This is the most important stretch of Aaron Dobson’s career.
The Patriots’ 2013 second-round draft pick is healthy for the first time in a year and a half, and he is taking advantage of his opportunities during organized team activities. Dobson desperately needs to build on a good camp, which featured a few more impressive catches yesterday, to eventually live up to the Pats’ lofty expectations.
The Ravens are one of the tougher run defenses in the NFL, ranking fourth this season in holding opponents to an average of 88.3 yards per game and not allowing a 100-yard rusher in the past 27 games. They are a sturdy front seven and with this in mind, it's hard to imagine the Patriots go with a heavy diet of bigger personnel and a power-running approach. Instead, a more likely scenario is that the Patriots attempt to manipulate matchups in hopes of lightening the box and getting the Ravens into sub packages to test their overall quality and depth in the defensive backfield, which is their primary area of vulnerability. For the Patriots to do this, adding a second tight end with more of a pass-catching profile, third receiver, or second running back makes sense. This is where Wright, a "move" tight end, could be a bigger factor. When blocking-based tight end Michael Hoomanawanui is paired with Rob Gronkowski, it usually results in opponents playing base defense. But when Wright is paired with Gronkowski, it has sometimes been sub because he's more of a pass-catching threat. The Patriots have had success going up-tempo with that grouping as well, so we could envision Wright being a bigger part of the plan Saturday, with receiver Danny Amendola and running back Brandon Bolden (in a two-back set with Shane Vereen) as other options.
Wright's production has been spotty, but when the Patriots have called his number, he has usually delivered.
The New England Patriots announced that they have placed second-year WR Aaron Dobson on injured reserve. Dobson injured his hamstring in the second half of the Patriots loss at Green Bay last Sunday. Dobson played in four games with one start in 2014 and finished with three receptions for 38 yards.
As Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski's playing time has increased upon his return from a torn right ACL, the Patriots have trended more toward multiple-tight-end groupings, which makes sense. Specifically, the Patriots seem to have found something that works for them -- going empty with the 2-WR/2-TE/1-RB grouping with Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end, which in a lot of ways could be viewed as a 3-WR package of sorts because of Wright's presence as more of a pass-catching tight end.
With a lower percentage of three-receiver packages, it has reduced the playing-time totals for pure slot receiver Danny Amendola. But as we saw Thursday, he's still contributing in that niche role (as well as a kickoff returner).
One could also draw the conclusion that inconsistent play along the offensive line has contributed to fewer three-receiver packages. By playing with a second or third tight end instead of a second or third receiver, the Patriots are devoting more resources to the line of scrimmage. Everything starts up front.
The story goes on to say that every offense needs something to hang its hat on and perhaps the Pats found it. Gronk's health has been key to this and multiple TE sets are allowing QB Tom Brady to takes shots down field while at the same time bolstering things up front. The Pats are used multiple TEs 57-percent of the time this season.
Pats wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, one of the feel-good stories for the New England Patriots in 2013 as he rose from undrafted rookie free agent to front-line contributor, was waived by the team Saturday.
Thompkins started in the season opener this year, but was inactive for two of the last three games as he was passed on the depth chart by five-year veteran Brandon LaFell. Thompkins totaled six catches for 53 yards in 85 offensive snaps this season (including penalties), and he doesn't play on special teams.
With the Patriots' offense struggling to find its groove, the release of Thompkins shakes things up a bit. With him out of the mix at receiver, the Patriots have Julian Edelman, LaFell, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson atop the depth chart. Dobson, the team's second-round draft choice from 2013, has only played in one game this season, and Thompkins' release potentially will create more opportunity for him, according to the story. LaFell showed something in Week 4 against the Chiefs so there could be an opportunity for him as well. However outside of Edelman, the Pats WR situation is one that needs to shake out a little for fantasy purposes.
Saturday, September 27, 2014, 4:17pm
After catching three passes for 16 yards in Week 1, Pats WR Danny Amendola hasn’t caught a pass in two games in a row for the first time in his career. On Saturday, the wide out said he was only looking ahead and trying to fill his role on the team as best he could.
“I’m not really focused on the past couple of games. I’m looking forward to this next game,” Amendola said. “With that said, everybody has a role. Whatever role that is, you have to produce in that role. Whatever they ask you do in the play, you have to get your job done. That’s really all I’m focused on.”
The state sheet hasn’t been kind to Amendola in the early portion of this season and part of the reason is due to penalties. Technically, Amendola has only been targeted once in each of the past two games. That hasn’t happened since the first two games of his 2009 rookie season.
Amendola has had three decent-sized gains called back because of penalties the story says, but even with those plays his total yards would be 76 instead of 16. No one on the Pats is really lighting it up though, and QB Tom Brady recently said only WR Julian Edelman is playing well enough among the group. Someone will need to step up but until then no one other than Edelman among WRs is fantasy lineup worthy.
Monday, September 15, 2014, 12:27pm
Part of what has made Patriots QB Tom Brady such an elite quarterback throughout his career has been the ability to spread the ball around. But this season, wide receiver Julian Edelman seemingly has been his only real option, with Rob Gronkowski slowly getting back to speed and some of the new faces still finding their way.
Kenbrell Thompkins was inactive yesterday, while Aaron Dobson caught one pass in the early part of the game. Brandon LaFell has yet to catch a pass, while Danny Amendola has three catches for 16 yards.
“Yeah, we’ve just got to find ways to get everybody the ball and spread it around to different guys,” Brady said. “We spread it around a little bit yesterday. (Amendola) didn’t get the ball as much as obviously I’d like to get it to him. Brandon LaFell, the same thing. Aaron Dobson had one catch to start the game and didn’t get a lot of other looks after that. We’ve got to get the ball to everybody and spread the ball around to everybody.”
