|Resetting Patriots depth chart: Wide receiver||04.11.15 at 9:10 am ET|
With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We started with special teams and tight end. Now, it’s wide receiver:
Current depth chart: Julian Edelman (92 catches, 134 targets, 972 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon LaFell (74 catches, 119 targets, 953 yards, 7 TDs), Danny Amendola (27 catches, 42 targets, 200 yards, 1 TD), Brian Tyms (5 catches, 11 targets, 82 yards, 1 TD), Aaron Dobson (3 catches, 5 targets, 38 yards ‘ ended season on injured reserve), Brandon Gibson (29 catches, 51 targets, 295 yards, 1 TD for Miami last year), Josh Boyce, Jonathan Krause, Greg Orton and Kevin Dorsey.
Lost in free agency: None.
Gained in free agency: Gibson and Dorsey, both of whom were officially added on March 11. While Dorsey figures to be a special teamer/depth signing, the addition of Gibson could add some competition to the mix. The 27-year-old is a 6-foot, 210-pounder who entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by Philadelphia in 2009 out of Washington State. He’s played in 76 games with 46 starts and has 233 receptions for 2,711 yards and 13 touchdowns. Gibson does have some positional versatility, but did spend an awful lot of time in the slot the last two seasons with the Dolphins, but it will be interesting to see where he lines up with the Patriots.
Other changes: None. Edelman figures to remain the No. 1 option at wide receiver, while LaFell had a very strong first year in New England, and Amendola came on strong down the stretch. (Prior to Week 16 against the Jets, Amendola had 15 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown on the season. In the five remaining games ‘ including the playoffs ‘ he had 23 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.) This remains a big offseason for Dobson, who suffered a lost season in 2014 ‘ offseason foot surgery meant he got off to a slow start, and he was eventually shut down in November after a hamstring injury. He’s only 23, but from this viewpoint, the franchise would love to see more urgency and consistency from him in 2015 as he tries to take his game to the next level.
Is this an area of need going into the draft? Not on the surface, but there are some rumblings that the Patriots might surprise people by going after a wide receiver with one of their high value picks, either on the first or second day. This report from Jason LaCanfora seems to suggest New England is at least considering a handful of names in the first round, including Louisville‘s DaVante Parker, Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman or Mizzou’s Dorial Green-Beckham as possibilities. For a team that would appear to have serious needs at other spots ‘ cornerback, offensive line ‘ a wide receiver in the first round would represent one of the bigger draft curveballs in recent Patriots’ draft history. (For the record, Bill Belichick has never taken a wide receiver in the first round since he took over in New England in 2000.)
|Report: WR Danny Amendola restructures deal with Patriots||03.12.15 at 12:48 pm ET|
The Patriots were able to gain some financial flexibility this week, as they have apparently managed to restructure the contract of wide receiver Danny Amendola. According to multiple reports, Amendola’s new deal covers three years, is worth $12.75 million, and can max out at $15 million.
The 29-year-old Amendola struggled over the course of 2014, finishing with 27 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown. But he became a major special teams contributor, and played well down the stretch and into the postseason.
|Report: Patriots in on Brian Hartline, possibly to replace Danny Amendola||03.05.15 at 3:55 pm ET|
The Patriots are considering all of their options when it comes to their wide receivers, and one of them may be veteran Brian Hartline.
According to Cleveland.com, the Patriots are among a group of four teams seriously considering making a bid for the 28-year-old veteran of five NFL seasons and may have already made a preliminary offer. Hartline hit the market after playing just two of the five seasons in his contract he signed with the Dolphins in March 2013. Miami signed him for five years and $30 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed and a $7 million signing bonus.
Amendola, 29, signed a similar contract at the same time, inking for five years and $28.5 million with $10 million guaranteed and a $6 million signing bonus. Amendola’s production picked up in the second half of this season and he played a key role as a kick returner. He had five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Seahawks. He also had two touchdown receptions in the playoff win over the Ravens.
