Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 9/13/13
The Patriots squeaked one out on Thursday night thanks to their suddenly stout defense. Tom Brady and the offense weren’t much help, providing just 13 points, all of which came in the first half. But there’s no need to panic yet. Basically every key piece is coming back and the schedule doesn’t get too difficult until Week 4 when the team travels down to Atlanta. It will be a different season than New Englanders are used to, but it’s a bit of a return to what made this team win three Super Bowls in the early aughts. I’ll try to lower the panic level in this week’s mailbag. Should the Pats add veterans or wait for the rookies to step up? –@superawesome227 In the past, rookie receivers have not worked out because the Patriots have had a lack of patience. Knowing that Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen are coming back, the Patriots can afford to have patience with the young players. Adding Julian Edelman and Stevan Ridley into the mix, whichever rookie wide receiver starts will likely be the sixth option in this offense. Does that ease any concerns? Bringing in a Deion Branch or a Brandon Lloyd, as many readers have suggested, would only delay the maturation of the rookie receivers. If Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson or Josh Boyce aren’t needed this year, they’ll definitely be counted down the road. Hopes were high for all three players after training camp and preseason. This is a lesson in dulling some of those expectations coming out of the summer. Just because a player looks good against his own teammates and opposing vanilla defenses doesn’t mean they’ll immediately be able to jump into a complex offense and excel. The Patriots were lucky to start the season with the Bills, Jets and Buccaneers. It’s giving Brady time to work with his young players and still pull out some wins. Do you think we can win 10 games this season playing like that? –@THESTREETONE They’re already two wins down, so absolutely. This team is going to look a lot different a few months from now. They’ll even look different from the team we saw in Week 1. This is also a much different team than Patriots have grown accustomed to. The Super Bowl years are far off, but these are the types of games the Patriots used to win. Granted, the wide receivers didn’t drop quite as many balls in those days, but New England used to be a defense-first team. We’ve seen a return to that. And after years of fans complaining about the defense, that unit is now stepping up and the aggravation has moved over the offensive side of the ball. There’s no perfect team in this league. And once Amendola, Gronkowski and Vereen come back, this offense will be able to compete with the best defenses in the league. And as long as most of the defense stays healthy, they should be able to stack up against the top offenses in the league. It won’t be an easy season for Patriots fans. Wins are going to be hard fought and ugly, but it’s only going to make the team stronger. Tommy Kelly said this defense plays as one better than any of the Oakland teams he was on. That’s a good sign. Why does Belichick insist on having a 250-pound running back returning kickoffs when he has Leon Washington? –@BostonRocks That’s a good question. I can only assume it’s that Washington was not at full health yet and he was going to be needed more in the passing game than in the return game. The LeGarrette Blount experiment hasn’t worked out great so far. I can imagine the idea behind it is with Blount’s running style, he should be able to take at least one to the house this season. But in three returns, he’s only averaging 20 yards so far, while Washington has a 25.9 career average. Once Brandon Bolden comes back from injury, the running back committee may get shaken up a bit. Bolden can get more third down snaps, Blount will be Ridley’s backup and Washington can get called to do his regular special teams duties. When Gronk returns, do you think it will take a little pressure off the rookie receivers? –@K_Her90 Absolutely. Right now, the Patriots are essentially playing without a receiving threat at tight end. That just shows how completely different this team looks now than they did the past few years. Michael Hoomanawanui was targeted once on Thursday night and didn’t catch a pass. James Develin, who split his snaps between fullback and tight end, caught one pass for four yards. Those are the Patriots’ biggest receiving threats at the position right now. So yeah, once Gronkowski comes back, the rookie receivers will definitely get some pressure taken off. Gronkowski, Amendola and Edelman will eat up defenders in the middle of the field, while the rookies will have free rein over the edges. This team has a good chance to be very dangerous once all the pieces are in place. Brady’s numbers just may not look quite as good at the end of the year as many are used to. Last 2 years, NE has added pieces before the trade deadline (Aqib Talib and Albert Haynesworth). If offense doesn’t progress, will they continue the trend? –@YouSeeThisWatch Nothing is ever off the table with this Patriots team, but I don’t think it’s necessary to trade for a veteran. If depth becomes an issue, it’s possible New England reaches out to some of the teams they’re close with to see if those teams have an extra body they’re willing to part with, but until then, I think the Patriots make due with what they have. Keep in mind that none of the injures the Patriots have suffered are season-ending. These players will be back. And the rookie receivers will improve. Is it just me or can Buchanan be even BETTER with about 10 extra pounds? Smaller body, but high motor and great instincts. –@AverageJoe1993 I completely agree. That’s not going to come this year, but Chandler Jones put one some extra weight this offseason and I would expect Buchanan to do the same. I can’t say enough good things about Buchanan. As a seventh-rounder, he’s been the team’s best rookie so far. I haven’t done either of my weekly rewatches yet, but Pro Football Focus has Buchanan down for one quarterback hurry to go along with his sack. Buchanan is serving as the third-down edge rusher this team has needed since Mark Anderson signed a huge deal with the Bills. Buchanan allows the team to kick Jones inside to defensive tackle and the production doesn’t drop off on the edge. Buchanan is slim. He doesn’t look a pound over his 255-pound listed weight, but he appears to be fitting in well in the locker room. He’s saying and doing all the right things and his teammates appears to like him. Buchanan could wind up being an Alfonzo Dennard-like steal in the seventh round. For all the commotion over the Patriots’ lack of success in the second round, the team has sure found some seventh-round and undrafted gems. Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here. Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories
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