The New England Patriots are 3-0 after beating down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 to 3 on Sunday. Once again, the Pats defense showed up for 60 minutes, while the offense took a step in the right direction.
Rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were thrown into starting roles last Thursday against the New York Jets. It was clear that move came well before they were ready for the task. Unfortunately for New England, there wasn’t much of a choice due to injuries and offseason moves. Against the Jets, both WR’s had their fair share of mistakes and dropped passes. Things looked a little brighter against the Bucs.
Thompkins and Dobson combined for 10 catches on 17 targets against Tampa Bay, compared to just 5 catches on 17
targets in week 2. That stat tells me one thing: they are starting to get where they should be, where Brady expects them to be.
Brandon Bolden had a great game in his first week of NFL action since last season, gaining 51 yards on just 3 carries and adding 49 yards on 5 receptions (6 targets). I’m very happy to see Bolden back. That’s just one more playmaker on an offense that finds a weekly hero.
The Patriots offense should come together step by step this season. Rob Gronkowski has a good chance to return to action this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, which would be enormous for Brady and company. Gronk is a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. With Rob on the field, defenses will have a lot more to pay attention to when Brady drops back to pass.
Zach Sudfeld has amassed a whopping zero catches on 3 targets this season (that’s total for all 3 games). Hoomanawanui has just 3 catches. Even with Gronk being injured, if you would have said a month ago that the Pats would have 3 total completions to tight ends after 3 games, I would have laughed at you. Sadly, that’s the reality we face. Gronkowski’s influence on this offense cannot be measured.
Danny Amendola won’t be far behind Gronkowski’s recovery. He could potentially play against the Falcons this weekend, but I expect the Patriots to keep him sidelined at least another week.
This offense will thrive with Gronk and Amendola on the field together. Few teams have the personnel to match up with the speed and quickness of Amendola, while covering the size and strength that is Rob Gronkowski. By the way, Amendola finished week 1 with a torn adductor longus tendon and still managed several key catches after the injury; the man is tougher than advertised.
Once the Pats have their two top pass-catchers back, the next key addition to this offense is Shane Vereen. He cannot return to action until week 11, but that may work out in the Patriots favor. Obviously you would rather have your top players healthy all year, but it’s much more important to have them healthy for the playoffs versus the beginning of the season.
When Vereen returns to action, New England will be tough to beat. The Pats will have the best TE in the NFL, a consistent and reliable WR in Amendola, and their most versatile offensive threat in Vereen. Oh and I almost forgot, this guy named Tom Brady orchestrating everything on offense.