The New England Patriots have a lot of new faces on offense. Yeah, that seems obvious to say when three of the team's top five receivers are rookies. But still, over the last week, we've focused so much on individual play at the receiver position, that we've at times overlooked the fact that the Patriots have a long ways to go in actually growing as a team.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network put this in perspective in a column he wrote yesterday:
During a sun-splashed practice last Saturday morning, anyone with a roster and a notebook could easily decipher the difference between where Brady's offense is and where it'll need to be when the team opens the regular season on Sept. 8. During one six-play sequence of 11-on-11 work, Brady had six different combinations of skill players around him, and 15 different guys working within those groupings. Earlier in the day, during a seven-play sequence in 7-on-7s, Brady worked with seven different combinations of skills guys, and 17 got first-team reps with the quarterback.
Still have that roster on hand? Good. You'll need it.
Here are the 17 Patriots players who cycled in and out of that seven-play sequence: Aaron Dobson, Daniel Fells, Danny Amendola, Jake Ballard, Stevan Ridley, Michael Hoomanawanui, Mike Jenkins, Brandon Bolden, Kenbrell Thompkins, Leon Washington, Brandon Ford, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Kamar Aiken, Zach Sudfeld and Lavelle Hawkins (who has since been released).
Breer goes on to outline the seven different personnel combination that the Patriots used on seven consecutive plays. It really goes to show that even as the Patriots begin to decipher which receivers will land where on the depth chart based on talent, they have a heck of a long way to go in determining how the pieces will fit together.