News moves fast in the Not For Long League.
We spent some time this morning shooting “A Football Life” segment for NFL Films about the history of the passing game.
The subject was a little ironic given the repeated body blows suffered by the New England Patriots passing game this offseason.
In the space of those few minutes Wednesday morning, NFL star Aaron Hernandez was:
- cuffed by the Massachusetts constabulary
- perp walked, dressed in a plain white t-shirt, in front of the cameras
- cut by the New England Patriots
Hernandez, a three-year veteran tight end, was arraigned Wednesday in a Massachusetts courthouse in connection with the murder of 27-year-old pal Odin Lloyd. Hernandez was charged with murder and five related charges. He's being held without bail.
The law will take its own course. And it doesn’t look pretty for Hernandez, whose gang-banging history has only now come to light. The media, so often wrong in so many cases, said his draft stock fell in 2010 because of issues with marijuana. That story may have been true, but at best we now know it was only partially true.
As far as the impact of this news on the football field, it’s yet another profound hit for Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack.
There were frontline trench-warfare outfits in World War I that suffered less attrition than the New England Patriots pass-catching corps has suffered here in the 2013 offseason.
Wes Welker lost to the Broncos; Danny Woodhead lost to the Chargers; Rob Gronkowski lost (for now) to injury; Deion Branch lost to old age; unsigned free agent Brandon Lloyd likely lost to apathy; and now Aaron Hernandez lost to the long arm of the law.
Pending Lloyd’s status and Gronkowksi’s progress, Brady will enter the 2013 season without his top five pass catchers from 2012.
In fact, 14 players caught a pass from Brady in 2012. Eight of them are definitely gone or likely gone for the start of the season. Of the six holdovers, Julian Edelman was the leading target (21 catches, 235 yards, 3 TDs).
Edelman is also the only returning wide receiver on the roster, assuming the Patriots don’t now hurry to sign Lloyd. It’s worth noting that Edelman played quarterback in college. Prize free agent Danny Amendola, seen as Wes Welker's replacement, caught 63 passes for 666 yards and 3 TDs in 2012, but boasts just 7 TD receptions in four NFL seasons.
Here’s a look at the eight pass catchers from the 2012 roster gone or likely gone for 2013, or in Gronkowski's case, likely gone for at least part of the season:
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Now here’s a look at the six Patriots who caught a pass in 2012 likely to be back and healthy on the roster in 2013.
That’s ugly, folks.
Brady and the Patriots have lost receivers who accounted for 88.6 per of completions, 86.8 percent of pass yards and 88.2 percent of TD catches in 2012.
We’ve often joked that Brady could put up great numbers throwing to a collection of tackling dummies. Looks like we’ll get a chance to find out if that's true in 2013.