Brandon LaFell hoping to be red-zone target for Tom Brady
|08.13.14 at 1:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola — as well as last year’s rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce — are the most talked about members of the Patriots wide receiving corps.
Then, there’s four-year veteran Brandon LaFell.
The Patriots signed the former Carolina Panthers receiver on March 15, and although the 6-foot-3 LaFell is a year behind Amendola, Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins in terms of knowing the offense and building chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady, LaFell is making progress each day.
“It’s been getting better day-by-day,” LaFell said Wednesday. “It was rocky this offseason because I was a new guy here — I didn’t know too much and I didn’t know where he wanted me to be.
“[But] day-by-day we just keep getting better, and I think we’re on a good path right now.”
One notable play from Wednesday’s joint practice in the rain with the Eagles was a LaFall reception where the quarterback was clearly fired up about the connection.
“It was one of those plays where we ran it against our defense — I think the first day of training camp — and I ended up falling at the top end of the route,” LaFell recalled. “There was a heavy emphasis today of keeping your feet up underneath you — get out there and make a play.”
“I’ve really enjoyed being with him. He’s added a lot. He’s got a real love for the game, and he does a great job out there getting open,” said Brady. “He just keeps making more plays. It’s really fun for a quarterback to see guys out there really working hard to make the improvements and then really do it, and hopefully it continues to carry over. It’s been a lot of fun to be with him.”
LaFell brings some size to the receiving corps that Brady has been lacking over the past few seasons as besides Dobson being 6-foot-3, there is no wide out taller than 6-foot-1.
He feels his size could benefit the offense, particularly in the red zone — but LaFell is also quick to point out he isn’t going to take receptions away from the smaller guys Edelman and Amendola.
“In Carolina, we had [Steve Smith], [Ted Ginn] and me so I was the bigger guy. It’s nothing new to me,” he said. “I know those guys [smaller receivers] they worked with Tom the last couple of years — they have a lot of chemistry with him and he trusts those guys. I know those guys are going to get the ball. But in the red zone, you kind of need that bigger body, and I’m hoping to be that guy.”
In four seasons with the Panthers, LaFell caught 167 passes for 2,385 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a career-high 49 catches and five touchdowns last season. Although it is too early to compare the two offenses, he noted both are uptempo and keep the defense on their heels.
“Both offenses, we’re in attack mode,” said LaFell. “We’re not the ones to sit back and let the defense dictate. We’re in attack mode, and we’re going to put the pressure on you.”
With the number of receivers the Patriots have, LaFell isn’t taking anything for granted because he knows if he can’t get the job done there is someone behind him itching to prove that he can.
“It’s pressure on everybody — all 11 guys because you have to do your job right,” said LaFell. “There are guys right behind that are as hungry as you and you don’t want to be the guy out there making different mistakes on this play, that play and end up getting subbed out.”