Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 8: Passing game continues to be Gronk-centric
|10.29.13 at 1:33 am 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: 93 (last week: 91)
Season stats: 10 catches, 22 targets, 141 yards
Despite the fact that the tight end only caught two passes on Sunday against the Dolphins, he remains the most trusted pass catcher on the roster. That much was clear when the quarterback forced it into him with his first pass attempt of the game, only to see the ball picked off for an interception. There were the two catches, yes, but there were two occasions where Brady threw in Gronk’s direction on third-down opportunities, balls that weren’t caught but ended up drawing penalties on Miami defenders trying to slow down Gronkowski: In the first half, Jimmy Wilson was hit with a defensive pass interference call on a pass play for Gronk that kept a Patriots drive alive that ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. And in the second half, there was a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Dimitri Patterson on a third-down pass play that kept a New England drive alive, one that also ended with a Gostkowski field goal. Gronkowski also appeared to catch his first touchdown of the season late in the third quarter on maybe the sweetest pass of the year from the quarterback, but the play was nullified because of a holding call on Nate Solder.
RUNNING BACK STEVAN RIDLEY: 85 (last week: 82)
Season stats: 92 carries, 399 yards, 4.3 YPC, four touchdowns, eight negative runs, one negative reception, one fumble lost; six catches on six targets for 51 yards
It remains to be seen whether his second-half surge against the Dolphins was a one-game spike or a sign of things to come, but regardless, good things happen when the Patriots give the ball to Ridley. Despite the fact that he didn’t play at all until the second quarter Sunday, he still finished with 14 carries for 79 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Give him the ball — if there’s one guy on the roster who can help the New England offense shake off some inconsistencies, it’s Ridley. (Our weekly reminder: Ridley needs 601 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 yards per game over the final eight games to pull it off. By way of comparison, he averaged 78.9 over the course of the 2012 season, so if he continues to stay healthy and get the ball on a regular basis, it’s completely reasonable.)
WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN: 82 (last week: 87)
Season stats: 48 catches, 70 targets, 462 yards, two touchdowns
Two catches (on two targets) for seven yards represents his lowest output of the season. Edelman’s numbers took a hit for a variety of reasons, including the continued reacclimation of Gronk into the passing game and a resurgent running game that took center stage for much of the second half. His numbers have dipped the last two weeks — and will likely continue to lag behind the breakneck pace he was on early in the season — but he still has the trust of the quarterback in a big situation. No receiver has produced more first downs for the Patriots this season (21 of his 48 catches have gone for first downs, an impressive rate of 44 percent) and he’s easily the leader when it comes to yards after the catch (220 — Aaron Dobson is second at 124).
RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 71 (last week: 71)
Season stats: 35 rushes, 169 yards, 4.8 YPC, 1 touchdown; 17 catches on 23 targets for 107 yards; 2 negative runs, 1 negative reception
While Shane Vereen works his way back after a Week 1 injury and Leon Washington tries to get healthy, Bolden remains the only real multidimensional threat when it comes to working as a pass-catching option out of the backfield. His blitz pickup skills could use some work, but in terms of being able to work as a consistent pass catcher, a good run blocker and ground gainer, Bolden has turned himself into a fairly reliable offensive option. (His catch rate of 74 percent is tops among all skill position players who have been targeted at least 10 times.) As a result, he’ll continue to get plenty of reps — it’s amazing to think that after eight weeks, Bolden has more snaps than any running back in the New England system. (According to PFF, he has 202 snaps. Ridley is second at 194.)
WIDE RECEIVER AUSTIN COLLIE: 70 (last week: 73)
Season stats: 3 catches, 7 targets, 34 yards
The numbers go down, but the playing time continues to rise: For the second straight week, Collie’s stats dipped (he went from one catch on five targets against the Jets to zeroes across the board against the Dolphins), but he saw an increase in his playing time, going from 27 snaps against New York to 33 snaps in the win over Miami. While the stats aren’t necessarily where he’d like them to be, the continued increase in playing time bodes well for his future. It’s clear Brady and the Patriots see something in Collie, who will continue to be in the mix for playing time over the second half of the season.
