After five games and only nine catches for 136 yards with zero touchdowns it is not a surprise that Chad Ochocinco has taken a fair amount of criticism. After all, he is being paid $5.5 million this season, so one would expect more production from a player of his caliber and skill.
To his defense he was brought to the Patriots to be the number three wide receiver, and he has done that job better than any other number three wide receiver in Tom Brady’s career.
When you really take a step back at the Patriots offense it is evident that Ochocinco is doing his job, even if it isn’t showing up in the box score. The job of a number three receiver isn’t to catch eight balls for over 100 yards a game, so it isn’t fair to expect that kind of production. Their job is to be a solid third option in the passing game and be there when the quarterback needs them. Ochocinco is not the typical number three wide receiver in the league, and can do things that no other number three receiver can.
Although the image that sticks in fans minds with Ochocinco so far this season was his dropped pass on a sure 40-yard touchdown in Buffalo, Ochocinco really hasn’t dropped many passes. He hasn’t been afraid to go over the middle and allow the Patriots to move the chains.
He has been criticized for not knowing the offense. That should be expected, the Patriots offense is very complicated and he didn’t have very long to learn it at all, a few weeks. Effort is never an issue with Ochocinco, every practice and every game he gives everything he has. On NFL Networks Sounds FX Wednesday night, Vince Wilfork was seen talking to Ochocinco encouraging him, telling him, “you’re almost there.”
Despite only nine catches Ochocinco still plays a major role in the offense. Wes Welker is on pace for a record-breaking season — Ochocinco is part of that. His name gets the attention of the defense and opens space up for guys like Welker. Two of Welker’s touchdowns this season were “pick” plays, Ochocinco was the guy that allowed Welker to get free.
The middle of the field has been open a great deal this season allowing the tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to make big plays. Part of the reason is Ochocinco getting attention on the outside. Another example was this past week against the Jets. All-pro corner Darrelle Revis lined up opposite Ochocinco on a few plays. How often does one of the best corners in the game line up against a teams number three wide receiver? This is what makes Ochocinco since a vital part of the Patriots offense.
For all the critics of Ochocinco so far this season, take a step back. Would the Taylor Price’s and Brandon Tate of the world’s be able to the same thing that Ochocinco has done? Once Ochocinco is “there,” things will get even better and the offense that is already as good as it is will be even better.