Sound the alarm. Put the lantern up in the Old North Church and alert the minutemen: the New England Patriots are in trouble. The season may as well be over. It’s classic New England pessimism. The Patriots stand at a perfect 2-0 but there are more questions than answers and Patriot nation is already calling for a complete overhaul of the roster. Well, I’ve got news for you: that’s not gonna happen. Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization have committed to youth on offense and their not likely willing to abandon that plan after only two games (victories, nonetheless).
The Patriots are dealing with some significant injuries early in the season. All-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is still not healthy and the unfortunate loss of Shane Vereen until week 11 is a stark reminder of his injury history. Only two weeks into the season, the injury-prone Danny Amendola is already missing time and some beat writers are quick to call the signing a mistake. With the news that Amendola is likely to miss a significant amount of time this season, Patriots fans are right to continue to wonder why the team was so willing to part with Brady bosom buddy and all-time franchise receptions leader Wes Welker.
The team could benefit from bringing in a veteran wide receiver, not necessarily for immediate production, but more to serve as a mentor for the young rookie receivers they’ve invested so much in. After the Patriots ugly win against the Jets on Thursday night, Sean O’Donnell at Bleacher Report listed some compelling free-agent options for New England to consider at wide receiver. The Patriots will not abandon the development of their young receivers, but it’s worth considering bringing in a veteran presence as a sounding board for the rookies. The receiver room is not exactly flush with veterans and the likes of Dobson, Thompkins and Boyce could use some a more experienced player to lean on and learn from.
The most improvement is needed from the Patriots veteran, Canton-bound quarterback, though. His performance on Thursday night was forgettable, not only in execution but also in the leadership he displayed (or lack thereof). While his young receivers did let him down on a number of plays, the reality is that Tom Brady was not as sharp as he needs to be, particularly given the inexperienced players he’s working with. It wasn’t just Brady’s play that was not up to par on Thursday, it was more his attitude. He is the leader of this team and on Thursday night he looked more like an annoyed know-it-all than a poised veteran. Brady’s demeanor was simply unacceptable on Thursday night and for his team to succeed like its fans hope it can, that is the single biggest area in need of improvement.
Brady seemed to lose his temper with all his receivers on Thursday night. Even his most consistent pass catcher, Julian Edelman, didn’t escape the quarterback’s ire. Perhaps nobody came under the scrutiny of the Patriots quarterback more than rookie Aaron Dobson, though. Dobson had an up and down game on Thursday, perhaps more down than up, that included a touchdown on his first NFL reception, but also four drops. Let’s not forget, however, that this was the rookie’s first appearance in a professional football game. He was targeted ten times in his NFL debut. That is unheard of for a player’s first NFL action and, perhaps, even a little unfair. Talk about being thrown into the fire on national television.
Things will get better for the Patriots receiving corps. There is too much talent and potential to think they won’t improve. The more NFL action these young receivers see, the more consistent they will get and as the team gets healthy, there will be less pressure on the young wideouts. Both the team and their fans need to be patient, though, and that goes for their all-pro quarterback, too. What the team needs from Tom Brady is better on-the-field leadership, more patience with his young receivers, and more poise overall. That is what the organization and the team’s fans expect from Brady and that is likely what he expects from himself. There is no doubt that Brady was upset with the performance of his offense on Thursday night, but he’s probably most upset with his own performance. He knows he can be a better leader and a better mentor for his young offensive weapons. It’s likely that we’ll see a different Tom Brady against Tampa Bay and that’s exactly what the team needs most to improve.