Dante is a good coach’ is like saying ‘the Grand Canyon is a big hole.’ The statement falls short of the environmental magnitude.”
3. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson delivered a jolt of energy as a kick returner in 2018, bringing some production to a position that had been inconsistent for the Patriots for a long time. He also was an offensive chess piece, gaining some yardage in a part-time stint as a running back and wide receiver.
“In 2018, Patterson was used to his fullest potential,” Ohrnberger said. “When you describe a player as an athlete, or you describe a player as positionless, it oftentimes has a negative connotation. This was not the case with Cordarrelle Patterson as a Patriot.
“He was a perfect ‘gadget’ to a game-plan offense; he was a running back, he was a receiver, he was window dressing, he was a chameleon.”
4. Bryan Cox
The veteran linebacker was a tone-setter for the 2001 team. In Brady’s first career start against mighty Peyton Manning and the Colts, Cox delivered a hellacious hit on receiver Jerome Pathon that sparked the New England defense and jump-started that magical season. A leader in the locker room, he is an underrated but important part of this list.
“Bryan’s stop in Foxborough was all about bringing leadership, swagger, toughness, and confidence to our linebacker room,” Chatham said. “It’s not that it didn’t already have that, but Cox’s addition just took it to another level.
“I will never forget the toughness it took for him to keep taking the field with a broken foot during that championship run, set an excellent example. That sacrifice is something I remembered throughout my career whenever I had to figure out a way to play through an injury.
“There were a lot of huge personalities and egos on that defense, but it worked brilliantly. Bryan was the perfect addition to an already strong mix.”
5. Brandin Cooks
He posted terrific numbers in 2017 — 65 catches, 1,082 yards, 7 touchdowns — as part of an elite offense. But some occasional struggles and a head injury in Super Bowl LII pushed him down this list a tad.
“If Randy Moss taught us anything we didn’t already know about Brady during his successful Patriots tenure, it was that when paired with a receiver with true speed, the domination is veritably boundless,” Ohrnberger said.
“As a burner, Cooks assumed that long-sought deep-threat role — and shined. There have only been two receivers in Patriots history that have ever had more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season and averaged more yards per reception than Brandin Cooks (Terry Glenn in 1999 and Stanley Morgan in 1986).
“The Pats traded a first-rounder for Cooks; he was worth it.”