New England Patriots

Chad Ochocinco's Roller Coaster Preseason Has WR Struggling to Make Impact

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11:  Chad Ochocinco #85 of the New England Patriots prepares before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Chad Ochocinco #85 of the New England Patriots prepares before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Drew BonifantAnalyst IIAugust 29, 2011

He came in amid excitement, a buzz that hadn't been felt around Foxboro in a few years.

The preseason is poised to end with a whimper for Chad Ochocinco, complete with drops, insecurity and a complete sense of confusion.

This isn't what was expected when Ochocinco landed with the New England Patriots in July. Pairing the three-time Pro Bowler with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady wasn't supposed to be hard. Far from it.

They're different players, but this was supposed to be 2007, and Ochocinco was supposed to be Randy Moss. He's a dynamic No. 1 receiver, and he was coming to a championship-caliber team that could use one. What could go wrong?

So far, Ochocinco has indeed generated flashbacks for Patriots fans. The drops, the routes run with no conviction, the frustrated face behind the mask.

He's been Joey Galloway 2.0. And that's bad news in Foxboro.

The Galloway experiment lasted only three regular season games in 2009, but it was long enough to leave an impact. Galloway was supposed to be another option to take pressure off of Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but it never happened. Galloway never knew how to run the routes correctly, and when he was in position to make the catch, he was never able to haul in the ball.

The situation reached a bitter end when Galloway dropped a touchdown pass from Brady against Atlanta before halftime, and had to hear the quarterback screaming at him as the teams went to the locker room. That was his last game with New England. "Galloway" became the regional term for a player who, for all of his physical gifts, just didn't get it.

It may be time for another term. Maybe Ochocinco isn't Galloway. But after two games, albeit preseason ones, he's close.

Against Tampa Bay, he caught a wide-open touchdown pass, but got drilled by Buccaneer linebacker Mason Foster on another pass when he hesitated in his route, and he dropped a quick throw from Brady when he was open along the sideline.

Saturday, against Detroit, he made no catches in the first half, but he got his first chance in the second half when Brian Hoyer came in. He was running over the middle and Hoyer's pass hit him right in the gloves. The ball went through the six-time Pro Bowler's hands, clanged off his face mask and fell to the ground. Same story, different game.

These games came after training camp sessions in which both ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss and the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard noted that Ochocinco was among the team leaders in drops. To his credit, Ochocinco has said he's not where he needs to be in terms of getting the offense. His continued addiction to his Twitter account, however, belies that sense of urgency, even if the team stands united behind his effort in practice.

Something's wrong. When a receiver of Ochocinco's caliber is dropping passes consistently and holding back in his routes, he is struggling to grasp the offense. He's lost. He's Galloway.

The Patriots can't afford him to be. They could have gotten by without him, but if they're going to be starting him with Deion Branch and Wes Welker when the offense hits the field for the first time in the regular season against Miami, they need him to be better.

He doesn't have to be Randy Moss. Hell, he doesn't even have to be Chad Johnson. He needs to show the staples, the attributes he's built his career off of. He needs to run his crisp, clean routes. He needs to show those reliable hands. He needs to compete on the field, give his all and never feel the urge to give up.

So far, the first item isn't there. Item No. 2 is a no-show as well.

And the third item? Well, plenty of time and adversity remains. We're about to find out.

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