Spreading the ball around hasn't happened yet for Brady and the Pats. While the young receivers have had another with Brady, Dobson's injury has hurt the Pats deep-play potential. TE Rob Gronkowski's slow recovery is likely playing a role as well as he was limited to just 29 snaps this week, also thanks in part to a lopsided win. Things should get better as the weeks go by, but Brady owners should expect up and down production until things get settled.
Monday, September 8, 2014, 9:00am
Vereen had a short-yardage TD in the game on top of his normal pass-catching duties James White was inactive. It's hard to get a feel for the Pats offense week-to-week, but Vereen continues to be the safest play.
TE Rob Gronkowski played on just 38 of 76 snaps but did catch a TD. It was expected he wouldn't see significant time. If that trend continues next week, he's still worth putting in fantasy lineups for his red zone presence alone.
For years, we have seen the headaches of what should be a dream job: catching passes from Tom Brady. How many times have you heard someone say something like this about Brady:
"He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be every route. Not a yard off, not a yard too deep, not a yard too short. He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be because he's going to put the ball placement exactly right."
That quote comes from wide receiver Brandon LaFell, but it could easily have come from any receiver to walk through the halls of Gillette Stadium. Learning the Patriots offense can be difficult for receivers because of the heavy verbiage, the importance of understanding coverages, and the range of factors that can determine a receiver's assignment on a given play.
"First things first, you've got to learn formations," said LaFell. "Man, we've got a million formations, and we've got a million personnel groups. I was just trying to get all that down pat, because at least if I know where I'm lined up, I can kind of figure out what everybody else is doing based on the concept of the play. And second, learning the terms of the plays that we use and different code words we use, because one play I can be the X receiver and if we go to a hurry-up offense, depending on where the ball is spotted, I can be the Z receiver the next play. I have to know the whole play, but first, learning the formations, personnel groups, second, learning the plays and the concepts and just go from there with it."
It could be why predicting success in terms of fantasy is often difficult with the Pats offense in general. The story went on to say that receivers can be asked to carry out multiple assignments based on alignment, coverage, personnel groupings, where the ball is spotted, and myriad other factors. That's why last year was such a struggle for then-rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce. You can even throw in Danny Amendola into that mix, who was a free agent but then got hurt early in the season. Knowing all of this should increase the fantasy value of any of these WRs, but now it's waiting to see who gets how many snaps. It also could mean a bigger year for Brady.
When Brady dropped back to throw, he seemed much more at ease, much more confident in what his players were going to do and where they were going to be. Last year, it was a bit of a mystery wondering if the proper routes were going to be run.
A year later, there doesn’t seem to be as much angst with every pass play. Brady doesn’t have that disgusted quarterback look. There’s now a comfort level and trust across the board between him and his primary targets that wasn’t there at any time during the 2013 season. Even the drops don’t have the same impact on No. 12.
The rookies, in particular, didn’t always get the routes down right or get to the exact spots Brady desired. It was the same deal with newcomer Amendola, who on occasion wasn’t certain where he was supposed to be. While there still are mistakes this year, the article noted that Brady doesn't write off anyone and continues to go back to them as targets. Brady comes in ranked 8th among our QBs, and while it seems weird to call him a sleeper, he certainly has the potential to finish a little higher than his ranking - like the days of old. With an ADP of the 9th round, he makes for a nice target at that point in drafts.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 6:33pm
"He's finding different ways to contribute, whether it's blocking, receiving, special teams," Belichick said. "He's done whatever we've asked of him, and he's done it well. He's gotten better at it. I think he'll be able to carve out a role for himself here. Might be a big one. I don't know. We'll see."
LaFell was Tom Brady's second most productive receiver during the joint practices against the Eagles, though he remained behind Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins on the depth chart in the preseason game. They rotate their receivers enough to yield ample playing time for LaFell, and if he keeps up his recent play, the coaches won't have any problem finding additional reps for him in the games.
LaFell is part of a pretty crowded WR that should also include Aaron Dobson, assuming he makes it all the way back from his injury. Outside of Edelman, though, we're probably going to have to play a wait-and-see game with the Pats WRs in terms of fantasy production.
Tom Brady targeted the former Carolina Panthers wideout Brandon LaFell five times. All five resulted in receptions. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound LaFell has been putting it all together of late. His initial camp practices were marred by drops, but he seems to have hit his stride over the last week.
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss was asked about Julian Edelman's progress in camp: He has been terrific in training camp. Really, really impressive, to the point that I asked (Tom Brady) on Tuesday if he now feels he's at a point with Edelman that was similar to what he had with Wes Welker. Brady basically gushed.
Edelman caught a career high 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns filling the Wes Welker role in the Patriots offense. Danny Amendola should be healthier this season, but it may not matter — Edelman clearly outplayed Amendola in 2013 and the team rewarded him with a new contract. He should once again threaten the 100-catch mark as Tom Brady’s favorite target not named Rob Gronkowski.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 11:15pm
Quarterback Tom Brady joked that he has two pygmies in receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, and it should be noted that this might have been Amendola's finest day. He is running crisp routes, shaking defensive backs with sharp cuts, showing reliable hands, and has stayed healthy through 24 practices going back to the spring. This was similar to what we saw last preseason before things dipped when Amendola injured his groin. If he's healthy, a combination of "super pygmies" Amendola and Edelman will be fun to watch. While Amendola has been solid, no one has topped Edelman, who has developed a Wes Welker-like rapport with Brady.
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