Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 7: Initiate the Gronkowski Protocol
|10.21.13 at 4:52 pm ET|
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.)
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI: 91 (last week: unranked)
Season stats: 8 catches, 17 targets, 114 yards
The tight end changes everything. Drawing double coverage for most of the afternoon, he was Brady’s security blanket from start to finish against the Jets. He threw to him early (he had 42 of the 80 yards on New England’s first scoring drive) and threw to him late (he was targeted four times on New England’s final drive in regulation that ended with a field goal). His snaps were managed — early reports indicate that he was on the field for just over half the game. But going forward, provided he stays healthy, expect the big tight end to carry a sizable portion of the passing game on his ample shoulders. It’s clear that even at less than 100 percent, he has the full faith of the quarterback.
WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN: 87 (last week: 85)
Season stats: 46 catches, 68 targets, 455 yards, two touchdowns
Against the Jets, he had five catches on seven targets for 44 yards, including an impressive 19-yarder. Edelman, who has shown himself to be eminently dependable to this point in the season, likely saw some of his opportunities in the passing game hoovered up by the big tight end. (His seven targets tied for a season-low.) But as long as Danny Amendola struggles to stay on the field, expect the quarterback to lean on Edelman — he’s certainly done enough to warrant an extraordinary level of faith, at least through the first seven games. (He’s on pace for 105 catches this season, which would put him sixth on the franchise list for most receptions in a season.)
RUNNING BACK STEVAN RIDLEY: 82 (last week: 80)
Season stats: 78 carries, 320 yards, 4.1 YPC, three touchdowns, eight negative runs, one negative reception, one fumble lost; six catches on six targets for 51 yards
Under the circumstances, the Patriots probably got as much out of their running game as they could have hoped against the NFL’s second-best run defense. New England had 20 carries on 90 yards as a team, with Ridley leading the way with 11 carries for 50 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown run in the second that was the last touchdown of the afternoon for the Patriots. When given the chance, he ran well, and was able to pick up good yardage on the day. He only had one negative play, with that coming on a pass play out of the backfield. (Our weekly reminder: Ridley needs 680 more yards to be the first back ever under Bill Belichick to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He’d have to average 75.5 yards per game over the final nine games to pull it off. By way of comparison, he averaged 78.9 over the course of the 2012 season.)
WIDE RECEIVER AUSTIN COLLIE: 73 (last week: 80)
Season stats: 3 catches, 7 targets, 34 yards
After a splashy debut down the stretch against the Saints, Collie dropped back to the pack this week against the Jets, finishing with one catch on five targets. At the same time, he saw a dramatic upturn in playing time — according to Pro Football Focus, he went from nine snaps in the win over the Saints to 27 in Sunday’s loss to the Jets. That certainly bodes well for his future, and with the medical uncertainty surrounding Amendola, it looks like Collie could be in the mix for more playing time going forward.
WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA: 72 (last week: 72)
Season stats: 16 catches, 27 targets, 159 yards; 1 rush, 1 yard; 1 negative reception
Amendola didn’t play this week against the Jets, so we’ll keep his numbers locked in at 72.
RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 71 (last week: 65)
Season stats: 27 rushes, 147 yards, 5.4 YPC, 1 touchdown; 15 catches on 21 targets for 100 yards; 1 negative run, 1 negative reception
Bolden actually did pretty well with the opportunities he was given. He had eight carries for 36 yards and one catch for seven yards. He would have had what looked to be a touchdown (or at least he would have been ruled out of bounds inside the 1-yard line) after taking a nice pass out of the backfield from Brady and heading to the Jets’ end zone, but the play was called back because of a pass interference call on Gronkowski. It would take an impressive second half, but he’s still got a shot at reaching the 40-catch, 40-carry plateau, something that only Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk have been able to accomplish as members of the Patriots since 2008. (While the rest of the pass catchers will likely have their production reduced in the wake of Gronkowski’s return, Bolden’s production could take a hit with the return of Shane Vereen, who is eligible to play come Carolina week.)
TIGHT END MICHAEL HOOMANAWANUI: 70 (last week: 70)
Season stats: eight catches, 11 targets, 95 yards
After a week that featured his greatest offensive output at the NFL level, it was back to grunt work for Hoomanawanui, who played half the game but didn’t catch any passes.
WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS: 69 (last week: 75)
Season stats: 23 catches, 55 targets, 334 yards, four touchdowns
Like the rest of the receivers, Thompkins’ numbers took a sizable hit with the return of Gronkowski — he finished the day with two catches on five targets for 16 yards, his lowest output of the season. While he appeared to play for most of the game — PFF has him at 73 snaps, his second-highest total of the year — it remains to be seen how much of that was scheme and how much of that was Brady’s decision-making. For what it’s worth, there did appear to be at least one occasion where he and Brady had a missed connection. As the offense begins to recalibrate somewhat with the return of Gronkowski, it’ll be interesting to see how his role evolves.
WIDE RECEIVER AARON DOBSON: 60 (last week: 58)
Season stats: 22 catches, 46 targets, 264 yards, one touchdown
Like the rest of his receivers, his production took a hit with the return of Gronk, and like Thompkins, it will be interesting to see his level of involvement in the next few weeks as the offense starts to reset and readjust to the return of Gronkowski. He finished the day with three catches on seven targets for 34 yards, and according to PFF, was on the field for 45 of a possible 79 snaps. (That’s down from 80 of 88 last week against the Saints.) It marked the third consecutive game where he was on the field for at least half the snaps.
RUNNING BACK LeGARRETTE BLOUNT: 58 (last week: 58)
Season stats: 54 carries, 219 yards, 4.1 YPC, one touchdown, five negative runs; zero catches on two targets, one fumble lost
If there was an odd-man out offensive on Sunday against the Jets, it was Blount, whose action was limited to one carry for four yards and four kick returns. He played a season-low two snaps in the loss. If there’s one instance where it could be a scheme-based decision, this could be it — Blount really didn’t run well in limited action the first time against the Jets (four carries, 11 yards), and through the first seven games, it appears Blount is developing into a scheme-based guy, someone the Patriots utilize when they believe they have a favorable matchup: He’s had three games where he’s rushed for 50 yards or more (on nine or more carries), and four games where he was at 15 yards or less (on seven or less carries). As a result, I wouldn’t read too much into Sunday’s dip.
WIDE RECEIVER JOSH BOYCE: 25. (last week: 25)
Season stats: one catch, six targets, 24 yards
Boyce took another healthy scratch Sunday against the Jets, and appears to be headed for a redshirt season.
TIGHT END MATTHEW MULLIGAN: 25. (last week: 25)
Season stats: one catch, one target, one yard, one touchdown
Again, if his season ends with that stat line, it could be the most perfect series of numbers any receiver has ever had. Just awesome.
(For continuity’s sake, we’ll keep Shane Vereen — who hasn’t played since suffering a wrist injury in a Week 1 win over the Bills — at 91.)
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