The theory that wide receivers are just interchangeable parts in the Patriots machine was blown out of the water Thursday night.
The Patriots escaped the Jets with a narrow 13-10 win, but Tom Brady went 19-of-39 for 185 yards with one touchdown and no picks. And his young, thin group of receivers was largely to blame.
Kenbrell Thompkins was bad in Week 1. Here’s what the Boston Globe had to say about his performance against the Bills last Sunday. “Thompkins was pretty awful in several areas, showing very little awareness. In addition to catching only 4 of 14 passes thrown his way, double-clutching his catches, and slipping and falling on multiple occasions, he twice wasn’t able to tap his foot down for a catch — once along the sideline, once in the back of the end zone.” Thompkins also ran the wrong route at the goal-line leading to a sack of Tom Brady.
I dredge up that performance because Thompkins was almost as bad against the Jets on Thursday night. He caught two passes for 47 yards on seven targets, dropped a few more catches and had a tough TD catch reversed on replay. Thompkins has now been targeted 21 times through two games and produced a 6/89/0 line. He's getting the opportunity we thought he would, but he hasn't been good enough to capitalize. He struggles to get off the line and to stay on his feet.
Aaron Dobson was even worse. Playing in all three-wide formations, he had at least three brutal drops and broke a red-zone route the wrong way. His 39-yard touchdown reception came on a trick play of sorts that saw him sneak out of a three-tackle formation untouched.
Brady was clearly frustrated, screaming at his wideouts in disgust both on the field and on the sideline. And all this leads us to the No. 1 Waiver Wire add this week, Julian Edelman.
As the only guy Brady could trust, Edelman predictably racked up 13 catches on 18 targets. He couldn’t find the end zone and his 78 yards were disappointing, but this kind of usage is here to stay. Even when Danny Amendola gets back, the Patriots will find a way to keep Edelman heavily involved – he’ll certainly play ahead of Dobson.
The Patriots play to their strengths. When they had two great tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), they ran two-tight end sets as their base. When they had had Randy Moss, they highlighted the deep ball. Now that their best receiver is Edelman, they’ll feature him.
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JETS at PATRIOTS QUICK SLANTS
Stevan Ridley was not in the doghouse at all. In the first half, he played 24 snaps compared to eight for LeGarrette Blount and seven for Leon Washington. Ridley will come around. … The Pats clearly don’t think Leon Washington can fill the Shane Vereen role. Washington played behind Blount, getting one carry and no catches on one target. … Geno Smith badly underthrew at least three balls, but stared down the barrel of the gun well and suffered from a ton of drops as well. He played far better than his final stats showed. … Bilal Powell plays on all third downs. So even though the Jets had the ball at the 1-yard line and Chris Ivory is the short-yardage back, Powell was in and got the plunge. … Powell is playing well enough to hold off Ivory. It’s an even timeshare for now. … After the game, Michael Irvin said Clyde Gates should be cut and Edward Scissorhands can catch better. For once, I agree with Irvin. ... Danny Amendola’s groin injury reportedly comes with a six-week recovery projection. The Patriots are hopeful he can beat that. Hence, a 2-6 week timetable has been set. … Rob Gronkowski (back) has a great chance to return and be a target monster in Week 3. ... Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) was inactive. He's droppable with Gronk nearly back.
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NEWS OF THE DAY #1
As a Jermichael Finley owner in a lot of leagues, I was genuinely scared when I read that he had to go to Minnesota earlier this week to get treatment on his toe. Considering Finley stayed in Sunday’s loss after Patrick Willis stepped on his heel and played well, the venture seemed extreme. Was the injury really that serious that the Packers doctors couldn’t handle it? Apparently not.
This is one of the reasons we can squeeze extra value out of players in contract years. Finley, highly motivated to stay healthy and have a big year, was surprisingly in full pads and back at practice Thursday. He’s intent on suiting up in a dream matchup against the Redskins at Lambeau on Sunday. For now, Finley is on track to be a TE1 in Week 2.
NEWS OF THE DAY #2
In the month leading up to Week 1, the Texans repeatedly insisted that they’d back off Arian Foster’s workload and use Ben Tate a lot more. It didn’t happen that way against the Chargers last Monday night. Foster got 24 touches on 55 snaps while Tate got just 11 touches on his 20 snaps. So it was just lip service and the Texans are going to ride Foster hard again, right?
Well, maybe not. This week, coach Gary Kubiak is at it again. He said he regrets not giving Tate more work and added that he wants the carry split to be “pretty close right now.” So what gives? Perhaps the coaches went back and evaluated the tape and found what everyone watching at home saw: Tate looks like a more explosive, fresher back right now.
When Foster was asked if he’s OK with losing carries to Tate, he said he “has to be.” Tate is certainly on the flex radar this week in a plus matchup against the Titans Sunday.
NEWS OF THE DAY #3
The Ahmad Bradshaw takeover is going to take longer than expected. Although offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said he eventually wants there to be a 50-50 split between Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, it’s nowhere near that right now.
Ballard is a reliable incumbent, was spectacular in pass protection in Week 1 and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Bradshaw is coming off another foot surgery, missed most of OTAs/minicamp and averaged 3.7 yards per carry in Week 1. He played just 15 snaps. I wouldn’t want to use either back in a tough matchup with the Dolphins Sunday.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS: QUARTERBACK AND RUNNING BACK
Jamaal Charles (quad) wouldn’t miss Sunday’s game against Dallas “for nothing.” He’s fine. … Daryl Richardson (foot) is also fine. He just took a rest day Wednesday. … Le’Veon Bell (foot) is almost certainly out through the Week 5 bye. … Shonn Greene (knee) missed his second straight practice. Jackie Battle could be Chris Johnson’s goal-line vulture vs. the Texans. … Da’Rel Scott’s knee is fine, but his role is in doubt. The Giants are sticking with David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs should get in passing-down work right away.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS: WIDE RECEIVER AND TIGHT END
Dez Bryant (foot) has surprisingly practiced in full in each of the last two days. He’s ready to rock. … Early in the week, Roddy White (ankle) tweeted that fantasy owners shouldn’t play him if he doesn’t practice. Well, Roddy hasn’t practiced this week yet. … Julio Jones (knee), on the other hand, did get back in practice. … Rob Housler (ankle) still hasn’t resumed practicing. He doesn’t appear close. … Dwayne Allen (hip) is not practicing. He’s shaping up as a game-time call and can’t be trusted as a TE2. … Marcedes Lewis (calf) is not expected to play Week 2.
DEPTH CHART QUICK SLANTS
Norv Turner said he wants at least 20 carries for Trent Richardson against the Ravens Sunday. It was nothing short of criminal that the Browns went away from T-Rich in Week 1. … Kendall Wright played on just 19-of-67 snaps Week 1. The Titans say he’ll me more involved going forward. We’ll see. … Both Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers say they want James Jones to get going. That zero-catch Week 1 was fluky. …. Anquan Boldin is expected to go toe-to-toe with the game’s best cover corner, Richard Sherman. Expect Boldin to come crashing back to earth following his 200-yard Niners debut. … Ryan Tannehill claims he won’t force the ball to whiner Mike Wallace this week, but sometimes the squeaky wheel gets greased. Especially when that wheel just signed a $60 million contract.