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Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 4: Julian Edelman approaching Wes Welker territory

10.01.13 at 7:15 am ET
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Through the first four games of the 2013 season, Julian Edelman has established himself as a vital part of the Patriots passing game. (AP)

Through the first four games of the 2013 season, Julian Edelman has established himself as a vital part of the Patriots passing game. (AP)

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: 91 (last week: 90)

Season stats: 34 catches, 43 targets, 319 yards, two touchdowns

We said it late Sunday night, and it beats repeating in this context: If it wasn’t for Edelman, the Patriots wouldn’t be one of a handful of teams sitting at 4-0 after the first four weeks of the season. His consistency, durability and toughness have played a large part in any sort of offensive success New England has had over the first quarter of the season. On Sunday, after not catching a ball in the first half (which was more about the game plan than Edelman not getting any chances), he finished with a team-high seven catches on nine targets for 118 yards. Even with the texture of the Patriots’ passing game likely to change with the arrival of Rob Gronkowski and the return of Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, he seems to be a lock to break his personal records of 37 catches and 359 yards, numbers he set as a rookie in 2009. A terrific start to the year for Edelman.

RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 70 (last week: 70)

Season stats: 9 rushes, 58 yards, 17 YPC; 6 catches on 7 targets for 44 yards; 1 negative reception

If there was one member of the committee who didn’t match up when it came to overall production this week, it was Bolden. He had a good number of touches, but wasn’t able to generate much offense on the evening — he finished with six carries for 17 yards and one catch for minus-five yards in the win. Part of that could be because he went down with a knee injury in the first half, and while he returned, it appeared the Patriots were more inclined to ride with their passing game in the second half. (In terms of overall offensive touches, his night was almost an exact opposite of Edelman — while the ground game carried the Patriots in the first half, Edelman got the bulk of his chances in the second half. Meanwhile, Bolden got the bulk of his reps early on, and stepped aside when the Patriots took to the air.) Bolden, who has struggled with injury at the start of the season, certainly bears watching as it relates to the injury list this week.

WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS: 70 (last week: 65)

Season stats: 15 catches, 39 targets, 257 yards, three touchdowns

The drops are still worrisome, but the rookie continues to make strides in the New England passing game. Statistically, he had the best game of his relatively brief career against the Falcons, finishing with six catches (on a team-high 11 targets) for 127 yards and a touchdown. Regardless of the sub-.500 catch rate, it’s clear that Brady is going to keep going to Thompkins over and over again — he’s going to break Edelman’s mark for targets for a Patriots rookie receiver (54, a mark set by Edelman in 2009) sooner rather than later. But frankly, his continued evolution is starting to warrant that sort of trust on the part of the quarterback. He’ll face another challenge this week when going up against the Bengals defense.

RUNNING BACK LeGARRETTE BLOUNT: 65 (last week: 55)

Season stats: 34 carries, 155 yards, 4.6 YPC, one touchdown, three negative plays

Blount has been a revelation the last two games, coming into both contests and effectively working as a late-game closer to finish off an opponent — 123 of his 155 rushing yards this season have come in either the third or fourth quarter. He displayed more than enough of a finishing kick Sunday night against the Falcons, rumbling for a 47-yard touchdown run over left guard in the fourth quarter and reaching the end zone for the first time all season. His role has been increasing steadily each week, and provided the Patriots continue to monitor his snaps and use him judiciously, he will remain an important part of the New England running game.

RUNNING BACK STEVAN RIDLEY: 60 (last week: 55)

Season stats: 47 carries, 174 yards, 3.7 YPC, seven negative plays, one fumble lost; three catches on three targets for 34 yards

Another steady week for Ridley, who is emerging as the head of the running back by committee — against the Falcons, he went for 53 yards on 11 carries. While it didn’t lead the team in yardage (that belonged to Blount, who came away with 64), Ridley was able to produce steady and consistent yardage between the tackles in the first half — he accounted for 50 of the 75 yards on New England’s first scoring drive of the night, the one that set the tone for the contest. Maybe the biggest surprise from Ridley Sunday night was his two catches for 26 yards, including a career-high 24-yard reception.

WIDE RECEIVER AARON DOBSON: 60 (last week: 64)

Season stats: 11 catches, 24 targets, 118 yards, one touchdown

Dobson takes a step back this week, as he had at least one drop against the Falcons, and ended up with one reception (on three targets) for 10 yards. He got clocked in a collision in the end zone on a play where the Atlanta defender probably could have been flagged for either defensive holding or a blow to the head. He left with a neck injury, and like Bolden, his health should be monitored going forward as a result.

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

Season stats: five catches, seven targets, 55 yards

See last week, and the week before — simply put, another steady week for two workhorses who aren’t a huge part of things from a statistical perspective, but continue to provide steady and consistent work as blockers. 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 has three catches for 36 yards to this point in the season.

TIGHT END ZACH SUDFELD: 32 (last week ago: 44)

Season stats: zero catches, three targets

It was a rough week for the pride of Modesto Christian High School, who failed to catch a pass again, and botched a chance to recover an onsides kick as part of the hands team in the fourth quarter. It’s been a difficult start to the season for Sudfeld, who has struggled to adjust to the speed of the game. It will be interesting to see how his snaps are affected when Gronkowski is ready to go.

WIDE RECEIVER JOSH BOYCE: 25. (last week: incomplete)

Season stats: one catch, six targets, 24 yards

The fourth-round pick out of TCU has had a slow start to the season, but managed to come away with his first catch of his professional career Sunday against the Falcons, a 24-yarder. He’s clearly a step behind the two other rookie receivers, but could see more snaps this week if Dobson is unable to go because of the neck injury he suffered in Atlanta.

TIGHT END MATTHEW MULLIGAN: 25. (last week: incomplete)

Season stats: one catch, one target, one yard, one touchdown

Now that is a stat line. The Maine product provided the first touchdown reception of the season when he caught a laser from Brady in the first quarter from one yard out against the Falcons on Sunday. He doesn’t figure to get many more chances, but he’s off to quite a start.

(For continuity’s sake, we’ll keep the guys from the first week who haven’t played since Week 1: Shane Vereen: 91; Danny Amendola: 85.)

Read More: Tom Brady Confidence Indez,
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