Five Throws: Revisiting the Role of Patriots Tight End Tim Wright

Tim Wright's role in New England's offense remains uncertain. But there are glimpses.

Tim Wright’s role in New England’s offense remains uncertain. But there are glimpses. (NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

On Aug. 26, the New England Patriots traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth-round pick and second-year tight end Tim Wright. The first three weeks of the regular season have since passed, and the addition of the converted Rutgers wide receiver has remained a subtle one.

It wasn’t expected to be. The manner in which Wright arrived and Mankins departed was far from it, but there was a belief that the 6’4”, 220-pound target would be able to add a different dynamic. There was a belief that, while not a blocker of the same caliber as Brandon LaFell, Wright would carve a purpose as an offline receiver in New England’s offense.

He still could.

Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns as an undrafted rookie in 2013, and his first transpired three games in against the Patriots last September. With the Patriots this September, though, Wright has caught just four passes for 35 yards.

The 24-year-old has been thrown to five times. He’s been in the game for a total of 34 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. And he’s been out of it for all but 13 snaps since the opener.

It was then, in the opener versus the Miami Dolphins, that Wright was in for 21 plays. On one of them, No. 81 appeared to show signs of the learning curve, heading in motion without being signaled to. But on three other snaps, he notched three receptions.

The initial one took place on a 1st-and-10 in the first quarter, when he aligned off the tackle for a drag route over the middle.

Wright cut behind Miami line and underneath the second level occupied by Dolphins linebackers Jason Trusnik and Koa Misi. And before their coverage could transition, quarterback Tom Brady found him at the mesh point.

The pass play gained eight yards before Dolphins swarmed. But it hinted at how the Patriots intended to utilize him that day. Wright was looked to again on another 1st-and-10 later on.

And with it, he assembled for a quick out that designed him into space down in the flat.

As the secondary drew off the nearest receiver, Julian Edelman, there was little space to be explored. Equally so, Wright ran with a wide angle and was unable to gain much traction before his cleats got taken out from underneath him.

The net was two yards.

But he was dispersed in a similar fashion during the final minutes of that game on a 3rd-and-2. At that juncture, Wright stepped in for a deeper out pattern opposite the off coverage of cornerback Jamar Taylor.

As Wright reached the top of his route and angled back towards the sideline, he manufactured enough separation to shield for the ball. He did, extending for the pass, picking up five and a first down in the process.

Even so, shedding defenders at the apex of routes proved more difficult for Wright in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots shifted to more run-heavy personnel sets with the likes of blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, sixth offensive lineman Cameron Fleming and fullback James Develin. And as a byproduct, Wright logged eight snaps versus Minnesota and was the intended recipient on only one of them.

It was the Patriots’ final offensive play of the game – a 4th-and-8.

Wright was prepped to run an out route with an inside release. As he broke off the line to do so, however, he encountered the jam of rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr.

He was re-routed. Stifled. And by the time Brady delivered the ball outside the numbers, he was still fighting to disengage from Barr inside the numbers.

With that, Wright’s second regular-season game in a Patriots uniform drew to a close. He would only return for five plays in his third game. Brady connected with him on one.

It wasn’t on a short drag route, a quick out or a first-down and out like his previous three catches. On a 1st-and-10 against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, it was a deep angle route that brought Wright to the football.

He was sent in motion from the right wing to the left seam, and veteran nickelback Carlos Rogers followed suit.

Yet as Rogers transferred his responsibilities to covering Kenbrell Thompkins, Wright ran unguarded up through the Oakland secondary.

Wright collected 20 yards before right cornerback Tarell Brown and safety Charles Woodson closed. And while only a glimpse, he was able to showcase the dynamic the Patriots were believed to be acquiring along with him.

That dynamic is still there. It’s about finding a way to put it to use.

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24 Responses to “Five Throws: Revisiting the Role of Patriots Tight End Tim Wright”

  1. Jack says:

    Wright has plenty of talent, but as has been pointed out plenty of times already the immediate and urgent situation is getting the O-line straightened out. At least they benched Devey and put stork in. Now all they have to do is pick up Incognito and they’re back in business.

  2. Kevan says:

    It would be nice if the pats could figure out the SS position as well. I don’t mind when Chung is in the box, it’s just when he’s gotta do other things, like cover, is when I start to worry. At this point if Harmon or Wilson was good enough they would have locked that job down by now. Serious thought needs to go into making Logan Ryan the SS. He makes plays, better in coverage than Chung. Pats would have effectively incorporated an all corner starting secondary. Arrington holds down the slot, browner/dennard compete for the 2 spot. Revis is the big dog, McCourtey taking care of business at FS. Meanwhile butler is soaking everything up like a sponge, waiting in the wings. Seriously logan Ryan needs to play SS.

