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A Statistical Look at How the Patriots Have Replaced Lost 2012 Production

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A Statistical Look at How the Patriots Have Replaced Lost 2012 Production
Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Tom Brady (center) has been looking at a whole new cast of characters this year.

It wasn't pretty, but the New England Patriots' offense has made it through a tough start to the season and is now back in the discussion of the best units in the league as we head toward the 2013 playoffs.

One of the overriding narratives this preseason was the loss of key weapons and how that would affect the offense. Between Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch, 75.8 percent of Brady's completions from 2012 were gone before the beginning of the 2013 season.

One look at the production of those players, and it's not hard to see why many had concerns about whether the Patriots offense would make it through so much overhaul in one offseason.

Patriots' departed receivers, 2012
Player Gms Tgt Rec Cth % Yds YPR TD Drops
Wes Welker 16 174 117 67.2 1329 11.5 6 15
Brandon Lloyd 16 131 74 56.5 911 12.3 4 7
Aaron Hernandez 10 83 51 61.4 483 9.5 5 10
Danny Woodhead 16 55 40 72.7 446 11.2 4 1
Deion Branch 10 29 16 55.2 145 9.1 0 1
Total 16 472 298 63.1 3314 11.1 19 34

Pro Football Reference; drops from Pro Football Focus

Add six receptions for 160 yards from Kellen Winslow, Donte Stallworth and Daniel Fells, and replacing all that production would not be easy. 

The offense got off to a slow start, putting up more than 23 points just twice in the team's first six games, but the unit has hit its stride recently and has fallen short of 27 points just once in the past six games.

It's thanks in large part to the emergence of new weapons at Brady's disposal.

Patriots receivers, 2013
Player Gms Tgt Rec Cth % Yds YPR TD Drops
Julian Edelman 12 101 70 69.3 711 10.2 4 8
Kenbrell Thompkins 11 69 32 46.4 466 14.6 4 4
Aaron Dobson 10 65 35 53.8 492 14.1 4 9
Danny Amendola 8 55 37 67.3 412 11.1 1 6
Shane Vereen 4 38 28 73.7 220 7.9 1 6
Total 12 328 202 61.6 2217 11 13 33

Pro Football Reference; drops from Pro Football Focus

This group of five pass-catchers has accounted for 70.6 percent of Brady's completions this year, and altogether, they're on pace to fall 29 receptions, 358 yards and two touchdowns short of the five they are replacing. Not bad considering the expectations of ruination for the Patriots offense.

Sure, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen were both with the team in 2012, but their roles are much bigger now than they were last year. Edelman was injured for seven games of the 2012 season and played 302 snaps (33.6 snaps per game); he's already up to 740 this year (61.7 snaps per game) with four games left.

Vereen played all but three games last year but accumulated just 162 snaps (12.5 snaps per game); compared to his 178 snaps in four games this year (44.5 per game), it's easy to see how much more the Patriots want to get Vereen involved this year.

Rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson haven't lit the world on fire, but each has played a key role in his share of Patriots successes this season: Thompkins with a pair of six-catch efforts against the Falcons and Broncos, Dobson with big games against the Dolphins and Steelers.

The two are better big-play threats than anyone the Patriots lost this offseason, so while they aren't hauling in a high percentage of throws in their direction, they're making defenses pay when they get their hands on the ball.

Have the Patriots ably replaced the departed playmakers of 2012?

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Brady hasn't needed to go to them as much lately with the return of Vereen and tight end Rob Gronkowski, but the continued development of the rookies could be bringing an end to the idea that the Patriots can't develop talent at the wide receiver position—that is, if Minitron isn't doing that already.

The Patriots offense has taken a step back, but the fact that a "step back" is a season where they rank sixth in scoring says a lot about this team's history, as well as where it stands now.

 

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.

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