When the Patriots season ended last year, it was another painful end to a season filled with the hopes of winning the fourth Lombardi Trophy in team history. For a team with a regular season record of 39-9 from 2010-2012, it didn’t seem right that all this winning occurred without a championship to show for it. The Patriots had some success in the playoffs, but in the end, they weren’t properly equipped to get the job done. It was time for some self-scouting and to accept the obvious- they weren’t fast or athletic enough on offense, especially at wide receiver. Something had to be done in the offseason.
The Patriots started the process at the receiver position, and to Patriots fans chagrin, the decision was made to replace Wes Welker. Yes, he is a good player, but does he demand double teams and can he battle for a ball with a defensive back? Absolutely not, and because he is showing signs of age-12.5 drop percentage in 2012- it forced the Patriots to make a tough decision. Bob Kraft said they would have taken him back, but is there any guarantee he wasn’t going to get phased out like he was in the beginning of 2012? The writing was on the wall, and now Welker catches passes from Peyton Manning.
Danny Amendola makes the receiving core more dynamic, although he has issues staying healthy. Amendola has been productive, he’s two inches taller than Welker, and he has also has very long arms, which helps his catch radius. They traded for LeGarrette Blount to share the bulk of the carries with Steven Ridley as the Patriots will commit to a true 50-50 offensive balance in 2013. Shane Vereen, when healthy, has proven to be a good receiver out of the backfield and has provided some relief after the loss of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman has also done a great job of relieving the pressure of losing Welker, and he is on pace to have better receiving statistics for the season, which is no small feat.
The Patriots drafted for speed and athleticism. Offensively, drafting Aaron Dobson in the second round gives Tom Brady a 6’3″ wide receiver with speed, something he hasn’t had since Randy Moss. Dobson will look to replace the production Brandon Lloyd provided in 2012. The Patriots also selected Josh Boyce, a 5’11”, 210 pound wide receiver out of TCU in the fourth round. Boyce run’s a sub 4.5 forty and can play in the slot and outside. New England also struck gold with rookie free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, a player who had a checkered history but always had the talent to play at a high level.
Fans were worried that the Patriots didn’t have a plan, but they did, and it revolved around speed and power to compete with the Ravens, 49ers, Seahawks, and other athletic, talented teams. Most trail the Patriots when it comes to roster strength and identifying areas of weakness, but athletically, work had to be done to catch up to Super Bowl level rosters. Patriots’ fans, be confident that Bill Belichick and company have finally found the players to inject athleticism and speed to push them over the top.