By: Russ Goldman
The number one topic of discussion in the media heading into Patriots Training Camp seems to have been the new group of wide receivers. Well, I have been to four out of five of the practices so far in Training Camp, and I have spent time really watching the receivers. I am happy to say that there are encouraging signs from this group of receivers so far in camp.
Now, this is only training camp, and there hasn’t even been a pre-season game yet, but what I have noticed from the receivers gives me serious hope for the upcoming season. This unit will be a work in progress, but there are a several reasons why I feel this group has a chance to be better than most think.
First, this really is trial by fire for this group as the rookies along with the other new faces are getting many chances to get reps with quarterback Tom Brady. Our guest on the latest episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, Chris Price from WEEI mentioned in his interview with us that specifically the rookies are getting into the system, and also seeing the reps in practice.
I think this is an important factor, because in years past, you would have established players who would get most of the reps with Brady. This Training Camp is unique as all of these receivers are getting the chance to build a chemistry with the quarterback.
Second, in the times I have been at camp, I have not seen much of the receivers being out of position. I think this is important to note, because I was expecting to see this a great deal of that from the rookies, and I have seen very little of this. Now, there was an in stadium practice on Monday that apparently there were some issues, but when I have watched this unit, overall it looks like they are running proper routes. Most important though is this group does not look out of place on the field.
Third, you can see the confidence with this unit, and I would say that three rookie wide receivers really have that attitude when they are in their patterns. These three rookies that have stood out with this confidence are Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins.
Lastly, and I think the most encouraging trait that I have seen from a few of these receivers has to be the ability to get open with bump and run coverage. There have been several one one one drills, and to watch Boyce and Thompkins be able to get off the line of scrimmage, and get open has been extremely encouraging.
The Patriots receivers have struggled to get off the line of scrimmage when they are played tight at the line the last few seasons. The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Patriots a few years ago, and part of the issue the Pats had in that game was the receivers inability to get off the line.
To go along with that topic is the ability to have overall separation. Specifically the rookies have done a nice job so far with this skill. Chris Price from WEEI talked about this again on Patriots Fourth And Two regarding this subject, and what he heard a Patriots cornerback say.
“Aqib Talib talked about the rookie wide receivers and said they are doing a good job at getting separation.”
I think I have given you several reasons to feel encouraged, but I want to talk a little bit about the receivers that have stood out for me.
First, Danny Amendola has been most impressive, as he catches almost everything thrown at him, but most importantly he is getting open with ease. The Patriots are lining him up in the slot, and also out wide.
The most intriguing aspect of Amendola so far has been the one on one battles with Talib, which has been split down the middle. Both players have gotten their share of victories, and both have been the best players on the field so far in Training Camp to me.
Michael Jenkins looks like a consistent wide receiver, and has caught mostly everything thrown his way. He also looks to have more speed than I thought he would have.
The three rookie wide receivers I will put together as they all have shown promise. Dobson who is a second round draft pick looks like he can be a deep threat, and has very good hands. Boyce who is a fourth round draft pick looks like he can always find a way to battle and get open. Finally ,Thompkins who is an un-drafted free agent has flashed as well, and shown very good separation.
In concluding, we are very early into Training Camp, but with all the doubt that has been talked about in the media about this position, I wanted to share what my own eyes have shown me. I am encouraged by what I have seen so far by the rookie wide receivers.
If you would like to hear the latest episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, please check it out below, as we talk about that position along with many other observations from the opening of Patriots Training Camp. This episode also starts with an excellent interview with Chris Price from WEEI.