Chad Ochocinco’s in a new offense that’s evolved quite a bit since New England traded Randy Moss last season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
I think it’s fair to say that Chad Ochocinco has dominated the Patriot headlines as of recent and it’s an issue that is getting debated league wide since Tedy Bruschi’s comments after the team’s season opener against Miami. In that game Ochocinco recorded just one catch for 14 yards, in a game where Brady threw for over 500-yards.
He improved on that this¬†past¬†Sunday when he registered two catches for 45 yards, one of which was an impressive grab under tight coverage. However some still criticise, so I wanted to clarify exactly what I thought about why he is here, and what impact he will be having.
Let’s face it; the Patriots are “a spread the ball offense” which likes to manage the clock and sustain long drives, while slowly eating away at defenses and the clock. The evidence is for all to see. Tom Brady has hit nine different targets over two games and seven against San Diego. We all know what Chad Ochocinco achieved in the days of Chad Johnson. He was one of the most feared receivers in the league, but to expect him to come here and have the same or even just similar impact as Randy Moss? Too much to expect. Even a 1,000 yard season is pushing it a bit.
I’m going to start by saying this; I didn’t think we even needed a new wide receiver. I believe people overreacted to a playoff loss in a 14-2 season and that the main reason behind this was the still evolving team. We were still being defined as a team in¬†transition,¬†and most people forgot this little detail after seeing our record. We had a very young defense and team in general which just was’t ready for post season football. ¬†Back to my point anyway…
As 2007 wound on the blowouts and complete dominance became less frequent and, as the years went on the offense whilst still effective, became more and more predictable. Belichick realised that teams had built the blueprint for stopping the Brady/Moss era Patriots and went on to plan for a new era; the era of the Tight End. He drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and gradually phased Moss out of the offense. Moss then kicked up a¬†stink and we all know what happened next. Belichick’s realisation of the need for change and a new style of offense defines the genius that he is.
This new offense was the death of the WR position in New¬†England. Okay, maybe death is too strong as, after all, Welker and Branch are very effective targets for Brady. However, this new style didn’t evolve around Welker or Branch, but the new tight ends instead. Tight ends like Gronkowski and Hernandez are a nightmare for defenses because they create huge mismatches, especially in a base defense which results in undersized and slow linebackers being forced to cover someone like Hernandez…even safeties struggle to match up against the sheer height of someone like Gronkowski. When these players are on the field in these situations, they become primary targets over the more evenly matched up receivers¬†positioned¬†opposite corners.
Not only that, but the sheer skill of these players make them targets on every play. When we had Watson, it was a common assumption that Brady just didn’t trust him. If he could avoid hitting him, he would. Brady trusts this group of tight ends and he trusts players like Woodhead to line up at receiver and catch passes out of the backfield. This new trust has contributed to the spreading of the ball a lot more as the Patriots don’t need to just rely on their receiving corps, and some players just aren’t going to get as many touches as they used to.
That brings me to the sheer number of weapons we have whom Tom Brady trusts. Let’s list them; Welker, Branch, Woodhead, Gronkowski, Hernandez…and that isn’t even bringing into mention Price who has developed nicely this off season. Did people really think Chad was going to come here and rise above the whole team with 1, 000 yards? Surely not.
Now look at how often we¬†use¬†the tight ends. We spent 60 of 71 plays¬†against¬†San Diego in a one or two tight end package. When you count a runningback is generally wanted in the mix,¬†it limits the number of receivers you have on the field and it was hard to believe¬†Ochocinco¬†was going to beat out Welker and Branch. He was brought in not to ‘add a down the field threat’ but to simply add another dimension. He is someone you have to respect when he is on the field and is a proven talent. When you consider the next real speedy threat is Price, you can see where I’m coming from when you consider a team like the Jets won’t respect that threat as much as a seasoned veteran.
If Ochocinco is catching two, three and maybe even four balls a game for a reasonable chunk of yardage, I am happy. The simple fact is, the Patriots don’t really need a¬†Moss¬†type player because that isn’t the style of offense we run¬†anymore. The offense is revolving around the two tight ends and the receivers will benefit a little from it¬†in turn.¬†However, when both Gronkowski and Hernandez are out there, I would very¬†much¬†doubt¬†any of the receivers are primary reads…or at least not the majority of the time.
I’m going to talk about balance now as well. The Moss era Patriots were a pass heavy team and with Lawrence Maroney posed minimal threat on the ground. They made a¬†consolidated¬†effort to balance the run and again it was the tight ends which enabled them to do this. Bringing three tight end sets allowed the Patriots to have an air of unpredictability in their offense, and having 3 accomplished blockers enable the Patriots to run whenever – even just one of them was on the field. Teams can often judge when a team wants to run by its tendencies with personnel packages. However, with the Patriots it is increasingly hard to work out as the tight ends have such a wide range of skill sets they enable to the team to utilise them in many ways.
They also¬†signaled¬†their intention to run the ball more with the drafting of two new running backs in the 2011 NFL Draft. The additions of the young Shane Vereen and Stephan Ridley was needed to add youth to the position, but it symbolised just how serious they were about strengthening the position and running the ball. More¬†balance¬†in return means less touches for a vast group of receivers and tight ends. Sometimes the Patriots will choose to pass more than they run, but you can already see a considerable change in how they deal¬†with¬†their offensive play calling. An example is the Patriots and their commitment to run the ball on first down, something they didn’t particularly trust their backs to do prior to 2010. Green-Ellis’ first 1,000 yard season for New England hasn’t happened since 2003 – and it was no coincidence.
All these factors limit the impact that Ochocinco needs to have on the Patriots. He wasn’t brought in here to be the deep threat that racked up 1, 000 yards and double digit touchdowns…or in fact either of those. He was brought in as an experienced veteran at the position who could share snaps with the likes of Taylor Price at the third receiver position and give teams like the Jets more to think about. Belichick didn’t expect him to come here and light it up. Ochocinco will be used not how much his practices dictates, but how much Belichick feels he needs to use him.
That brings me to Hernandez’s injury. Unless Belichick expects Rob’s brother Dan to fill his place, and I can’t¬†imagine¬†that,¬†Ochocinco¬†could be asked to do considerably more in the coming weeks up until Hernandez returns. If Price returns, you could see four wide receiver sets a bit more than we have done in the past since usually the fourth receiver has been a tight end in this new offense.
So in conclusion, let’s all get off of Chad Ochocinco’s back. My expectations were low because when you look at all the factors built into this offense, it just wasn’t set up for him to meet those high¬†expectations set by some media and a lot of fans. Moss was deliberately being phased out for this reason, and he knew it. The high expectations set have led to fans getting on his back along with members of the media (aka Tedy Bruschi) jumping on his back¬†publicly¬†also and this. In turn, it has led to a denting of confidence. It isn’t called for, and everyone needs to, put it bluntly, sit down and shut up and let him get on with his job.
My opinion is if Chad can pull in around 500 yards (give or take) and around five touchdowns, he will have fulfilled his purpose here more…yes more…than adequately. Gone are the days we needed to rely on one receiver for our success…success which never led us to a Superbowl title. All these factors I have discussed highlight the reasons why Ochocinco doesn’t need to live up to the hype created by over-excited fans and media outlets.
Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ‚Äô4th & Long‚Äô for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter;¬†@DamoJarrett