    • MaineMan says:

      Seems to me that they’ve decided to go with a “Safety-by-Committee” approach, at least for now. And I like it.

      One of the keys to good overall coverage is good communication among the DBs on the field and the cohesiveness that produces. Rotating guys in and out throughout the game lends itself to getting everybody on the same page and seems better to me than having a guy who’s been collecting nothing but splinters for a few games come in cold to replace an injured starter. The committee approach means that the next man up can slide right in without the coverage missing a beat. Even McCourty endorsed this the other day for the improvement in communication and cohesiveness. He said they’re all working as a unit, instead of just competing with one another for playing time.

      The 4th and 5th DB rotation has included Ryan (sometimes playing a more safety-ish role), Arrington, Dennard (before his shoulder injury), Harmon, Wilson, Butler and Ebner (mostly in dime packages where he’s been very good). When Browner returns, I’d expect him to be eased back into the mix in a rotational role, but the additional body at perimeter CB may well free up Ryan to play more snaps as a safety.

      Chung has primarily been a 2-down guy, rotated out in obvious passing situations. Even so, his coverage on early down play-action passing has been much better than it was two years ago. He’s not biting on fakes nearly as much and has visibly improved his technique.

      • Kevan says:

        Good stuff Maine man. If it works it works and I do like the idea of all of them being a unit and what not. I’m just not convinced it’s gonna work against upper echelon teams with top tier qb’s. I would like to have a player that can do it all at the position. Logan Ryan seems like a good fit. Again though, I can dig a rotation and keepin the guy fresh, as long as it keeps working. When browner gets back I’d atleast give ryan a look.

        • MaineMan says:

          I am guessing that Ryan gets more snaps in a safety-ish role after Browner returns. But that also one of the positives of having “corners” and “safeties” continually rotating through in various roles – not only does it make them better players and increase unit cohesiveness, it can play havoc with QB reads, even for the better QBs. Ryan, Dennard, Arrington, Harmon – any of the guys, really – might be covering the slot on one play and then as one of three zone-safeties on the next, and then in man coverage on a perimeter receiver on the next play.

  3. Kevan says:

    WR position is defenitely stacked. I don’t know if it’s stacked the way you want but it is stacked never the less. Logjam for sure. Unless there is a dramatic improvement in Lafells play then that’s a bad sign. Amendola is currently overpaid. Pats can’t even get thompkins and Dobson on the field at the same time. Not counting tyms and Boyce. We did say in the offseason we would know more about the WR position. Pats will know who to keep who to let go and exactly what they need to pick up.

  4. Russell says:

    Look for the Patriots to trade CB- Alfonzo Dennard to the Bears for a draft pick. (2nd or 3d in the 2015 draft)

    • Dylan.C says:

      Is this just speculation? Seems like the pats would be getting a bit overly compensated but then again you can’t really find starting quality corners mid season.

    • steve earle says:

      I doubt that very much Russell. Dennard is a solid depth CB and looks to be part of the regular rotation at the position. History has shown injuries at CB have often in past seasons led to us losing playoff games. It would be foolish to make such a trade imo. If BB feels he must trim the position to accomidate the return of Browner I’d suggest Butler would be more likely traded. He’s young, has a high upside and less critical to the defense. True he would probably not bring the high round pick you assign to Dennard though I wonder if even Dennard would bring the level of choice you invision.

    • qwerty says:

      Sure they will trade him right before a few people in the secondary have season ending injury cancelling any real chance to win super bowl. Dumb Dumb Dumb. Next year Revis leaves and the secondary is in tatters. Talent and Depth is important. We really don’t know how well Browner fits.

    • MaineMan says:

      Trading Dennard would be pretty weird. After years of trying, they finally assemble a really good, really deep secondary – just to start dismantling it early in the season? IIRC, 3-4 years ago, the Rams started the season with a pretty good starting DB corps, but by the end of week-10, they had 8 DBs on IR, including 2-3 of their original 4 starters, plus their primary nickel guy.

      Anyway, absorbing Browner into the roster wouldn’t necessarily require them to shed a DB to make room. They could just as easily try to ship Devey or Kline to the PSQ, or release Wendell.

  5. James says:

    I would like to see him used more often, he has shown good hands and the ability to get open. Lafell needs benching or acting classes with all the penalties he’s committed, Amendolla doesn’t get seperation and will be gone in a year, Thompkins falls down on contact or before contact, and Dobson is injury prone. McDaniels should call Bill O’Brien and ask how to use two tight ends and be successful because his play calling stinks.

  6. steve earle says:

    I like the potential that Tim Wright brings but unless he gets a larger roll in the offense it’s hard to judge the real value he does or does not contribute. He has shown good hands good speed in his few appearences. With the poor play of the O-line a pass catching TE is probably an after thought at this point for the staff but still I for one would like to see him get a few more chances.

