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Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 3: Rookie risers include Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson

09.23.13 at 1:10 pm ET
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This preseason, we debuted the Tom Brady Confidence Index, a by-the-numbers look at the comfort level the quarterback had with the rest of the skill-position players when it came to the passing game. Because of the reaction we got, we decided to make it a semi-regular feature and expand it to include overall offensive touches (receptions and carries, with more weight to carries in clutch situations) and how comfortable the quarterback might appear to be with some of his teammates when it came to trusting them in certain situations.

As always, we rate each of the skill-position players and their relationship/comfort level with Brady on a scale of 0 (Taylor Price) to 100 (Wes Welker) on their body of work to this point in the season.

(Disclaimer: While most aspects of this blog deal in mathematical specifics as it relates to football, this entry is more of a tongue-in-cheek approach to Brady and how he relates to the rest of the New England offense. Bottom line? Don’€™t take the rating system too seriously.)

WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN: 90 (last week: 89)

Season stats: 27 catches, 34 targets, 201 yards, two touchdowns

In the wake of the step the rookie receivers appeared to take Sunday against the Bucs, it’s easy to forget that Edelman kept up a remarkable pace — he had seven catches on seven targets and now is just 10 receptions from matching his career high (37, set as a rookie in 2009). Heading into the Sunday night game, he’s tied with Atlanta’s Julio Jones for the league lead in catches, but in a weird statistical quirk, he has 201 yards receiving — that’s 7.4 yards per catch. Of all receivers who have at least 15 catches, only Dallas’€™ DeMarco Murray (7.3 yards per catch), rookie Tavon Austin in St. Louis (6.6) and old pal Danny Woodhead (6.4) are behind Edelman. To this point, not many receivers have had the kind of start in the New England system that Edelman can boast — over the last decade, only one other receiver had as many catches after three games as Edelman has this year (Welker, who started the 2011 season with 31 catches through the first three games).

RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 70 (last week: N/A)

Season stats: 3 rushes, 51 yards, 17 YPC; five catches on six targets for 49 yards

The numbers are a big skewed because he was able to hit on two big plays, but the second-year back out of Ole Miss — who missed the first two games because of a knee issue — was able to provide an impressive multidimensional threat against the Bucs. He showed a niftiness as a pass catcher (it’s important to remember he had 76 receptions as a collegian) as well as a good between-the-tackles toughness. (He also offered a smart mea culpa after he stopped running on a pass attempt from Brady down the Tampa sideline, saying he was “hard-headed.”) Not saying he’s an answer to Shane Vereen being on the shelf, but as he showed last year, he can serve as a good get-you-over guy who can do a lot of things well in a pinch.

WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS: 65 (last week: 62)

Season stats: nine catches, 28 targets, 130 yards, two touchdowns

The undrafted rookie clearly is showing progress. From the season opener against the Bills to Sunday’s performance against the Bucs, there’s more confidence and sharper routes displayed, and it’s starting to pay off for the New England offense. He had two touchdown catches on Sunday. On the first one, he showed a nice flair for picking up some good yardage after the catch, zig-zagging through the Tampa Bay secondary to pick up the final few yards on the way to the end zone. In all, it was a good day for Thompkins, who was matched up for much of the afternoon against Darrelle Revis. Another step forward for the rookie.

WIDE RECEIVER AARON DOBSON: 64 (last week: 50)

Season stats: 10 catches, 20 targets, 108 yards, one touchdown

One of our two big movers this week, the Marshall product had his best week of the season. If you want a show of confidence, Brady went to Dobson on several occasions in key moments early — including a fourth-down attempt that ultimately helped swing momentum in the Patriots’ favor. Four of his seven catches Sunday went for first downs, and he showed assuredness and confidence when it came to running his routes. A good week for the rookie.

RUNNING BACK STEVAN RIDLEY: 55 (last week: 51)

Season stats: 36 carries, 121 yards, 3.4 YPC, six negative plays, one fumble lost

Another fumble-free week for Ridley, who was part of a rotation at running back that included every healthy option. He finished the day with 11 carries for 35 yards and only one negative play, which allows him to climb another few notches on the ladder.

RUNNING BACK LeGARRETTE BLOUNT: 55 (last week: 50)

Season stats: 25 carries, 91 yards, 3.6 YPC, two negative plays

The best game of Blount’s relatively short career in New England came against his old mates. With the Patriots looking to grind some clock in the fourth quarter, they put together an efficient drive, keeping it on the ground for close to five minutes and leaning almost exclusively on Blount. Even though New England couldn’t punch it into the end zone, the final stats on the series were just what the Patriots were looking for: a 60-yard drive that took 4:36 off the clock and effectively ended the game. Blount accounting for 56 of the 60 yards on the sequence, which included some tough yards on the ground for the veteran. If he can stay healthy and continue to run well, this could be a preview of how New England plans to utilize Blount come November and December.

TIGHT END MICHAEL HOOMANAWANUI AND FULLBACK JAMES DEVELIN: 47 (last week: 47)

Season stats: four catches, six targets, 40 yards

Good week for these two, who continue to skate their lane and do their job. Hoomanawanui is never going to overwhelm you statistically, but has shown to be a dependable presence in the passing game when they throw his way — he had two catches for 31 yards against the Bucs.

TIGHT END ZACH SUDFELD: 44 (two weeks ago: 53)

Season stats: zero catches, three targets

Both picks were more the fault of Brady than Sudfeld, but two of the three balls the quarterback has sent in Sudfeld’s direction have been picked off. While he’s still getting reps (he had 17 snaps on Sunday against the Bucs, per Pro Football Focus), with Rob Gronkowski‘s return on the horizon, his window for any real offensive productivity may be coming to a close. That’s not to say he won’t play — he’ll get plenty of work as a blocker in two- and three-tight end situations. It’s just that it’s unlikely he’ll show up much in the box score.

WIDE RECEIVER JOSH BOYCE: Incomplete. (last week: incomplete)

Season stats: zero catches, one target

The fourth-round pick out of TCU saw more action Sunday than he had over the course of the first two weeks — he actually got the start and was in on 20 snaps, per PFF — but didn’t see enough action to register. (Still not sure why he doesn’t get a shot at working as a kick returner, but that’s something that bears watching going forward.)

(For continuity’€™s sake, we’€™ll keep the guys from the first week who didn’€™t play against the Jets at the same rate: Shane Vereen: 91; Danny Amendola: 85.)

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Brandon Bolden, Danny Amendola, James Develin
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