ESPN ranks the New England Patriots sixth in offense going into 2013; Matt Stein of Bleacher Report ranks Brady and Co. eighth.
Tom Brady and his Patriots led the league in scoring for 2013, good enough for second best in NFL history. And he did it with a revolving door at both tight end and receiver. Just look at the list of receivers who missed time to injury in 2012:
And don't forget that his options out of the backfield (Woodhead, Vereen, and Bolden) also were hampered by injury at one time or another.
Basically, Brady's only sure targets were Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment, while Welker was his usual capable self. And Brady is known (or should be) for getting quality production out of retreads and cast-offs.
Enter training camp 2013 and Belichick has his hands full of new bodies that must be sorted and organized to provide his quarterback with reliable targets come week one. But if anybody can do it, it's Bill Belichick.
Several notable veterans have already bitten the dust, including Donald Jones and LaVelle Hawkins, and Michael Jenkins appears to be on the same path. I even have my doubts about Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, both because of injury concerns.
Which leaves us to ponder the rookies that are quietly making statements in camp these first two weeks. Let's keep in perspective that this is their first pro mini camp ever. None of them have experienced anything like this before; we can excuse a rough spot or two. Don't expect the same for the veterans.
And also keep in mind that they have one of the greatest QBs of all time in the pocket throwing them the rock. Brady will bring out the best in these guys and turn them into seasoned pass-catchers in short order. There will most certainly be a learning curve that will take a little bit of time; that's what training camp is all about, especially in New England.
Report after report gives high praise to the rookie receivers and it has been pretty consistent since day one. And I, for one, see Tim Tebow as having a role in this new-look offense that Belichick and McDaniels will roll out in 2013. He has the tools to contribute as no Patriot has ever done before.
The New England offense could very well consist primarily of first year guys who are showing that age doesn't have to be a factor. Can you envision the day that Tom Brady eyes the field and his receivers are Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, and either Mark Harrison or Quentin Sims? And Kamar Aiken appears to be finally making the leap in year three, making this receiving corps potentially one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the league.
Amendola and Edelman would be like elder statesmen going into their fifth season IF they even make the roster and start! And if the injury bug bites, the rookies will be there to fill the void.
Brady will have some very, good targets on his field in 2013. And his stable of talented running backs will help immensely. Throw in a Tebow for good measure and the Patriot offense will be one of the biggest surprises of the year.
None of these youngsters were touted as top talent in the draft, yet they have the potential to vie for some attention as the season progresses. Belichick and McDaniels love a challenge, and this is a big one. These are the times when great football minds turn the playbook inside out. So don't be surprised when Tom Brady leads his team to a top five offensive performance and makes a strong run through the playoffs once again.
Belichick will put the best team available on the field. He will come up with a plan. Good luck to the rest of the league.