After week one, it was pretty clear that that Patriots’ fans were teased a bit by the performance of Tom Brady’s targets in the preseason.
Zach Sudfeld, who was affectionately named “Zach Studfeld”? He touched the ball once and that touch turned into an interception for Buffalo.
Aaron Dobson, the second round draft-pick who frequently made awesome catches in practice and in games? Inactive due to lingering issues.
Kenbrell Thompkins, the undrafted surprise who suddenly became the starting “X” receiver thanks to his strong preseason performance? Held to 42 yards on 4 catches and simply looked out of synch with Tom Brady all day.
That last point, the lack of synch and chemistry between Brady and his targets is ultimately what Patriots fans expected from the this team, especially early in the season. This is not a fault of anyone except Father Time. In the preseason, teams are more vanilla. The routes and plays are well defined and the defenses dial back the pressure.
On Sunday, the Patriots attempted to flex out their playbook against the increased defensive pressure. Doing so meant the Patriots relied more on option routes, for young receivers to break off routes exactly where Tom Brady wanted them to.
The issue is easy to see. Not Sudfeld nor Thompkins are mind-readers that know exactly what Tom Brady is thinking. Knowing exactly what Brady wants is something that can not be measured through drills. Its something that only comes through time together on the field in games and practice.
This is part of the reason why Patriots fans were surprised when each of Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney were available in free-agency and they did not go out and sign one of them. None of those guys are world-beaters, but they are guys that Tom Brady is comfortable with in the offense. It is the reason that Julian Edleman and Shane Vereen combined for 14 catches on Sunday. They know what Tom Brady wants.
A prime example is Thompkins failed catch in the back of the end-zone. He was running baseline, waited too long before cutting back across the field to where Tom Brady wanted to deliver him the ball. All things considering for Kenbrell Thompkins, he had a good game for a rookie. He ran good routes and showed good hands, but sometimes he just was not where Tom Brady wanted him to be. That takes time.
Which is why we should all hold off on pushing the big-red button. The Patriots’ chose to roll with the young guys and hope they come through. As the season progresses, timing and chemistry should improve between Brady and his young guys which means the team should only improve. A lot of pundits picked the Patriots to win the AFC East for good reasons. If they do win the AFC East and get into the playoffs, there is a good chance they will be playing their best football of the season at that time as the young players improve.