Welcome to our 2013 Patriots Team Preview. To get a better understanding of what each NFL team might be up to this season we are asking local team bloggers to answer a few questions for us. Today we talked to @RumfordJohnny to get the inside scoop. Check out his site 2 Mugs Fantasy Football and podcast and give him a follow on the Twitter.
1. Just how difficult is Bill Belichick’s playbook? Last season we heard that Brandon Lloyd had trouble with it and we saw him struggle. And with Danny Amendola being handed a prime seat at the Patriots offensive table, how much will the learning curve lower his statistical ceiling?
I think it’s more about developing chemistry with Brady than learning the play book in New England. Both Lloyd and Amendola have a history with Josh McDaniels, which is a big leg up over others competing for playing time. The Pats haven’t had much luck with the X receiver in the last few years, so it was more about timing and chemistry with Lloyd, as opposed to understanding the play book verbiage, etc. Amendola benefits from playing a position (slot WR) that Brady has historically favored, given Welker’s prolific numbers over the last 6 years. I expect Amendola to have a strong year if healthy, but expecting a Welker-like 100+ catches might be a bit lofty of an expectation.
2. Many are hyping Shane Vereen this season (me more than some) due to the loss of Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez. Is it realistic to think he can put up valuable fantasy numbers behind Stevan Ridley?
I think he can put up every bit the numbers Woodhead posted last year, but right now I’m a bit skeptical that NE will fall in line with the media expectation of a RB friendly offense. The Pats seem to really like their young WRs, so a 3 wide package with a single back/TE formation could be utilized more than most expect. It’s a situation we’ll all monitor closely in the preseason, but I’m curious to see how this offense will evolve into its next incarnation. As for Vereen, I’m not buying at his current inflated ADP (early round 5).
3. Belichick made the two elite TE offense with Hernandez and Gronkowski work with both being able to put up good to great numbers on the same team. With half of that duo gone and the other half surrounded by question marks, how much do you see the offensive game plan changing?
As indicated in the last question, I’m just as curious as everyone else. I know they are pushing for Dobson to command the X role, and Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins could have extensive work as Z receivers. Zach Sudfeld is the wild card here. He played under Chris Ault at Nevada, so used correctly, he’s a big target and a weapon that could be used in 12 personnel once Gronk returns. The problem is the “ifs” surrounding this team. Sudfeld himself had injury concerns in college, so a shaky TE corps changes the complexion of the offense. Right now it’s up in the air.
4. There are plenty of rookie pass catcher on the Patriots who could win a sizable amount of playing time this season. Do you see any of them winning that time or do you think the old guard of Julian Edelman and/or some old man free agent might clog up that time?
I think Dobson could win the X job, with Boyce and Thompkins competing for reps at the Z. Boyce can also see increased time in the slot, should Amendola miss time due to injury. I’m not a believer in Mike Jenkins’ talent, but he could start out as the starting X to begin the season, but again, the Pats want Dobson to win that job…and he should eventually.
5. It’s been a while since Belichick felt comfortable enough to give a running back 290 carries in a season, but that’s how many Stevan Ridley had in 2012. Do you see a repeat of that type of usage this year?
No. I think Vereen will usurp a full time 3rd down role, with Bolden potentially stealing some goal line work. Ridley is still the default workhorse, but early ball security issues in camp can’t be overlooked. Bill Belichick has famously benched his starting RBs for fumbling issues, that won’t change, even though Ridley stepped up and improved in that regard last year.