New England Patriots Digest: Bold predictions, best receiver tandems


How many touchdowns will Brady throw for in 2017? Which are the best Patriots receiving duos? Find out in this week’s Patriots Digest.

Expectations are high as the New England Patriots’ season slowly approaches. In this week’s Patriots Digest, we make some bold predictions for the team’s high-powered offense and underrated defense. In honor of New England’s star-studded group of receivers, we rank the best receiver tandems of the Brady-Belichick era.

With training camp only two weeks away, excitement is starting to build. Check back every weekend for your weekly update on all things Patriots.

5 Rings, 5 Things

Five things you need to know.

  • On Wednesday, the New England Patriots were awarded the ESPY Award for ‘Best Game‘ for their Super Bowl LI victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman took a gentle jab at ESPYS host and former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning during Wednesday’s award show. NESN’s Joshua Schrock has the scoop.
  • Find out who’s in and who’s out in Musket Fire’s latest ‘Patriots Pre-Camp 53-Man Roster Projection‘.
  • How coachable is Tom Brady? The crew from CSNNE discusses the difficulty of coaching Brady following some comments from Texans head coach and former Patriots offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien.
  • Pats Pulpit’s Brian Phillips ranks the cornerback groups the Patriots will match up with this season.

Bold Predictions

Big stat projections for New England in 2017.

A wide receiver and tight end will post over 1,000 yards, and a running back will have over 500 receiving yards.

If it weren’t for Rob Gronkowski’s season-ending back injury, there’s a good chance the Patriots would’ve reached this goal in 2016. Julian Edelman tallied 1,106 yards and Gronkowski was on pace to finish the year with 1,080. Additionally, James White collected 551 receiving yards on 60 receptions.

Plus, two more wide receivers will have over 500 yards.

Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell finished their first seasons in New England with over a thousand combined receiving yards. Add Edelman and Brandin Cooks to the mix and it’s not hard to imagine three wide receivers racking up 500 yards this fall.

Trey Flowers will have his first 10-sack season.

Following a quiet rookie campaign, Trey Flowers broke out as a sophomore posting seven sacks in 2016. With veterans Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long departing in free agency, Flowers will have more opportunities to terrorize quarterbacks this season.

Three members of New England’s secondary will be invited to the Pro Bowl.

Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have already been considered potential Patriot Pro Bowlers but they’re not alone. Devin McCourty has been voted to the event twice before and could make a case for the third invite in 2017. With Julio Jones and Mike Evans on New England’s schedule, McCourty will be a crucial final line of defense against opponents’ top wideouts.

Tom Brady will throw 40 or more touchdown passes.

The last time Tom Brady threw anywhere close to 40 touchdowns was in 2015 with 36. That season, Edelman, Gronk, and Danny Amendola all missed time due to injury. With a loaded group of receivers featuring new weapons Brandin Cooks and Dwayne Allen, Brady will have his best chance at summiting 40 touchdowns for the first time since 2007.

More from Musket Fire

Brady & Belichick’s best receiver duos

Ranking the best receiver tandems of the Brady-Belichick era

  1. 2007: Randy Moss & Wes Welker
    The duo that combined for 31 of Brady’s record-setting 50 touchdown passes in 2007 earns the top spot on this list. Randy Moss posted 23 touchdowns and 1,493 yards in 2007, breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season touchdown record and finishing second in the league in receiving yards. Welker tied for first in receptions with 112 and his 1,175 receiving yards were the eleventh most that season. The two receivers helped Brady earn his first MVP award and were major contributors to the Patriots’ 16-0 2007 regular season.
  2. 2011: Wes Welker & Rob Gronkowski
    In 2011, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski were among the top 10 in receptions, receiving touchdowns, receiving yards, and receiving yards per game. Welker collected 1,569 receiving yards and nine touchdowns while Gronk hauled in 17 scores and 1,327 yards in his second season. With Welker and Gronk as his top targets, Brady reached his career-high 5,372 passing yards along with his fifth Super Bowl appearance.
  3. 2014: Rob Gronkowski & Julian Edelman
    Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman finished the 2014 season with 2,096 combined receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Gronk led all tight ends with 1,124 yards and tied Antonio Gates with 12 touchdown grabs. Although Brandon LaFell posted more touchdowns, Edelman led New England’s wide receivers with 92 catches and 972 yards. In Super Bowl XLIX, the two receivers combined for 177 yards and a touchdown each.
  4. 2012: Wes Welker & Brandon Lloyd
    Tom Brady finished the 2012 season with 4,802 passing yards, the second highest single-season total of his career. Welker also posted his second-highest yardage total in 2012, collecting 1,354 yards and six touchdowns. Brady’s second most targeted receiver was former Bronco, Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd racked up 911 yards and four touchdowns in one year with the Patriots. Following the 2012 season, Welker hit free agency and was signed by the Denver Broncos, marking the end of his era in New England.
  5. 2001: Troy Brown & David Patten
    Where would Tom Brady be if it weren’t for Troy Brown and David Patten? Before Deion Branch, before Moss and Welker, before Edelman and Gronk, there was trusty Troy Brown. The 5-foot-10 ultra-versatile receiver continues to serve as the mold for Patriots wide receivers. In 2001, Brown hauled in 101 grabs for 1,199 yards and five touchdowns. He finished the season with 1,716 all-purpose yards and two punt return touchdowns. David Patten tallied 749 receiving yards, four touchdown catches, and one rushing touchdown in 2001. In Super Bowl 36, Patten caught Brady’s first career Super Bowl touchdown.

Player of the Day: LB Jonathan Freeny #55

There are 55 days until the Patriots Week 1 matchup versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jonathan Freeny is set to start his third training camp with New England. Coming off a season lost to injury, the six-year veteran enters the summer on the Patriots’ roster bubble. Although he’ll need to battle for his job in camp, there are still factors that suggest Freeny will make the Patriots roster in 2017.

Freeny played over 50% of New England’s defensive snaps in two of his five games last season. In 2015, he played over half of the team’s defensive snaps in five games, two of which he played over 90%. This serves as an indication of Freeny’s knowledge of New England’s system. While second-year linebacker Elandon Roberts and rookie Harvey Langi have more upside, in the case of an injury, Freeny provides more experience and leadership ability as a replacement.

Next: Catch up on last week's edition of Patriots Digest

Bill Belichick didn’t refrain from praising the 28-year-old linebacker during the 2015 season. In a conference call with reporters, NESN’s Zack Cox quotes New England’s head coach saying:

"“Jonathan is a very dependable player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Saturday in a conference call with reporters. “He’s able to (play) a lot of different roles with us. He can play inside and outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He’s been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size. He’s been a four-phase special-teams player.[“]“One of our, I’d say, overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. Always does things right. Works hard. Doesn’t say a lot but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him.”"

With training camp just around the corner, Freeny will have the remainder of the summer to secure a spot on the Patriots’ roster.

Check back next week for another installment of Patriots Digest.