Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Under the Spotlight: Receiving Corps

At under .500 for the first time in over a decade, the Patriots deserve some scrutiny. Who won/lost the three games so far? Who has been under-performing? What can we expect to see for the rest of the season? Today we are going to break down the receiving corps (wide receivers and tight ends).

The Good:
-         Brandon Lloyd: A midst the chaos Sunday night, you may have missed the fact that Lloyd had a nice game. He caught nine passes for 108 yards and looked like Cris Carter 2.0, snagging anything that was headed towards the sideline. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Lloyd has a 67% catch rate which is highest on the team. If Lloyd can continue to get in synch with Tom Brady, this could turn out to be a really good pick-up for the Pats. 

-          Wes Welker: Even with all this talk about Welker’s contract, he’s still really, really good. He lit up a good Ravens backfield for 142 yards. And in the previous week versus Arizona, even though he lined up on fewer plays Welker had five catches for 95 yards.   He’s still the best slot receiver in the game. With Aaron Hernandez out for the next few weeks, Welker's role will probably look more like it did in previous seasons. 

The Bad:
-          No Deep Threat: Through three games, the Pats have only completed five deep ball completions (catches for over 20+ yards) for the season. This hurt them in Cardinals game when Tom Brady was facing more pressure and the Stevan Ridely/Danny Woodhead combination was not able to finish on plays.

The Disconcerting:
     Gronkowski productionHave teams figured out Gronk? Should we be worried that he has not had a multiple TD game yet? He only had 21 yards on two catches versus the Ravens. Also, his two penalties on the final drive against the Cardinals were frustrating to watch (although, with the officiating situation as it is we might let it slide a bit.) Gronk is still a good blocker and a versatile weapon. 

The Ugly:
-          Welker Contract TalkThe talk of “freezing Welker out” is awkward for all New England fans. Belichick isn’t known for his sympathy, but the leading receiver in Patriots history deserves better.

The Hopeful:
-          Deion Branch: Even though he's only been back for one game, Pats fans are happy to have him back. He looks like he is happy to be back wearing a Patriots uniform again as well. On a second-and-nine play in the third quarter, Brady rifled a pass to Branch in the Red Zone. Ravens' Safety Ed Reed prevented the catch with a clock-cleaning hit to the head. It looked pretty bad, but Branch got up, walked away, and had a huge grin on his face. Smiling through adversity, it's just what this team needs. 

The Skeptical:
-         Julian Edelman: Edelman's blocking skills are what have been highlighted so far this season. However, he's still no Welker when it comes to running slot routes. Welker has twice as many Yards After Catch as Edelman with only six more receptions. He shouldn't be crowned the next Welker, yet.

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