The New England Patriots are in first place by a large margin in the AFC East, giving them a sizable advantage over their competition. But all is not well in Foxboro. The Patriots have had a relatively easy schedule in the first half of the NFL season. While their defense has looked phenomenal, their offense has looked surprisingly ordinary. That’s the last word anyone would associate with Tom Brady.
So what’s wrong with the Patriots’ offense? Here are three flaws that prove Brady and the Pats offense are human after all. (All statistics are valid through week six of the NFL season).
1. They’re too reliant on Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman has become the most dependable offensive weapon for the Patriots. But that dependability may have led to overdependence. Edelman had 56 targets through week six. Here are the rest of the Patriots’ receiving targets in comparison:
- James White — 39
- Josh Gordon — 36
- Phillip Dorsett — 23
- Rex Burkhead — 18
- Jakobi Myers — 10
- Ryan Izzo — nine
- Antonio Brown — eight
- Sony Michel — seven
- Brandon Bolden — six
- Matt LaCosse — six
- Gunner Olszewski — three
- Jacob Johnson — two
The only receiver within twenty targets is Josh Gordon with 36, and his New England career appears to be over. Brady knows Edelman and clearly has an enhanced level of comfort with him. But as solid as Edelman has been, he’s not a top-five receiver in the league. Talentwise, he doesn’t compare to players such as Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins.
Edelman and Brady have fantastic chemistry together, but in a vacuum, he isn’t the dominant offensive force that other top receivers in the league are. If a team shuts down Edelman, the Patriots are in trouble. Brady has shown a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to his offensive options, heavily favoring Edelman.
2. Antonio Brown left them down a wideout
The Patriots lucked their way into Antonio Brown right before the season started, so it’s hard to point to that as a huge setback. But the fact is they did have one of the most talented receivers in the league on their roster at one time, and losing him had negative impacts.
The Patriots dealt Demaryius Thomas to the New York Jets following the Brown signing. The Patriots had already cut Thomas once during training camp, and Thomas hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since leaving, catching nine balls in three games. He’s no longer the player he was with the Denver Broncos. But he’s a professional receiver who gave Brady another option to throw to.
Losing Brown cost the Patriots a chance to truly open up their offense and possibly cover some weaknesses that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed. But the initial signing forced them to miss out on Thomas, who could have provided help as well.
3. Tom Brady doesn’t trust his other wide receivers
Tom Brady‘s lack of targeting anyone but Edelman doesn’t just indicate an overreliance on Edelman. It also shows he may not trust his other receivers.
The number two receiver was the mercurial Josh Gordon. He is a step past his prime years, and now it’s unlikely he’ll suit up for the Patriots again.
After Gordon, the Patriots’ receiving options get even dicier. Phillip Dorsett, Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, are all 23 years old and unproven. In the past, the Patriots could survive that due to the presence of Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Gronkowski served as one of the league’s top receiving threats. Now that he’s retired, they have yet to come up with a suitable replacement.
The good news for the Patriots? With a healthy lead in the division, they have plenty of time for Brady to establish trust with these new options. But one or two of them better emerge the rest of this season as top threats, otherwise, the offense may be in trouble.