This is a half pump up post, and a half serious one. The WR group this offseason has been one of, if not the biggest, storyline in regards to training camp and possible roster for the season. However, I think we should probably be a little more optimistic about this group than we are now.
Last year, our WR corps consisted of Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. Wes Welker is arguably the biggest lost to the WR core, but other than him, have we really lost anything? I can only look at the talent first, so let's start there.
Brandon Lloyd is a great route runner and has very good body control and decent hands. he has the three main things for a WR to at least be able to perform above average in the NFL. But lets compare that with a WR we just drafted: Aaron Dobson. Dobson has good route running, but not as good as Lloyd's (Dobson needs to refine his slant routes). But when it comes to body control, they are about equal, and with hands Dobson wins with no contest. Talent wise, in combination with his size and good speed, make Dobson not only a much bigger target for Brady (and when you have body control and hands, consistency will follow along smoothly), but Dobson can actually go deep which Lloyd has struggled with. Another thing that Dobson has over lloyd is his redzone presence, and the potential with Dobson is massive compared to Lloyd's. Plus it helps that Dobson does have the ability to get some YAC, which Lloyd is worse than poor at.
When it comes to Lloyd, I think we will be able to fill that "loss" of him no problem. But what about Welker?
Welker is arguably the most consistent WR in the Patriots era. There really is no other slot WR that is as dominant as he is. So what do we currently have now?
First we have to look at the position of the slot WR. Is it easier to fill that position in? The slot WR plays off the LOS. He would have to be quick, with solid route running and be able to take a hit. Really... the taking a hit part is where I think we will be missing here. If you think about it, when a WR goes over the middle, the chances of getting hit pretty darn hard are a lot higher than most other areas when it comes to receiving. This can have concentration issues, but Welker didn't have that because he was fearless. Is Amendola that guy?
Amendola was said to be a warrior with the Rams, putting life and limb on the line. You can even see this on youtube, where he goes for as much yards as possible, even if a big LB is fast approaching him, or a safety charging at him. When it comes to route running, we know Amendola has that down to a T. Hands? Pretty darn good. Stats? Hell, what were Welker's stats before he got here? He did really well in limited time, but he was able to thrive in the Pats offense in 07 because the Pats knew how to use WRs just like Welker. Think of Branch, and Edelman. These small WRs who have slot WR skill set thrive in the Pats offense, and I believe Amendola could too.
But I think Amendola will be more of an impact player than we realize. He is a slot WR, but he could move to the outside. He is super quick, and has speed in his repertoire. And then we have Edelman and hopefully Boyce that can fill in the slot as well. And guess what? When it comes to talent, both have a lot of it, and can be really good slot WRs in this offense.
And another thing, Welker is limited to only the middle of the field. Lloyd is limited to the middle and somewhat deep middle (but hardly makes catches deep anyways). What does our WR core consist of? Guys who can go deep (Dobson, Boyce, Edelman) as well as guys who can go over the middle and short (Boyce, Edelman, Amendola, Dobson). I'm only talking about WRs here, but Vereen should get a mention here too (the ultimate weapon of mass deception...).
But the biggest question of all is chemistry. That is the main argument for every Pats fan here. I'm going to take the argument that chemistry will likely not be an issue. I mean... the only player you can say that chemistry was a big issue was Chad Ochocinco. Well... actually the big beef with him was that he had a hard time grasping the offense (Branch had to tell him where to line up in camp last year..... hah!).
Chad Jackson? I can't remember if chemistry was the issue or not here, or just a lack of actually doing something with the team. Wasn't he injured too?
Tate? Injured and mis-used on offense. Having him go deep a lot, when he is more like a Santonio Holmes player who is a middle of the field player.
Price? Injured a lot. Not much of a chance to make an impact.
And to top it off, none of these guys have ever done anything since leaving the Pats (other than Tate who has become a good returner). Was it chemistry with Brady that was the issue, or perhaps it was something else?
If it was something else, what can it be? I think it was route running and hands, but mostly route running. two of three important things that I highly value. The three WRs we drafted that were busts above? NONE had good route running skills. All of them were raw, with a lot of talent. Route running is arguably THE most important part of success with the playbook on the Pats in being at the right place where you need to be. If you are not there, Brady will go to someone else, but if you get open to where you need to be more often than not, Brady will find you the ball.
Dobson and Amendola and I think Jenkins have said to have good route running skills (Amendola really good). It's one of the reasons why i am real high on Dobson here. He is the first WR we drafted who has good route running skills (he knows how to use his body and run routes deep to get open. Just tends to round out his slants...). The rest I am not sure of... Edelman at least has shown good route running skills in this offense. And it really is no secret here. Moss, Welker, Branch, Lloyd, hell I'll throw in Herndo and Gronk. All had success in this offense because they are really good route runners, and could get open. If you can run routes well, and have the skill set to get open, you should have success here.
My whole mindset is that if you display good route running skills, and have the talent to get open, you will have success in this offense. Other than Dobson, Amendola, and Jenkins, our new additions at the WR core has talent and ability to get open, but route running is something they need to develop more to get a hang of the offense and where they need to be.
Talent wise, we have a much better WR core than last year. We should be able to fill in for Lloyd no problem in my opinion. Welker's we should be able to manage fine. With these in mind, we field a team that can attack in all areas of the field, and can take a catch and get some sweet YAC. As long as you can get open, I think Brady is accurate enough, and has enough vision, to find you and get you the ball. I think we are in for an exciting year as the Pats look to prove the doubters wrong once again. If you are weak in the middle, the Pats can exploit that. If you are weak deep, Pats can exploit that. Outside? Short? With this group, anything is possible.
And here's some highlights to take a look at. :P
julian edelman 2012 highlights (via jay mellin)
Danny Amendola - Power (HD) (via SportsEditsHD)
Michael Jenkins - GameTime (via GameTimeGridiron)
Ultimate Aaron Dobson Highlights (NFL Draft 2013 - 59th Pick // New England Patriots) (via TheVikingsworld2011)
Josh Boyce Highlights (New England Patriots) (via JMissCelts2034536)
Kenbrell Thompkins...Sophomore Year #1!!! (via Numba1FanKUS)
Talent is here. Can only hope it shows on the field.