The Patriots got some not entirely unexpected news last week when it was announced that WR Julian Edelman had a second procedure on his injured foot and had a screw inserted. While for the fans and the team this is a worrisome development, if you are one of the many wide receivers vying for a roster spot or an increased role, this means something totally different…Opportunity.
While no one wants to see another man hurt or miss time, these players are professionals and they can recognize this for what it is. Injuries are a constant fact of life in the NFL and all of the other receivers (WR/TE/RB), not named Danny Amendola, or Rob Gronkowski have a unique opportunity to build their rapport with Tom Brady and gain the QB’s trust. With Dion Lewis rehabbing from a torn ACL, it is true for the backs as well. And the time to do that isn’t in Arizona Week 1, but now… in the spring OTAs, the minicamps and into training camp.
Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola have already built up their trust level with Tom Brady, now the new members of the offense have to step up. (USA TODAY Images)
As a former Special Forces operator, we looked at things in much the same manner that these young men will now. While the average man looks on events thrust upon him as a blessing or a curse, the warrior-minded individual looks upon every obstacle in front of him as a challenge. That was our Bushido and it undoubtedly is theirs as well.
The events playing out now with Edelman out and even Tom Brady possibly missing the first month of the season is a unique opportunity for the receivers on this team to carve out their roles and build trust with both Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
There are a lot of new faces in the Patriots offense this season. WRs Chris Hogan and Nate Washington came over in free agency while Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien were added in the draft. TEs Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor were signed during free agency as was RB Donald Brown.
The Patriots also have WRs Aaron Dobson, Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter who all will be looking to expand their snap counts this spring and summer as they fight and compete for roster spots.
Chris Hogan will be looking to carve out a role in the Patriots offense in 2016. (USA TODAY Images)
Without the Pats most favored target in camp, these players will have expanded opportunities to work with both Brady and Garoppolo to build up the timing, the comfort level and the trust needed to thrive in the Patriots offense. Gronkowski and Amendola already have found that trust level with Brady, the rest need to get working on it now.
Speaking of Amendola much has been written about how he was staring at being released if he didn’t agree to a huge salary slash. One has to wonder now if that was indeed true. The Patriots had to know, full well that Edelman was staring at another surgical procedure. Regardless of whether he’s “expected” to be good to go for training camp (which is still a big if), would the Patriots roll the dice and cut Amendola loose with the possibility that Edelman may not be ready for the season? Especially considering that both LeGarrette Blount and Lewis are coming off of serious injuries.
While everyone is expecting Hogan and Bennett to be very successful this season, for all intents and purposes they’re still unknown quantities in the New England scheme. That would leave Gronkowski as the only trusted weapon that could (looking at a worst case scenario) be available in Week 1. So perhaps it was really Amendola that held the power there. If so, then the Patriots made a slick maneuver. Regardless, Amendola decided that staying put was his priority over everything else and the point was moot. Still an interesting topic, however.
Watching the spring and early summer workouts it will be intriguing to see who thrives with Brady and who does so with Garoppolo. I think we’ll see Hogan initially step into an Edelman-esque mode while Mitchell will probably take on much of the workload that the now-departed Brandon LaFell handled.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jimmy G build up a big rapport with the new TEs, Bennett, and Harbor. But at this point, it is purely speculative. There will be a lot of moving parts this spring/summer and the veterans will be motivated to step into new roles on a new team quickly.
For the younger players especially the draft picks and UDFAs especially a guy like D.J. Foster, with some of the Patriots top weapons being on the shelf during the spring, the time is ripe for them to learn the playbook and gain some valuable experience working alongside Brady and Garoppolo and earning that all-important trust.
There is always the next Wally Pipp waiting to happen…
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