    • Kevan says:

      Yea I think this kid can come up big time later in the year. By the end of the year it will be gronk,wright,Vereen,Edelman, and someone else that represents the 5 best offensive weapons the pats can put on the field. In the red zone Lafell or Dobson could be the 5th guy to add size. In some situations it could be amendola to add quickness. And thompkins as the in between guy. Tyms would add size and Boyce could add speed. Either way there is a lot if work to do

      • steve earle says:

        Wouldn’t be surprised Kevan though I’m getting a little concerned about Dobson. Hoping he doesn’t prove to be injury prone. Glad you brought up Tyms, he has been largly out of sight out of mind but He looked to me to be a very viable prospect so I would hate to lose him via claim. Any thoughts about that?

        • MaineMan says:

          A couple things to remember about Dobson’s situation.

          – He didn’t even start participating in cutting drills until about five weeks ago during the joint practices with the Eagles. In terms of getting into game shape, that puts him maybe a couple months behind Gronk, who was at least running half-speed routes and catching passes during June mini-camp.
          – Dobson hasn’t been a great blocker and, while I’m certain he’s been working on that, given the current circumstances, it probably counts against him when the inactive list is being drawn up. He’s also never done much, if anything, on special teams. Thompkins does both – not necessarily perfectly, but he’s ahead of Dobson at this point. LaFell does both, too, and while folks are yelling about his boneheaded mistakes, they’re ignoring the numerous very good plays he’s quietly made as a blocker and special-teamer.
          – Dobson is the “new” deep threat. Gronk is the incumbent deep threat, or has been the team’s best deep threat since 2010. Since he’s ahead of Dobson in his own recovery and is a tremendous blocker, it makes sense (to me at least) for the Pats to push Gronk now and leave Dobson kinda on the back-burner for the moment.

          IOW, I don’t think Dobson’s been sitting because he’s dissatisfied anyone or because the coaches are, you know, stoopid. I think it’s because he’s just not quite far enough back yet and they have bigger fish to fry at the moment.

        • steve earle says:

          Agree MM but that’s what concerns me. When will he be up to speed and able to contribute? We see Gronk is being eased in which is fine and sure Dobson is still behind what we don’t know is how far behind.

        • Dylan.C says:

          Seems like putting him on PUP would have been better then no?

        • steve earle says:

          Possably Dylan and that could still happen. Given the depth we have at WR it probably would not hurt the offense much if at all. The rookie Tyms has the height and speed for the position if not the experance but if the o-line can’t give Tom the time to throw deep it’s of no matter anyway. Tim Wright as a receiving TE could well be of far greater praticle value in that scenario. Dobson could then have the time to fully heal for next season without the pressure to come back to soon. Time will tell, just have to wait and see.

        • Jack says:

          MM, do you think Gronk still represents a deep threat? He seems to have lost a step, hopefully only until he fully recovers – next year probably.

        • MaineMan says:

          REPLY to Jack:

          I think that Gronk and Dobson certainly have the most ~potential~ out of all the pass-catchers on the roster to be regular deep threats. Dobson because of his size/speed combo, and Gronk because he’s effectively been that guy since Moss left. Gronk’s had the highest YPC among Brady’s regular passing targets for the past three seasons. I mean, there are guys who’ve had higher YPCs, but only catching 6-12 or so passes on the season (e.g., Slater’s YPC is 46 yards – from his ONE catch ever).

          I don’t think that Gronk’s quite there yet this season, but he’s gradually getting closer. And, like I said, he’s a couple months ahead of Dobson on the recovery curve and Gronk has a lot more experience with Brady and the offense, AND he adds a blocking element that no other passing target can come close to matching. So, it makes sense to me that they’re working him in over Dobson for now, even though Gronk is clearly not 100% yet.

          If everything goes fairly well, both Gronk and Dobson could be pretty close to 100% by week-9. Just in time for Denver. Buuwaahhahah!

        • MaineMan says:

          REPLY to steve earle:

          We could see Dobson start working into the rotation more at almost any time – maybe as soon as Monday, but also maybe not for another week or two. Even then, I think it’s possible he might have a limited Meachem-like role for this season – only 20-30 catches at about a 50% catch rate, but at a YPC between 16 and 20, and with 3-5 TDs. Kinda depends on how quickly he diversifies his route-portfolio. If he shows more physicality/competitiveness on crosses through heavy traffic, he’ll get more targets than he would as primarily a situational deep threat.

    • MaineMan says:

      Seems to me that Wright relatively light usage so far has been a function of two things:

      1) The OL situation has increased the need to field better blockers. Amendola, Edelman, Thompkins and LaFell (in addition to Gronk, Develin and Hooman) have been much stronger and more effective than Wright or Dobson.
      2) He’s only been in the playbook for a month now.

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