NEPD Staff Writer: Craig Cusson
As the Preseason has neared the halfway mark, there are still a handful of question marks regarding one key position. Who will Tom Brady most rely upon? Will the Patriots have enough offensive fire power to make it back to the promised land? After all, in order for Giselle to get upset about Tom “throwing and catching his own balls”, wide receiver establishment must be made.
Here is how it shakes out with two weeks left.
Lets start by recognizing the locks. Julian Edelman a one time college quarterback of Kent State has completely turned his career around from a mere fifth or sixth receiver option a couple of years to go to Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon in the passing game; let’s be honest this guy doesn’t get enough credit his hands are made of crazy glue and his route running is pristine. Danny Amendola with a huge contract and even bigger shoes to fill in Wes Welker he started off “Guns a blazin'” last season throughout camp and into week 1, until an injury gave him major setbacks the rest of the way through.
Amendola is again healthy and is again having a great camp; if he can beat his odds and stay healthy he is poised to have a great season in Josh McDaniels offense who loves to spread the ball around. Mathew Slater an emergency receiver rarely called upon for his catching ability , has a skill set unmatched in special teams he is also a roster lock.
With three spots taken, Next up a log-jam, Recently signed receiver Brandon Lafell, Second Year Receivers Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbell Thompkins, and free agent signing Brian Tyms all fighting for roster spots. Jeremy Gallon just cleared for practice will most likely end up on the practice squad baring a crazy next two weeks of production; which might land him on the practice squad if you catch my drift. Aaron Dobson the second round pick from a year ago and recently participating in practice from foot surgery seems like a near lock unless something bizarre happens, rarely is a second round pick that has produced cut in just less than two years, the investment is there and so are the numbers.
Dobson, had 37 catches for 519 yards his rookie campaign out-performing stars such as Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson, and Brandon Marshal in their rookie years and posting similar numbers to Dez Bryant.
A key addition this offseason the big bodied Brandon Lafell started camp extremely slow but has since caught a head of steam, so much as to Bill Belichick recently suggested that Lafell has recently carved a roll out in the Patriots offense and the roll could be a big one. I think this could suggest the possibility of being the Primary “X” receiver in the offense or at least splitting time at that position. His route running has improved drastically along with his knowledge of the offense.
Kenbrell Thompkins is another interesting receiver who most recently showed his big time play ability by snagging a back shoulder touchdown catch in the Patriots preseason game against the Eagles from Tom Brady continues to have a high ceiling. His spectacular grabs such as this most recent one and the catch everyone remembers to win the Saints game last year are human highlight reals; but his inconsistency at time shows. He is one that is going to have to figure out what receiver he ultimately wants to be; one who can potentially be great or one that shows up from time to time and eventually fizzles out. Thompkins also, had an above average rookie campaign.
Josh Boyce might be in need of the biggest surge the next two weeks. His up and down play continues; Boyce was almost invisible in the first preseason game, and his inconsistent play in the second a solid nice couple of grabs followed by a key drop and penalty make it a difficult decision come cut time. His special teams might factor in; does he field punts? or kickoffs? Do Belichick and company feel like his upside is greater than he is showing remains a huge question.
Finally, Brian Tyms In most peoples eyes signed on as an extra body to make it through camp and preseason grind nobody expected him to make the 53 man roster. Tyms is by far the offenses most surprising player of the preseason and maybe camp in general. He has displayed a great work ethic and a knack of making spectacular grabs in camp and in live game action. His asset is his 4.4 speed and his ability to create last minute separation and high point the ball before bringing it down. He has really made it hard on the coaching staff thus far to cut him outright. One could make an argument he should be starting along side Edelman and Amendola based on his production throughout camp.
The third and most telling preseason game is almost upon us and it will be interesting to see if Tyms Gets any playing time with the first unit. One thing that might be actually in his favor is his four game suspension to start the season due to adderall use. This might give the coaches a little more time to evaluate not only him but the roster in general and also gauge any injuries to the position leading up to it.
Will the Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick end up keeping eight wide receivers seems highly unlikely but one could argue that this is now the deepest position in camp. It is going to be very interesting to see this battle pursue and with a little over two weeks left, let the best men win! This should make Tom and Giselle both proud, after-all its true you “can’t throw it and catch it yourself.”