The New England Patriots are 2-0 to start the 2013-14 season. Though many may say these two wins are a step in the right direction, by no means have they been the prettiest of victories.
Quarterback Tom Brady has had to reluctantly put his trust into inexperienced rookies; the offense has looked out of sync and the team hasn’t been able to win by more than a field goal. Undrafted wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and fellow rookie Aaron Dobson will continue to see their share of looks in the New England offense, but both youngsters clearly have some developing to do before emerging as reliable options.
According to reports, tight end Rob Gronkowski could return by Week 3 and wide receiver Danny Amendola will miss significant time with a sports hernia and torn abductors. The question is, without any weapons, can Tom Brady still lead the Patriots’ offense?
Amendola had an impressive Week 1 as he racked up 10 receptions for 104 yards. Even with his history, no one could have predicted that he would only play in one game before he went down, but it may be a blessing in disguise as this has led to the much-improved role and production of the versatile Julian Edelman.
Edelman has played on both sides of the ball for the Patriots throughout his five-year career and has proven to be one of the the few players that Brady has trust in, as he has been targeted 27 times and has 20 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns. If he can maintain this high level of production week in and week out, then he should find himself as one of Brady’s main targets this season.
As the Patriots are missing a few familiar faces in the receiving game, the running game could be a crucial part to New England’s success this season. The only problem is that the running backs can’t hold on to the ball.
Stevan Ridley, who solidified himself as an elite back in the league with 12 touchdowns and 1,263 yards last year, has recently seen his struggles; he was benched during Week 1 for turning over the ball. Ridley did have 46 yards on nine carries, but his fumble seemed to overshadow any positive performance.
Head coach Bill Belichick wants Ridley to be ready to go and was quoted by reporters as saying, “I talked to Stevan … every player has the same responsibility every week: to be ready to play, be ready to go. That’s their job. They can’t control coaches’ decisions. Coaches’ decisions are coaches’ decisions. They control their preparation; they control their performance when they’re in the game. That’s what a player’s job is.”
Though Ridley had a sub-par performance in Week 1, running back Shane Vereen decided to show up. After racking up 159 total yards in New England’s season-opening win against the Bills, it was unfortunately short lived as a couple of days later, Vereen landed on the Patriots’ injured reserve list.
Now with Vereen out indefinitely after having wrist surgery, there is not much insurance behind Ridley on the depth chart. Though we are still only a couple of weeks into the season, there is no excuse for poor play, and it is now critical for Ridley to step up if the Patriots have any hope of the postseason.
Despite all of the inconsistency with their offense, New England’s defense has held it’s own so far this season. For the first time in a long time, it’s the Pats’ D that may need to carry this team to victory with solid production and consistency.
As the Patriots prepare to head to Tampa Bay to square off against the Buccaneers, only time will tell whether Tom Brady can still lead this inexperienced Patriots team to a win, and ultimately to another Super Bowl.