By: Ian Logue
All eyes these days may be focused on Chad Ochocinco and his inability to get acclimated to the offense so far this preseason, but as much as people want to harp on #85, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is also having some trouble getting another key component involved in the offense.
So far Deion Branch hasn’t been involved in the Patriots offense this preseason. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
So far this preseason, wide receiver Deion Branch has flown under the radar and has quietly been held without a reception. Branch – like the majority of the other starters – didn’t play in the first game against Jacksonville, but he played last night against Detroit and the week before against the Buccaneers.
According to Mike Reiss, against Tampa Bay Branch was in on 26 of 41 1st half snaps and came up empty, and was in on 34 of 42 snaps last night – the most of any other Patriot receiver during the contest – and was once again held without a catch.
That currently makes him the only Patriots receiver other than last year’s practice squad tight end Carson Butler to have not registered a reception this preseason.
So far New England’s leading receivers through three preseason games are Aaron Hernandez (14 catches, 156 yards and a TD), runningback Stevan Ridley (10 catches, 74 yards and a TD) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 127 yards and a TD). Following last night’s injury to Welker, this group suddenly doesn’t look quite as formidable if he’s going to be out for any period of time.
Welker led the team with 86 receptions last season, but obviously he’s going to need a little more help from the guys on the outside. Most of New England’s production this preseason has come from the inside receivers, and the fact that they haven’t gotten much production from either Branch or Ochocinco is mildly concerning.
For Ochocinco, it seems to be more of an issue of getting on the same page with Brady, although he’s struggled a bit and has had a tough time holding on to the football. To a certain extent, #85 is somewhat responsible for Welker’s injury because the pass that Brady was picked off on was intended for him, and it looked as though he ran his route at the wrong depth. That’s reportedly been an ongoing issue for the veteran.
For Branch, he’s one year removed from catching 48 passes after joining the team midseason, and has been around Brady long enough and understands the offense, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Looking back at the tenacious pass rush Brady was up against, last night’s probably not the best litmus test considering that Brady had very little time to survey the field and find him.
Needless to say hopefully Welker’s OK and they’ll have him for week one down in Miami. Otherwise it’s going to become that much more important for Taylor Price to get more involved, and for Branch and Ochocinco to start becoming bigger factors in this offense so that they can start clicking on all cylinders.
Let’s be honest, the preseason obviously doesn’t mean much and it’s certainly too early to read too much into it. However, the Dolphins have a good defense themselves and a decent secondary, so hopefully we’ll see a much better effort all around when they open the season two weeks from tomorrow.