Who Are Tom Brady's Weapons in Star-Deficient Patriots Offense?

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2013

The New England Patriots may have to replace 31 touches and 263 yards from their Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills when they face Rex Ryan and the New York Jets in Week 2. 

That efficient production came from running back Shane Vereen (21 total touches, 169 total yards) and wideout Danny Amendola (10 receptions, 104 yards). 

Vereen broke a "small bone" in his wrist, per FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Initially thought to only sideline the scat-back "a few weeks," per Rotoworld, Vereen was placed on IR/designated to return, meaning he won't play until Week 11. 

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted the following about Amendola:

Amendola battled through a groin injury, leaving and returning. He's almost certain to miss Thursday. Hurts with Vereen out, Sudfeld ailing

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 10, 2013

And the Patriots thought they had it bad with Rob Gronkowski

Zach Sudfeld, nicknamed "Baby Gronk" during training camp and the preseason, didn't catch a pass in Week 1 but suffered a hamstring injury. According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, the 6'7'' tight end would have been limited if the Patriots practiced on Monday. They were required to release an injury report.

Here's an introduction to, well, the skill-position talent Brady has left:


Julian Edelman 

If Amendola can't go, Edelman becomes the most well-known and established member of the Patriots receiving corps.

He caught seven passes for 79 yards with two touchdowns and was targeted nine times against the Bills to start the year.

Here's a snapshot of the former Kent State quarterback's NFL career:

In fairness, Edelman did play behind Wes Welker and dealt with injuries during the 2012 regular season. Essentially, he's proven to be a poor man's Welker who knows the Patriots offense well and can contribute if featured prominently. 

He had two grabs for seven yards in the first meeting with Gang Green last season and caught two more passes for 64 yards in the Thanksgiving game against New York, which included a 56-yard touchdown.

The nine targets he received in Week 1 were the third-most of his professional career in a single game.

Expect Brady to look for Edelman frequently on a variety of high-percentage passes against the Jets Thursday evening. 


Kenbrell Thompkins

A 2013 undrafted free agent from Cincinnati, Thompkins parlayed a strong preseason into a starting gig. However, the 6'1'', 195-pound wideout disappointed in his first NFL game. 

He was targeted a team-high 14 times by Brady but caught only four passes for 45 yards. 

This is what Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote about Thompkins' debut:

Kenbrell Thompkins was pretty awful in several areas, showing very little awareness. In addition to catching only 4 of 14 passes thrown his way, double-clutching his catches, and slipping and falling on multiple occasions, he twice wasn’t able to tap his foot down for a catch — once along the sideline, once in the back of the end zone.

Volin also added, "Thompkins made a sliding catch on a slant pass down at the 2-yard line, but he would have had a touchdown if he had just stayed on his feet. And he ran the wrong route on the goal line in the fourth quarter, running right into Edelman and forcing Brady to take a sack on third down."

It'll be interesting to see if Bill Belichick has faith in Thompkins or if he'll phase him out of the offensive attack at home.


Josh Boyce

Boyce was snagged in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Patriots out of TCU. He ran an impressive 4.38 in the 40 at the combine at 5'11'' and 206 pounds. 

Boyce averaged 63.5 catches and 944.5 yards during his last two seasons with the Horned Frogs. 

He was active against the Bills in Week 1 but primarily played special teams, as he didn't record any receiving statistics on his two targets. 

There's a good chance Boyce will get on the stat sheet against the Jets if Amendola is sidelined with injury. 


Aaron Dobson 

Dobson was New England's second-round pick in April's draft and played his collegiate ball at Marshall. At 6'3'' and 200 pounds, he has the most size of any Patriots wideout. 

In 2011, Dobson caught 12 touchdowns for the Thundering Herd to go along with 49 catches and 668 yards, but in 2012, he was limited to only three scores, though he caught eight more passes and accounted for 11 more receiving yards. 

He tweaked his hamstring during the preseason, a development that was part of the reason why he was inactive against the Bills last week. 

Here's a tweet from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald regarding Dobson's Week 2 status:

Looks that way RT @MattyNitro: @jeffphowe Will Dobson be making his regular season debut tomorrow night?

— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 11, 2013

He should play near the boundary more than anywhere else.


Michael Hoomanawanui

Hoomanawanui was a fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2010 out of Illinois. He joined the Patriots in 2012 and reeled in five catches for 109 yards in his 14 appearances. 

The 6'4'', 260-pound tight end was targeted twice against Buffalo and had one catch for five yards. 

Once a player on the roster bubble, Hoomanawanui could be the starting tight end against the Jets in Week 2. 


Stevan Ridley

Ridley was having a fine afternoon to start the season—nine carries for 46 yards—before his peculiar fumble in the second quarter that led to a Bills touchdown earned him a spot on the sidelines for the remainder of the game. 

Belichick doesn't tolerate fumbling. 

With Vereen out, Belichick may not have a choice. 

Ridley is easily the most talented running back on the roster, the guy most capable of executing feature-back duties. 

Though his fumbling issues are a concern, all faith shouldn't be lost in him.

Tom Brady was quoted saying the following about New England's No. 1 back after his critical fumble and subsequent benching (via ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss):

I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid. I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him and watching him run. We fumbled a snap on the goal-line, I threw an interception; you have to be able to bounce back from those things.

It'll be a major surprise if Ridley doesn't see a big workload on Thursday.


LeGarrette Blount

Blount ran seven times for 15 yards against Buffalo. He also returned two kickoffs for 35 total yards. He'll back up Ridley with Vereen out but appears to be a plodder not capable of doing much if a play isn't wonderfully blocked. 

He is 6'0'' and 250 pounds, which means, in theory, he could be used in short-yardage situations. 


Brandon Bolden

Bolden is recovering from a knee injury that kept him out of Week 1. He actually was relatively efficient during a 2012 season in which he carried the ball 56 times. The Ole Miss product amassed 274 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

However, 16 carries, 137 yards and one of those touchdowns came in against a horrendous Buffalo run defense. 

Bolden's status is still up in the air for Thursday. 


Leon Washington 

New England cut Washington during the preseason, but he was re-signed on September 7. With Belichick, there's no telling which running backs will be used in situation roles in Week 2 and beyond.

Washington, the eight-year veteran, has caught 146 passes in his career and can return kicks, although he's not as explosive as he was a few years ago.


Edelman can't catch 30 passes, so an assortment of these skill positions will be asked to step up for the Patriots in another AFC East showdown. 


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