Still, Amendola’s targets and catches were down drastically in 2014, his second season in New England, catching just 27 passes for 200 yards and only one touchdown on 42 targets. He caught 54 passes for 633 yards on 83 targets in 2013. His biggest impact came on kickoff returns, returning 20 kicks for an average of 24.1 yards.
Cleveland.com reports that the Patriots could be willing to cut Amendola and replace him with Hartline if it clears cap space and gives them more flexibility.
The Patriots are reportedly in the mix with the Texans, Browns (Hartline went to Ohio State and is from nearby Canton, OH), Bears and possibly the Colts. The Dolphins have already not ruled out making a run again at the receiver, who was a fourth-round pick of Miami in 2009 and has played his entire six-year career in South Florida. Hartline caught 298 passes for 4,243 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2012 and 2013, he became just the fifth receiver in Dolphins history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Last season, Hartline was relegated to a back-up, grabbing only 39 passes for 474 yards and two touchdowns.
If he chose his hometown Browns, he could help fill the void left by Josh Gordon, who’s serving a minimum one-year ban for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
|Julian Edelman on Late Night With Seth Myers: ‘I was in [Bill] Belichick’s doghouse for 6 years’||02.11.15 at 3:32 pm ET|
Wide receiver Julian Edelman continued to make his media rounds following the Super Bowl, appearing on Late Night With Seth Myers Tuesday night. He talked about the Super Bowl, tried to turn Myers into a Patriots fan and also said he was in Bill Belichick‘s doghouse for six years after he fumbled a snap his rookie season, and never got to throw a pass on a trick play since.
Belichick finally called a double-pass in the divisional round win over the Ravens when Edelman connected with Danny Amendola for a touchdown, and Edelman couldn’t have been happier given the time.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Wide receiver||02.09.15 at 3:07 pm ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kicked off the series with a look at special teams. Now, it’s the wide receivers.
Depth chart: Julian Edelman (92 catches, 134 targets, 972 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon LaFell (74 catches, 119 targets, 953 yards, 7 TDs), Danny Amendola (27 catches, 42 targets, 200 yards, 1 TD), Brian Tyms (5 catches, 11 targets, 82 yards, 1 TD), Aaron Dobson (3 catches, 5 targets, 38 yards — ended season on injured reserve), Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins (6 catches, 11 targets, 53 yards — he was released by the Patriots on Oct. 4)
Overview: When you assess the Patriots’ receiving corps, there’s a natural inclination to say, “Is that all there is?” But it’s important to remember that the receivers are just a portion of the New England passing game. Bottom line? You can afford to roll out two-receiver sets when you have one of the best young pass-catching backs in the game, (Shane Vereen was one of five backs to finish the season with at least 50 catches and 50 carries) and the most dominant offensive option in the league at tight end (Rob Gronkowski).
With that in mind, it was a very good year for the New England receivers. Edelman followed up a terrific 2013 campaign with an even better 2014 season, and became just as valuable to the success of the Patriots’ passing game as Wes Welker had been from 2007-2013. Including the playoffs, he had eight games where he had eight catches or more, including an 11-reception outing against the Lions and 10-catch performance against the Raiders. After a slow start, LaFell became a dependable No. 2 receiver. While he had no catches in his first two games, he built to a crest midway through the year, and had an impressive four-game string in the middle of the year where he had 29 catches for 337 yards and two touchdowns. And while Amendola basically had his job swiped by Edelman midway through the 2013 season, he still showed he could contribute down the stretch, as prior to Week 16 against the Jets, Amendola had 15 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown and then in the last five games of the year (including the playoffs), he had 23 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
Going forward, provided he can continue to stay healthy, Edelman figures to remain a foundational element of the New England offense, while LaFell appears to be well ensconced as a No. 2 option on the outside. There should be a real debate as to whether or not a late-season push by Amendola (which included good work as a kick returner) could be enough to keep him for 2015. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a re-done deal for Amendola. It’s likely that youngsters Dobson, Boyce and Tyms could compete to give the Patriots some sort of deep threat, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Patriots try and find some help at the spot, either in free agency or the draft.
