It could be another long year for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ offense.
ESPN.com opened a can of worms this week when Sam Monson declared that Brady no longer is a top-five NFL quarterback. For Brady to prove he’s still “elite,” he’ll need some help from a group of wide receivers that has Patriots fans rightly concerned.
One of the second-year pros — Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins or Josh Boyce — must step up and earn the “X” receiver role this offseason. If they don’t, that starting job likely will be handed to the experienced but unspectacular Brandon LaFell, and much of the load once again will be shouldered by Julian Edelman.
Patriots fans have plenty to be excited about as the team is knee-deep in OTAs, so let’s jump into this week’s mailbag.
With all of his speed and sure hands, why isn’t Josh Boyce a bigger part of the offense?
–Tim O., Brookline, Mass.
There still is a chance that Boyce becomes a bigger part of the offense in 2014, but many elements kept him off the field as a rookie. A young receiver can have all the tools in the world, but if he doesn’t know the offense, he’s not going to play for the Patriots. Boyce received his opportunity once Dobson and Thompkins suffered injuries last season, but he dropped it — literally.
Boyce had four drops on 19 targets as a rookie, and to get on the field, he’ll need to pass Dobson, Thompkins, Edelman, LaFell or Danny Amendola on the depth chart, pick up the intricacies of the offense and work on being a more consistent pass-catcher.
@DougKyedNESN Could the Pats still get someone in via free agency to fill LB need? If so who’s the best available?
The two best fits still available at linebacker are Pat Angerer and James Anderson. Angerer, a former Indianapolis Colts starter, has been sidelined in recent seasons with foot and knee injuries. Anderson could be a solid nickel option, since his biggest strength with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers was his pass-coverage ability.
It would be surprising to see the Patriots stick with their current depth at the position as they head into training camp in July.
@DougKyedNESN do you think New England signs Keller or Finley? Or none?
How about both? It might sound greedy, but Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley are likely to sign one-year deals, given the uncertainty surrounding their injuries, and it’s not like the Patriots lack room for a couple more tight ends.
Signing both, while logical, might not be realistic. Keller is the better fit for the 2014 season.
What players were conspicuous by their absence (at OTAs)?
–Jim K., Kennebunk, Maine
I thought the strangest absence was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. He dealt with shoulder and ankle injuries in 2013, and he was allowed to leave jail during his 35-day stay in the Lancaster County Department of Corrections in Nebraska to rehab those ailments. The rest of the players who were recovering from injuries were limited at OTAs, however, and spent time in the practice bubble. Dennard was nowhere to be found.
It also was odd to see wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Matthew Slater and guard Logan Mankins missing. Perhaps they’ll take the field Thursday.
@DougKyedNESN Okay so Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Dobson, Thompkins, Boyce and Gallon. Take Slater into account, that’s too many. Who’s out?
Here’s my order from wide receiver most likely to make the team to least likely:
1. Julian Edelman
2. Aaron Dobson
3. Danny Amendola
4. Brandon LaFell
5. Kenbrell Thompkins
6. Josh Boyce
7. Jeremy Gallon
That obviously can and will change as the spring and summer turn to fall, however.
@DougKyedNESN Trial by combat. Choose your champion from the New England Patriots roster or coaching staff.
I think safety/special-teamer Nate Ebner could do some serious damage in a trial by combat. Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich would be near the top of the list, too. Chandler Jones would be tough to beat if he gets some tips from his brother, Jon “Bones” Jones, however.
@DougKyedNESN Do you think both Tavon Wilson and Jake Bequette make the team? Have to think this is a make or break camp…
It’s absolutely a make-or-break camp for both players. I think Wilson has a much better chance of making the team than Bequette, because he’s a more valuable special-teamer. I didn’t think Bequette would make the 2013 roster, but then he had a couple solid preseason games that pushed him onto the 53-man roster. Of course, the Patriots had to sign Andre Carter midway through the season to boost their depth at defensive end, and Bequette hardly saw the field for the second consecutive season.
Bequette is competing with veteran Will Smith and rookie Zach Moore for a roster spot this year, and Wilson will have to beat out Patrick Chung, Ebner and rookie Jemea Thomas.
@DougKyedNESN what would Edelman have to do on field to get Belichick to appear as guest on next #BurgerTyme ? Break Moss TD record by Nov?
It would take a Super Bowl victory at the very least. Edelman also might need to break every NFL receiving record.
Belichick’s more of a peanut butter and jelly kind of guy, anyway.