After many years of hoping to draft the next great (or at least good) WR since Branch and Givens, the Patriots may have struck gold with Dobson and Boyce (and even Thompkins, but he is an UDFA). Before this year's draft, there was many that were doubtful that drafting a WR wasn't very wise, and instead we would have been better off trying to get WRs through free agency because we could get guys that are more proven. However, with the Patriots spending habits and their system, even free agent WRs haven't been very successful (Ochocinco, Galloway, other no name and old WRs).
So what the heck is the issue here? Why haven't the Patriots, until seemingly now, been able to get new weapons for Brady? First, I feel that it is important to lay out what I believe makes a WR successful, at the very least in this offense.
1) Route Running
3) Body Control
In my eyes, if you have these three skill sets, you should be fine in the NFL. You would be reliable with catching, getting open (which you can certainly do with very good route running), and you can contest for the tough catches with body control. It's he bare minimum for me, and anything else is gravy that adds even more to an already good WR.
Brandon Lloyd is a prime example of this. On the wrong side of 30, he is slow, but he was pretty effective in our offense, at least comparing to what we have dealt with other than Moss and Welker (and Branch to an extent). Lloyd is a GREAT route runner with GREAT body control. And he had good hands too, making plenty circus sideline catches for us. He doesn't have anything else, but with these skill sets, he is still in the NFL, and has had a long career. I wasn't surprised he could be effective here, because f these three things, ESPECIALLy route running. Stallworth was a decent route runner, and he did decent here. But at least he had speed and is able to go over the middle.
Which leads up to my prime reason why WRs we drafted (and perhaps brought in) haven't been successful here. Our offense runs a complicated route tree, with option routes depending on coverages. Why do you think small, quick guys happen to do well here normally (Branch, Welker, Edelman, Givens, etc.)? It's because quick guys, which includes slot WRs as well as guys on the outside, typically get better at route running faster, making better cuts and quicker decisions.
Chad Jackson, Tate, Price are the three names that have failed here, as well as anywhere else, at WR (Side note, I liked Price, and he seemed to be doing well but he was hampered by injuries... and I liked Tate, but he never developed his route running, and is the main player who helped give me the thought that route running may be important here).
What do all 3 of those guys have in common? Raw route running skills (and perhaps among other things). what does Dobson and Boyce have? Good route running skills, according to scouting reports. I find roue running to be the main culprit here, as you need to know what route to go to in the option route offense, and to actually PERFORM the route effectively to get open for Brady to find you. Price did this pretty well, as I thought he was learning rather quickly (damn injnuries...), but Tate and Jackson couldn't do it for the life of them, and neither ould any other free agent Wrs we brought in before.
Chad Ochocinco couldn't do it because in Cinci he runs in an offense where they don't use timing route like the Pats. In cinci, he just had to use his athleticism to get open, but that doesn't work here, You need to run proper routes with proper timing, and it's a big reason Ocho couldn't perform here. He even had to be pointed out numerous times where he was supposed to be pre-snap, and post-snap.
Reason why I think Dobson will succeed here is because he has those three things I look for in a successful WR:Route running, hands, and body control. I think Boyce MAy succeed here because he has the routes (most important imo), but his hands need to get better (heard he has been dropping the ball in camp, but not often But he has good hands anyways), and body control (which he may have, but I think he relies on speed too much, which is fine really).
Thompkins though, is being praised with his precise routes, and he is going up and getting the ball too, so this can indicate that his hands are good at least, and he should have real good body control.
And look, both Dobson and Thompkins are being successful here. And it's no surprise that Amendola is having success to (great route running, great hands, great body control). I think if the Pats draft guys or bring guys in who are solid route runners, this offense will be more effective here. The only thing that stops our new guys is inconsistency in catching (which I hope will not be the case) and injuries (which I hope never happens!).
I think we have found what Patriot fans have been looking for for a while now. New targets for Brady that will be effective. And so far, things are looking up, and if my theory is true, I hope the Patriots staff will look more into the importance of route running when drafting WRs, or bringing them in as free agents.