In the dynasty days of New England, wide receiver was not a chief concern. Due to the dominance of the defense and the fact that the offense was not as relied upon as the potent passing attacks we’ve come to know from the Pats. These days, however, it seems that finding a good stock of reliable pass catchers for Tom Brady is the one main issue to be found with the team. The first week of training camp has only brought more focus on that fact.
Heading into camp, optimism abounded for this receiving corps (as is the case for pretty much every position group on every team this time of year). Julian Edelman is coming off a career season, with over 100 catches and 1,000 yards in 2013. The Patriots also brought in Brandon LaFell, a promising young player from Carolina, to compete with last year’s big acquisition Danny Amendola. Then, there are the stable of second-year guys like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, who should be ready to make the leap and become solid contributors in 2014.
Apart from Edelman and LaFell, who have been making plenty of plays in camp this far, that optimism has been replaced with question marks.
Dobson, who had a screw put in his foot after he sustained an injury towards the end of last season, is on the PUP list. And as we wrote earlier this week, he may miss the first six weeks of the season. Thompkins had a nice start to his rookie season, most notably catching that winning touchdown pass against the Saints. He also got off to a good start at camp this year, but, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Thompkins has been “inconsistent the last few days,” dropping passes and not being on the same page at all with Brady. Another second-year receiver, Josh Boyce, has been absent as well due to injury.
While Edelman and LaFell can be fine starters this year, depth is everything in the NFL. As Patriots fans know all too well, the injury bug can strike at any time. If one of those guys goes down, it would be reassuring to know that there is at least somebody ready to step up, especially in this league of high powered passing games. Amendola and monster tight-end Rob Gronkowski are also great pass catchers when healthy, but both are prone to getting hurt and missing time. Hopefully these past couple days of camp have been an aberration, and the receiving corps will be filled with explosive talent come Week 1.
Follow Eric Pfalzgraf at @Eric_Pfalzgraf
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