Among the traits that the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick value, few are as important as adaptability: players need to be able to play multiple roles if need be, and adapt to whichever situation they might find themselves in. The wide receiver spot is a prime example for that, not just because of the multiple formations and option routes that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady like to run.
Being able to get open on a consistent basis and catching the football are obviously the most important skills a receiver needs to bring to the table to succeed not just in New England but the entire NFL. However, Belichick pointed out during a media conference call earlier this week that he and his staff are looking for more than that: run blocking is important, as is running good routes even when the football is not coming a player’s way.
“You can’t be a good receiver if you can’t [get open and catch the ball], but that’s 1-2, and then 2A is blocking and contributing in other ways besides getting open and catching the ball,” the future Hall of Famer said. “Not every play for the receiver is a ball that goes to him — so being able to have good route distribution so that you have good spacing so that somebody can get the ball whether it’s you or somebody else.”
“I think all good receivers know that when the running game is going, and part of that is the receiver’s blocking in the running game, that opens up opportunities in the passing game, so the more the defensive backs have to come up and fight through blocks and support the running game, then when you run play-action passes, that’s when you’re able to really separate the defense and create some big play opportunities,” continued Belichick.
New England, of course, has some of the best blocking receivers in all of football under contract. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman is a prime example for that as a player that has shown time and again that he is willing and able to attack defensive backs on run calls. Another Patriot that falls under this category is recently acquired Mohamed Sanu — something Belichick acknowledged when speaking about him earlier this week.
“I think that’s always been a strength of his going back to college,” said Belichick about the 30-year-old. “He’s a strong, physical kid and he’s got good playing strength and he’s tough. I think he’s always been willing to go in there and get his hands dirty, be a tough physical blocker. Julian does a good job of that, too. Those guys, it’s kind of an underrated thing for receivers but it really helps you when those guys do that and they do a good job of it.”
“It helps the receivers to [create big play opportunities],” added Belichick, whose team currently ranks just 28th among the NFL’s 32 teams in this category. “I don’t know if every receiver buys into it, but it really does help the receivers and help the passing game when receivers are complete players and do a good job blocking. Sanu and Edelman definitely fall into that category. Troy Brown... that’s what those guys do.”