Best moment: Edelman was immense for much of the season, but he was at his best in the Super Bowl when he finished with nine catches on 12 targets for 109 yards and a touchdown, and sparked serious discussion as to whether or not he should have been MVP and not Tom Brady. Those nine catches included a pair of third-down pickups in the fourth quarter that helped keep late drives alive — with one reception punctuated by a bone-rattling hit from Seattle defensive back Kam Chancellor. Edelman was nails all season long, but he was never better than when he was on the big stage against the Legion of Boom. (For what it’s worth, he finished the postseason as the league’s leading receiver in several areas, including most catches with 26, most targets with 37 and most receiving yards with 281.)
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Special teams||at 9:30 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kick off the series with a look at the special teams.
Overview: While the Patriots got steady and consistent performances on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball all year, the special teams were a true difference maker for New England on several occasions over the course of the 2014 season.
The Patriots had three different players win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, they tied for the league lead in field goals blocked per game, and were among the league leaders in almost every major special teams category. Gostkowski finished second in the league in field-goal accuracy (at 94.6 percent, he was second only to Indy’s Adam Vinatieri at 96.8 percent) and Edelman’s 12.0 return average on punt returns was second best in the NFL this season (trailing only Philly’s Darren Sproles at 13.0.) Meanwhile, Amendola gave a midseason boost to the kick return unit, and provided some consistency, averaging 24.1 yards per return, including an 81-yarder in a win over the Lions. Allen was 12th in the league in net punting average (39.9), dropped 25 of his 66 regular-season punts inside the 20 and set a Super Bowl record with a 64-yard punt in the third quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Seahawks. The Patriots were also fifth in the league in kick coverage (yielding 21.2 yards per attempt) and 16th in punt coverage (9.2 yards per attempt). All in all, a terrific season for New England’s special teams unit, which came up big on several occasions over the course of the year.
Going forward, the group will be challenged, as longtime special teams coach Scott O’Brien announced his retirement in the days after the Super Bowl. Special teams assistant Joe Judge will take the reins, and while he’s considered a well-respected coach who is ready to ascend, it’ll be tough to replicate what O’Brien did with the group in 2014.
“We have to get off the field, that’s huge. Some of the third-and-long situations we weren’t able to get off the field. I know third-and-long screens hurt us, too. Specifically that play and third and long as a whole, we need to do a better job. Obviously everything is working together, so coverage-rush, rush-coverage, everything works together. That’s just one area we definitely need to work on this year.” – Rob Ninkovich, July 23, 2014 — the first day of training camp and media availability of the season
It was evident the Patriots defense needed to improve on third down, as dating back to the 2010 season there hadn’t been a year in which the Patriots finished higher than 20th in the league in third-down defense.
In 2013 the unit got off the field 42.7 percent of the time, 25th in the league, and 2010 was the worst season of all, as New England allowed opponents a success rate of 47.1 percent, dead last among all 32 defenses in the league.
This season was a huge improvement as the Patriots finished 16th in the NFL, getting off the field on third down 40 percent of the time, but it was in the postseason when the group took things to another level and helped lead the way to the fourth Super Bowl title in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
One of the keys to getting to the Super Bowl was the Patriots’ come-from-behind win over the Ravens in the divisional round where they came back from two 14-point deficits. It was on the Ravens’ drive before Brandon LaFell’s game-winning touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter where Baltimore got inside the red zone, having first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and the game tied at 28.
The Patriots defense stepped up, including a huge Patrick Chung deflection on third down in the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels, which forced a Justin Tucker field goal giving the Ravens a three-point lead, instead of what could have been seven.