FOXBORO, Mass. — This may be shocking, but the Internet contains some crazy theories.
If anyone were to spend too long scouring Facebook comments or message boards (or even listening to talk radio), they may think the Patriots are terrible, the twilight of Tom Brady‘s career is being wasted and Danny Amendola is missing time because he’s a wuss, not because he gets injured just like most other human beings would if put in his place (including Wes Welker, who tore his ACL in 2009, in case anyone forgot). Of course, the Patriots aren’t terrible (in fact, they’re 2-0), New England will be just fine in Brady’s last years and Amendola fights to get on the field as hard, or harder, than any other receiver, as proven by his performance in Week 1.
Below are some of the most common misconceptions about the Patriots — specifically the 2013 team. And because many are taken from the Internet, they’re written in all caps with more punctuation than necessary.
“PATRIOTS NEED TO SIGN DEION BRANCH OR RANDY MOSS THESE ROOKIES ARE TERRIBLE!!”
No. No no no no. No.
And here’s why: Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce have deficiencies that are fixable. Randy Moss, Deion Branch and Terrell Owens (yes, people have actually suggested the Patriots sign TO) don’t.
Those fixable errors in the rookies’ games won’t be solved unless they’re playing in real, live-action games. They won’t be fixed in practice.
The rookies looked great in the preseason because Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick scaled back the offense so opposing teams would not glean too much from games that don’t matter. Now that Tom Brady is ordering a non-vanilla offense, they’re having trouble.
Plenty of people complain that New England cannot develop young receivers. Those are typically the same people who complain that the team needs to sign a vet. Those people can’t have their vanilla cake and eat it too.
Branch knows the offense and has the trust of Brady, but he can’t suddenly attain more speed or separation ability. Thompkins, Boyce and Dobson can learn the offense, and they can get on the same page as Brady. It just takes practice and reps in the offense.
“KYLE ARRINGTON IS TERRIBLE. WHY DID THE PATRIOTS RE-SIGN HIM??!!!”
Because he’s good and, in fact, not terrible. And while we’re on the subject, neither is Devin McCourty.
Maybe this is a problem with all NFL fans, or maybe it just happens in New England. But here’s something many don’t seem to know: Playing defensive back is nearly impossible. Seriously. The fact that there are cornerbacks who allow less than 50 percent of completions targeted their way is a near miracle.
Arrington is one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. And if you think playing outside is tough, watch someone play the position without a sideline to help in coverage. The issue the Patriots faced when McCourty and Arrington were the starting cornerbacks was that they didn’t have safety help over the top. If McCourty the cornerback was able to play with McCourty the safety, he wouldn’t have had much of a problem. But because McCourty the safety is so good, McCourty the cornerback may not resurface.
Arrington has allowed just three receptions this season on nine targets for 37 yards. Those are some pretty special numbers, especially for a slot corner. He may be an even better tackler and run-stopper than he is in coverage, too.
“BILL BELICHICK CAN’T DRAFT!”
There are very smart people who think this because the team has had plenty of failures in the second and third rounds. Since 2008, when the team’s rebuild started by taking Jerod Mayo No. 10 overall, the team has cut the following first-, second- and third-round players: Terrence Wheatley, Shawn Crable, Kevin O’Connell, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Brandon Tate, Tyrone McKenzie, Jermaine Cunningham, Taylor Price and Ras-I Dowling. That doesn’t look great.
But the Patriots have had just as many successes in that same time span, including Mayo, Sebastian Vollmer, McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. And that’s just first-, second- and third-rounders. Marcus Cannon, Michael Buchanan, Alfonzo Dennard and Nate Ebner are starters or role players who were drafted in later rounds. The current rookie crop, with Buchanan, Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon already finding the field as role players, looks solid as well.
Belichick’s biggest strength is finding talent where no one else does. We see that in the undrafted players, who should be counted just as much as drafted players. Kyle Arrington, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Joe Vellano and Dane Fletcher were all essentially taken off the scrap heap as free agents or undrafted rookies.
And if you look at pretty much any other rival of the Patriots, they have just as many misses compared to how many picks they had. Do the names Sergio Kindle, Bruce Davis, Curtis Brown, Nate Irving, Darcel McBath, Richard Quinn, Clint Sintim, Ramses Barden, Marvin Austin, Jerrel Jernigan and Tim Tebow ring a bell? Probably not, except for that last one. All of those players were first-, second- or third-round picks taken by the Ravens, Steelers, Broncos and Giants since 2008. That’s just a sampling of those teams’ draft misses.
“THE PATRIOTS ALWAYS TRADE OUT OF THE FIRST ROUND!!!”
The Patriots haven’t used a first-round pick just three times since Belichick came to New England. And the first time? That first-rounder was sent to the Jets for Belichick.
So really, the 2013 draft was only the second time Belichick has traded completely out of the first round. The Patriots actually do most of their trading in the middle of the draft.
Many have complained that the Patriots need to stop trading down so they can acquire top-tier players in the first round. They’ve actually done a pretty good job of that. In the first round, New England has taken Richard Seymour, Daniel Graham, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Laurence Maroney, Brandon Meriweather, Mayo, McCourty, Solder, Jones and Hightower. That’s a pretty good track record, especially recently.
“WHY DON’T THE PATRIOTS TRADE RYAN MALLETT FOR A FIRST-ROUND PICK?!?!”
Unfortunately for the Patriots, it’s not that easy. It would probably be a lot easier if Mallett had better preseason performances with New England. But even if he had been better, the sad truth remains that typically teams want to draft their own guy.
The Patriots would be more likely to receive a similar offer to the one the Chargers got for Charlie Whitehurst. In that deal, the Seahawks traded a 2011 third-rounder and swapped second-round picks with the Chargers (Seattle got No. 60 and San Diego got No. 40). But even that may be unlikely. There has not been a ton of value in trading for backup quarterbacks recently.
Matt Schaub is really the only success story around right now. And even he is nowhere near an elite-level signal caller. Mallett has better upside than Whitehurst, but there’s no way a team will value him as a first-round pick, and it’s doubtful he would draw a second-rounder either at this point.