TIGHT END MICHAEL HOOMANAWANUI: 70 (last week: 70)
Season stats: eight catches, 11 targets, 95 yards
No surprise that Gronkowski has hoovered up all the offensive options since he returned, but Hoomanawanui has still earned the respect of Brady and the coaching staff with his work as an occasional pass catching threat (a 73 percent catch rate for anyone with more than 10 targets is impressive) and blocker. While it’s unlikely he’ll see another contest where he catches four or five passes, he’ll continue to see serious reps when New England operates in two-tight end sets.
WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA: 68 (last week: 72)
Season stats: 19 catches, 33 targets, 174 yards; 1 rush, 1 yard; 1 negative reception
Amendola still isn’t at 100 percent — he was on the field for 40 of the 68 snaps against the Dolphins (per PFF), and it was evident the Patriots were still working him back up to speed in much the same fashion they did the last time when he was on the shelf. (He played 39 of a possible 63 snaps against the Bengals in Week 5 after spending four games on the sidelines following an injury in the regular-season opener.) Like many of the rest of the pass catchers, his output was also affected by the return of Gronk. While the offensive is recalibrated and Amendola makes his way back to 100 percent, he should return to his role as one of the primary options in the passing game.
WIDE RECEIVER AARON DOBSON: 64 (last week: 60)
Season stats: 26 catches, 56 targets, 324 yards, two touchdowns
While he fell short of his season high in total catches (that was six against the Saints), Dobson’s four catches (on five targets) for 60 yards and a touchdown represented the third consecutive strong outing for the rookie, who has now caught 13 of the last 22 passes that were thrown in his direction. As we mentioned here, these aren’t Jerry Rice sort of numbers, but it’s encouraging after a rough start. As long as he keeps catching at least 60 percent of the passes that are thrown in his direction, he’ll continue to get his chances.
WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS: 62 (last week: 69)
Season stats: 23 catches, 55 targets, 334 yards, four touchdowns
It’s clear there’s now a book on Thompkins among opposing defensive coordinators, and as a result, he’s starting to see more and more elite-level corners come his way. As a result, his numbers have decreased — Sunday’s game with zero catches on one target marked his lowest output of the season. He now faces his next challenge in being able to fight through some of these better cornerbacks (who can recognize any sort of moves he has) and create chances where there are none. It’s almost like a rookie pitcher on his second trip through the order. It’s on his now to take his game to the next level.
RUNNING BACK LeGARRETTE BLOUNT: 62 (last week: 58)
Season stats: 65 carries, 265 yards, 4.1 YPC, one touchdown, seven negative runs; zero catches on two targets, one fumble lost
Blount has done a nice job playing the role of part-time back over the first eight games of the season, hitting that four yards per carry mark and providing depth when it comes to running back by committee. He’s not an elite back, but has done enough to warrant the support of Brady and the coaching staff — all you needed to see to confirm that was his play-time in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins, where he was in on nine of the 12 snaps on New England’s fourth-quarter scoring drive, one that went into the wind. He finished the game against Miami with 11 carries for 46 yards (a 4.2 ypc average), the fourth game of the year where he rushed for 45 yards or more. There are questions about Blount going forward: Is he there to simply keep Ridley (their best back) fresh for a second-half surge of 20-plus carries a game? Or do they continue to lean on the big back as part of a collective when it comes to running the ball? Regardless, he’s played a key role in the New England offense over the first half of the year.
WIDE RECEIVER JOSH BOYCE: 25. (last week: 25)
Season stats: one catch, six targets, 24 yards
Another healthy scratch for Boyce, who is now pretty much officially headed for a redshirt season.
TIGHT END MATTHEW MULLIGAN: 25. (last week: 25)
Season stats: one catch, one target, one yard, one touchdown
Still our favorite stat line of the year, even if he’s still on the outs following the return of Gronkowski.
(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.)