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Patriots Need to Make Up Their Mind on Offense

In contrast to the offensive line, the coaching staff needs to make up its mind with the offensive weapons.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, this is in direct contrast to the previous post about the offensive line. Something has to change on the line.

When it comes to the rest of the offense, the coaches need to make up their mind.

Through three games, Julian Edelman is the current target leader with 28, followed by Rob Gronkowski and his 23 (even though he's only playing 50% of the snaps). While some might dispute the notion that Tom Brady is honing in on these two receivers, they're definitely the first couple of reads when they're on the field.

It's for good reason. They're great players who can generate separation and they deserve to be on the field.

When it comes to the others on offense, there's little separation.

Kenbrell Thompkins has 11 targets, 6 receptions, and 53 yards. Brady clearly likes him and he has a nice inside slant route, although he's probably the most limited of the receivers from a physical standpoint.

Danny Amendola has 7 targets, 3 receptions, and 16 yards, although he also leads the team with 60 receiving yards called by due to penalties on offense. He's the slot receiver when he takes the field, but he just doesn't get the opportunities.

Brandon LaFell has 14 targets, 4 receptions, and 46 yards after this game. He's a great blocker, which gets him on the field, and he's definitely more of a perceived target than Amendola.

Aaron Dobson, last year's second round pick, has been a scratch two of the first three games.

Tim Wright was recently acquired and is still adjusting, but he has shown well in his chances.

All of these players have seen varying amounts of time on the field and none of them have built enough of a rapport with Brady where they can be considered "go to targets."

That needs to change.

Dobson as a healthy scratch is a stunner as he's supposed to be the future at the receiver position. He's the best outside threat on the team and he's a top pick. He needs snaps more than anything at this point and the only real justification for sitting him is if the team determined that his skill set wasn't fit for the offensive plan- that his main threat as a receiver (as a deeper target) doesn't align with the current Patriots playbook, which consists of getting the ball out of Brady's hands as soon as possible because he doesn't have any time in the pocket.

Thompkins received one target on the day, which makes it hard to believe that the Patriots didn't want Dobson to get that one chance. Or it doesn't answer the question why was Thompkins benched last week if he was playing this week? It varies based on the game plan, except there doesn't seem to be a plan at all.

LaFell is on special teams so he'll always be on the roster, while Amendola is the primary slot receiver since Edelman moves outside. They should both be on the roster and once the penalties level out they'll both be considered valuable parts on the offense. Wright is still learning the playbook.

Beyond Edelman and Gronk, it seems as if the receivers on the roster aren't considered more than third or fourth targets on the team, with all players interchangeable. As positive as it is to have players for certain scenarios, the rotation of skill players is preventing any of them from building a rhythm with Brady.

The best receivers would be Dobson at the X, LaFell at the Z, Edelman in the slot, and Gronkowski at tight end. Thompkins can play when they need size, while Amendola can play when they need more movement. But neither of these players should be considered primary; Dobson is a better target than Thompkins, while Edelman's emergence over the past season has pushed Amendola out of focus.

The primary offense needs to settle down.

The running game is a little more easy to determine; let Stevan Ridley run the ball on rushing downs. Let Shane Vereen play third downs and the hurry-up offense. Over the past two seasons, Brandon Bolden ranks lowest on the team with nearly 40% of his runs going for two or fewer yards (comparison: Vereen 24.5%, Ridley 26.0%). While Bolden may have the most versatile of all the running back skill sets, he's just not a viable option and often stunts drives.

This all may be a case of Josh McDaniels out-thinking himself at coordinator. Just like how the answer on defense was to keep the playbook and lineups simple, the same should apply on offense. There are clear-cut players who should be on the field. Let them play and let them develop a relationship with Brady.