Morning Huddle 10/2 - Patriots Receivers Making Strides, Grogan Weighs in on Gronkowski, Today's Links

Ian Logue
October 02, 2013 at 09:45am ET

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What a difference two weeks makes.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has obviously seen quite a change in his receiving core this season, and after a tough two weeks to start the year where it seemed to be a battle to get on the same page with his new targets, things have certainly improved.

Both Kenbrell Thompkins (pictured) and Aaron Dobson have grown quite a bit over the last two weeks.
(USA TODAY Images)

Over the last two weeks Brady has seen his completion percentage jump up significantly, with the quarterback now having completed nearly 70% of his throws over the past two games, which considering they're still missing Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, is pretty impressive.

Through the first two games Brady was 48-of-91 (53%) for 473 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked four times. However, over the past two weeks he's gone 45-of-67 (67%) for 541 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, and he's been sacked three times.

The success rate with each of the two primary rookie receivers has obviously been a major factor in this turnaround, as he had a tough time getting on the same page with both early on. Through the first two weeks Brady and Kenbrell Thompkins connected on just 6-of-21 passes (29%), but in the last two weeks they've connected on 8-of-19 (50%) along with three touchdowns, including 6-of-11 for 127 yards and a touchdown Sunday night. It's hardly perfect, but it's definitely better than where they were a couple of weeks ago. Despite their struggles Brady has continued looking his way and you can clearly see Thompkins starting to gain confidence. That's good news for a player who after the first game seemed completely lost out there, and now seems to be settling into this offense.

Belichick talked about Thompkins during his weekly conference call on Tuesday, and had praise for the rookie.

"KT has been a real steady worker out on the field, every day working hard, always really trying to compete and improve," said Belichick. "He's got a good skill set, his work ethic, his competitiveness, his toughness, all those things have been good and they just keep getting better every day."

"We've asked him to do some different things and get him some different responsibilities and he studies it, learns it. If he makes a mistake, he corrects it and comes back and gets it right. He's done a good job."

Aaron Dobson has seen quite a jump as well, having connected on 3-of-10 (30%) with Brady in week two in his first game action, but he's since connected on 8-of-13 (62%). His situation is certainly in question right now after suffering a neck injury Sunday night, although according to Nick Underhill of the MRI reportedly came back negative, which is good news. Now the only question will be whether or not he's ready to play Sunday out in Cincinnati, or if they'll keep him out for a week until their battle against New Orleans next weekend.

Meanwhile, one area that has improved significantly has been Brady's completion rate on third down, having connected on 19-of-32 (59%) passing along with 15 passing first downs during the first two weeks, but has since completed 13-of-19 (68%) with 9 first downs through the air, which is certainly a much better success rate than what they had experienced early on. The best part is when it comes to the rookies, it's been fairly solid over the past two games with Dobson (3-of-4 with 3 first downs) and Thompkins (2-of-4 with 2 first downs) both coming up big in those situations.

We're obviously only two games in so it's tough to get too excited. However, considering how the first two weeks transpired, it's hard not to at least be encouraged by how the past two weeks have gone. It's progress, and hopefully it continues.


Wilfork released a heart felt message following what was a successful surgery to repair his torn Achilles on Tuesday, and he's been touched by all the support he's received from the fans. "I just want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement," said Wilfork via Twitter. Bianca is making sure I see all of the comments. I wish I could respond to everyone. But please know your words are heard. One thing I know is I signed up to play football. I don't regret anything that has happened and there is no need to feel sorry about it. I've been blessed to only have had one surgery prior to today and that was in high school ... I know what signing up to play football means and I know the rewards and the risks. This is my job and I will switch positions for now and play the role of patient, but that is only temporary. I have so much confidence in our team and know they will do great and I will be right beside them, maybe not in uniform, but in other ways. Thanks again."

Definitely great to see him reach out to everyone, and here's hoping for a speedy recovery and a solid return in 2014.


Former Patriots defensive end Andre Carter has heard from quite a few fans that hoped to see him back in Foxboro, but according to Carter he's O.K. with hanging out at home with his son.


An interesting note in this morning's "Grogan's Grade", which is now available. In the piece Grogan talked about tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was reportedly cleared by the Patriots but seems to have reservations about potentially coming back too soon. Grogan said that back in the day, players didn't have that option, which he said speaks to how much things have changed from those days.

"That really is something you don’t hear about with the Patriots and of course, something you didn’t hear about years ago," said Grogan. "You just, if the team cleared you to play, you played. Nowadays everybody’s got their own doctors and people they talk to. So hopefully they’ll get this worked out, but it can be a divisive thing when the team doctors have cleared you to play and you decide not to play because your guy has told you not to. That’s not a good thing."


Every week recently we've seen Patriots players spending their off days visiting local schools and according to the Stoughton Patch Devin McCourty spent his off day on Tuesday visiting the O'Donnell Middle School as part of the Patriots' "Read Between the Lines," which is dedicated to the importance of reading and part of the team's "Celebrate Volunteerism." McCourty credited his mother with his reading ability, which considering how important it is to read his playbook he couldn't have done it without her and encouraged the students to do the same.

"My mother would stay on us all time," he told them, reportedly smiling as he did. "I stayed up on my reading, and I encourage you to keep up on reading."

An abbreviated version, however, here are this morning's top stories:


Patriots must decide what to do with Aqib Talib - Karen Guregian

Notebook: Pats put A.J. Green in sights - Karen Guregian

Marquice Cole back in the fold - Karen Guregian


Patriots must be patient with Gronkowski - Chad Finn

ON FOOTBALL: Patriots did things their way against Falcons - Ben Volin

Bengals will hit the Patriots from all angles - Ben Volin

NOTEBOOK: Vince Wilfork's surgery confirmed — by the Wilforks - Michael Whitmer


QB Watch: Patriots' Tom Brady - Mike Reiss

Checking in on Armond Armstead - Mike Reiss


Patriots' rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins showing improvement - Rich Garven


Patriots going forward without Wilfork - Glen Farley

Patriot Devin McCourty rewards Stoughton school for reading program - Nick Costa


Pats can extend what's been a lousy, terrible, awful week in Cincinnati - Jim Donaldson

Patriots Journal: Didn't take long for Thompkins to catch on - Paul Kenyon


New England Patriots Celebrate Reading at O'Donnell Middle School - Michael Hardman


Patriots re-sign S Kanorris Davis to the practice squad