Morning Huddle 9/20: Dobson and Thompkins Holding Their Own, Bucs Jackson A Challenge, Today's Links

Ian Logue
September 20, 2013 at 09:36am ET

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When you take a look at what rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have done so far through two games, it's hard not to realize they've been able to do something that not even seasoned veterans like Joey Galloway and Chad Ochocinco Johnson were able to do in this offense.

They've been able to grasp it well enough to hold their own, and save for a couple of miscues seem to be making progress in understanding exactly what's expected of them.

Thompkins and Dobson will be looking to continue their development in the Patriots offense this weekend.
(USA TODAY Images)

Thompkins made some progress last Thursday coming off of his four reception opening day performance having been targeted 14 times, and instead was targeted seven times with two receptions and was inches away from easily netting out a couple more.  He seems like he's starting to get there, which should hopefully see him finally have a productive day against the Buccaneers this weekend.

Meanwhile Dobson obviously missed the season opener in Buffalo and has only played in one game, but his first NFL reception started out the way a rookie could hope for, as he ended up with a 39 yard touchdown.  From there he battled through a few drops that will hopefully be a reminder that he's a little more mortal than the player who dominated at Marshall.

Fans have been clamoring over the past week about the fact the team should bring in a veteran receiver and seem ready to abort the idea of keeping these two guys in the line-up, but it was interesting looking at an article from 2006 from looking at the rookie season of Jerry Rice, which started out as a disaster for the now Hall of Fame receiver.

From the article:

"The 49ers, fresh off a victory in Super Bowl XIX, were 6-5 and fighting for their playoff lives. Joe Montana's passing numbers were off. Rice, the team's top draft pick, had 26 receptions in 11 games, but he also dropped 10 balls, some of them at the worst possible times. He was coming off a game in which he dropped two passes, fumbled once, and caught just one pass. Niners fans booed the rookie; local columnists made him the butt of jokes."

Obviously the goal isn't to compare either player to Rice, but more to point out that even the best receiver ever to play the game had his share of issues in his first year, and both of these guys have played in just two games.  The tough part for both of them is that the expectations here in New England are so high that there's not much patience when fans are accustomed to seeing this offense be one of the most prolific in the NFL.  So far New England is ranked 23rd in the NFL with 663 total yards, about 300 yards behind the Green Bay Packers who are 3rd with 965.  Both Philadelphia (1385) and Kansas City (1000) are ahead of all of them, but they've also played three games so it's not a fair comparison.

Brady explained recently that these guys aren't 10 year veterans so it's unfair to expect them to play that way, but fans are used to seeing guys simply step in and play well.  The offensive line has been a great example, and Logan Mankins told the Boston Herald that it's not as easy as it looks.  As a rookie being drafted out of Fresno State, he played right away and admitted it was tough to adjust to the differences between Pro and College.

“I was a young guy like them thrown into the fire as a rookie,” Mankins told the newspaper on Thursday. “There were things I didn’t understand going on, so I understand what they’re going through. You’re put on the field and expected to produce like you’ve been here a long time, but you haven’t been here a long time. It’s not easy.

"At Fresno, it was a lot easier. In college you pretty much just block the guy in front of you. You don’t have all these combinations in pass protection. In college you pretty much just slide the protection all one way or the other."

Mankins pointed out that one thing that's important to remember is as long as you can physically play and it's just a matter of mental adjustments, they'll be O.K.

“It’s better if the problems are mental than physical,” Mankins said. “If they’re physical maybe you can’t overcome them. If they’re mental you can.”

For now the rookies seem to be athletic enough and have already made several big plays, so they definitely seem to be getting there.  As it stands right now both account for two of the longest pass plays the Patriots have thus far, so one would like to think they'll be more to come.  Every week is a learning experience and one that will hopefully allow them to grow and improve.  But as we've seen playing in the NFL isn't easy for even some of the best in the game at their position.  Time will tell how good each of these players ultimately become, but either way they'll still need that time to figure it out.


Looking at match-ups this weekend it's hard not to realize just how potentially difficult Jackson will make things against the Patriots on Sunday.  He didn't have a reception during their preseason match-up but he also played only eight snaps.  During the joint practices he had his way against nearly every Patriots defensive back, and historically has been productive.  The Tampa Bay Tribune points out Jackson has 15 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns in his past two meetings against New England, which will leave the Patriots trying to make sure he doesn't have another big outing on Sunday.


