Has Tom Brady Lost Faith in Young Receivers?
When the New England Patriots spent the offseason letting the better part of their receiving corps walk, most believed that venerable head coach Bill Belichick would somehow find a way to keep things running smoothly on offense.
Unfortunately, things haven't exactly gone as most had expected.
Offseason acquisition Danny Amendola has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury in Week 1 and tight end Rob Gronkowski has yet to make an appearance due to his own injury issues.
This leaves the Patriots thin at wide receiver and Brady with a young receiving corps in which he appears to have little confidence.
The absence of the departed Wes Welker has hurt just as much as analysts had predicted, and so far, the rookies brought in to help offset the loss have not lived up to expectations.
Yes, the Patriots are 3-0. Yes, Brady did seem more comfortable throwing to his young group of receivers in Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, the Super Bowl window is quickly closing on the 36-year-old quarterback, and Brady appears desperate to make the most of each and every season he has remaining in New England.
How desperate is Brady to get things on track early in the 2013 season? Apparently desperate enough to personally reach out to a pair of former, and currently unemployed, wide receivers.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Brady has placed calls to former teammates Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch, in order to question about their availability.
What @MikeSilver & I are reporting: Tom Brady himself has been calling & texting Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd, gauging their availability— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2013
Both Branch and Lloyd played for New England a season ago, and both have been out of work since.
While Brady may have no hand in actual personnel decisions, reaching out to a couple of unemployed receivers should give his coaching staff a clear indication of just how little he values his current crop of pass-catchers.
Again, it is worth noting that rookie receivers Aaron Dobson (seven catches for 52 yards) and Kenbrell Thompkins (41 yards and two touchdowns) performed better in Sunday's game, but they have also been a big reason why Brady hasn't quite looked like himself this season.
Through three games, Brady has completed just 57 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also thrown for 189 yards less than at this time last season.
Stats via NFL.com
It is also worth noting that Brady has completed more passes to veteran slot receiver Julian Edelman (27) than to the combination of Dobson and Thompkins (19) this season.
Clearly, Brady is more comfortable putting the ball into veteran hands than into the potentially playmaking hands of his rookie receivers.
While the Patriots have played well enough to win their first three games, one can bet that Brady is already looking ahead to what is becoming a tight divisional race with the Dolphins and eventually a potential playoff showdown with the likes of Denver, Houston and Cincinnati.
There is undoubtedly still time for Brady and his young receiving corps to get on the same page. The question is whether or not Brady will be patient enough to let it happen.
After all, the NFL is a win-now league, and at 36 years of age, now may be the only time for Brady to win.
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