According to sources, the Patriots have signed former Seattle Seahawk Leon Washington to a 1 year deal. Washington holds the NFL record for kick return touchdowns with 8 in his career. I think this move is huge for the Pats, both offensively and for the Patriots special teams.
Starting offensively, the main guy that I think this affects is Danny Woodhead. Woodhead has been one of the most reliable guys to play for New England in the last decade. He is solid in pass protection, and always seems to come up with the biggest plays at the biggest times. However, he is really only a ‘change of pace’ back. He is not a guy that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game, his body is just not built for that. Woodhead relies mainly on quickness and speed to make plays on the field, very similar to how Washington makes plays. I really love Woodhead on the Pats, but I fear that with the addition of Washington, ‘Woody’ may be gone in 2013. However I think that Washington will be a very solid 3rd down back, and change of pace back for the Patriots in the future. In Washington’s career, he has 3,340 combined rushing and receiving yards, to go along with 26 total touchdowns (including kick return touchdowns). Washington is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL today, and I think Brady will really appreciate his services both on kick returns, and on offense.
It has been pretty obvious since Brandon Tate left the team, that the Patriots kick return game has been one of the worst in the league. I don’t think it has made a huge negative impact on the Pats, because when you have one of the best offenses in football, you can score no matter where you are on the football field. However with that being said, it would help tremendously if Brady and company were aided with a top notch return man like Washington. Special teams is a very underrated part of football. For instance in 2012 when the Pats squared off against the Jets in Foxborough, the kick return team made a huge impact on the game. In the first quarter the Jets had gone up 7-0, when they kicked off to the Pats. Devin McCourty then promptly took it back to the house for the touchdown. Now, up until this point the Patriots offense had been struggling mightily. But then, the drive after McCourty’s return, the Pats offense looked energized and went down immediately for a touchdown. The Patriots went on to win that game 29-26 in overtime, and McCourty’s touchdown proved to be the difference. The point in all of this is that special teams, and specifically the kick return game is a huge part of football, and a part that the Pats had struggled producing in over the last few seasons. Leon Washington will bring a new energy to that unit and hopefully provide some points, and better field position for Brady to put up even more points in 2013.