We talked obviously about the fact the Patriots should be patient with the receivers, but it sounds like they're at least remaining open minded about potentially bringing in someone else.  Rookie Josh Boyce has been the one player who has struggled enough so far that his playing time has dropped off (14 snaps in week one, down to 2 last weekend) and it's going to be interesting to see how much time he sees this weekend.  In the meantime according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Patriots recently worked out Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, as well as receivers Jared Green and Terrence Toliver.

Wilson also reports that the team recently worked out defensive backs Myron Lewis, Jalil Brown, DeQuan Menzie, and Peyton Thompson.



Logan Makins relates to plight of rookie WRs - Ron Borges - Borges writes that, it has been nine years since Logan Mankins felt like Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson or Josh Boyce, but he can still remember that foggy sense of unease, so he has empathy for them if not exactly sympathy."

Tough to see logic without looking - Matt Chatham - Chatham has a good article this morning on the fact that the Patriots have some reasons not to look past the 0-2 Buccaneers.

ESPN LeGarrette Blount, as usual, will run with chip on shoulder - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article this morning on LeGarrette Blount, who he writes will be running with a chip on his shoulder against his former team this weekend.

Rob Gronkowski going live like Deadmau5 - Jim Lazar - Lazar has a bizarre column this morning with an inside tip from a fan who was at a Deadmau5 concert (I've never heard of them) who saw Gronk there and was told by the tight end he's playing this weekend.

Notebook: Pats 'O' on red alert - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with the Patriots struggles down inside the redzone through two games.


No denying Patriots’ defense has improved - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has a good column this morning on the defense, and writes that the uninspired start on offense might benefit the Patriots because it has lowered the defense’s margin of error.

Kraft, Patriots among 400-plus who attend Mayo Bowl in support of kids' charities - David D'Onofrio - D'Onofrio has an entry on the recent "Mayo Bowl" which raised money for two charities.

Patriots' defense focused on Doug Martin - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning which leads off with a note onthe  Bucs running back who so far is off to an impressive rookie season and is second in the league in rushing.

Patriots vs. Buccaneers matchup breakdown: CB Aqib Talib vs. WR Vincent Jackson - Erik Frenz - Frenz has a great entry this morning on the match-up between Aqib Talib and Vincent Jackson.


Highlighting Patriots-Bucs connections - Field Yates - Yates has an article this morning highlighting some of the connections between the two teams, including former DE Trevor Scott and Center Ted Larson.

Patriots update: Amendola, Gronk unlikely - Stephania Bell - Bell has notes on Amendola and Gronkowski, who look unlikely to see action against Tampa Bay this weekend.


In Doug Martin, Patriots see a lot of CJ Spiller - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia has an article looking at the similarities between Martin and Bills running back CJ Spiller.


To Patriots' LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers just another team - Jennifer Toland - Toland has an article on LeGarrette Blount, who is now focused on handing his former team a loss this weekend.

Bucs' Darrelle Revis in fine form to face Patriots - Jennifer Toland - Toland has an article on Bucs defensive back Darrelle Revis, who at this point coming back from offseason knee surgery is playing well.


PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Running back offers a blunt assessment of Sunday’s game against Bucs - Glen Farley - Farley has comments from LeGarrette Blount, who no longer looks at his former teammates as friends, he looks at them like everyone else - as a team he needs to beat.

Buccaneers' Jackson poses a big problem to Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley writes that Vincent Jackson will likely be a player that gives the Patriots some trouble this weekend.


Source: Patriots try out David Nelson, Myron Lewis, others - Aaron Wilson - Wilson writes that the Patriots have reportedly worked out former Bills receiver David Nelson, among several other players.


Slater absence could leave void special teams - Mark Farinella - Farinella has an article looking at what the absence of Mattew Slater will mean to the Patriots on special teams.


Just win baby ... like the old days - Bill Burt - Burt writes that there's a new game being played in Foxboro and it's called, "Whatever it takes to win."


Patriots' defense has been a pleasant surprise - David Pevear - Pevear has an article this morning and wonders if this Patriots defense is capable of buying time for the offense to solve its issues - and maybe even become more than that?