Malcolm Mitchell has been getting some pretty good praise recently thanks to the fact he’s put some good practices together, but Sunday offered up a comparison that made Bill Belichick reflect on one of the team’s best players of his tenure.
Belichick was asked on Sunday if Mitchell’s style of play reminded him of former receiver Deion Branch. While Belichick didn’t downplay Mitchell’s ability, he was quick to point out what a rare athlete Branch was.
“It’s hard to really compare anybody to Branch,” said Belichick. “Branch had a rare quickness. I mean, what’d he run, like a three-seven short-shuttle? You just don’t see that. Deion was very, very quick and very smart. I’m not saying there aren’t other smart receivers, but Deion was really a smart receiver and very, very quick.”
Looking at players in this offense, quickness has been an attribute that has made this team pretty successful over the years. Most recently Julian Edelman has been one of the bigger examples, with Wes Welker being another before him, going all the way back to Troy Brown. But according to Belichick, none of those three players compare to Branch.
“We’ve had quick guys like Troy [Brown], and [Julian] Edelman, and Wes [Welker], guys like that. But it wasn’t Deion, they didn’t have Deion’s kind of quickness,” said Belichick. “They may have more size than Deion, they were probably a little better after the catch in terms of bulk, and strength, and breaking tackles and all that, but Deion’s short space quickness was pretty good. I don’t think we’ve had a guy with his kind of quickness. I don’t know that too many other teams have. They might have been quick but not with all of the other things, but when you put Deion together with his hands, his instincts – which were very good – his overall intelligence and his short space quickness.”
Branch played a combined seven seasons in New England after leaving during the prime of his career for a stint in Seattle after the 2005 season. But his early time with the Patriots was certainly memorable, including winning a Super Bowl MVP during the 2004 season. But the fact he was so difficult for defensive backs to stay with is what Belichick said made him so dangerous, and that’s what makes it tough to compare anyone to him.
“He was not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy but he was hard to cover. His quickness was tough to cover. It’d be hard to compare anybody to him because he was pretty unique with the level of quickness that he had.”
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