Saturday, May 9, 2020

Belichick To Roll With Stidham And The Receivers He's Got, Because That Was His Plan All Along

May 8, 2020

So, Bill Belichick didn't select any wide receivers in this year's NFL Draft, but at least he doesn't have Tom Brady around to bitch about it.

In reality, however, Belichick's New England Patriots are pretty stacked at the pass catching positions, so long as his wide receivers and tight ends do the job that they are capable of - but with a new quarterback under center, nothing's a given.

Indeed, the Patriots are entering the 2020 season with plenty of mystery surrounding their receiving corps, with only greybeard Julian Edelman, sophomore Jakobi Meyers and passing back James White the only known quantity - and while we got a little taste of what second-year perimeter threat N'Keal Harry and veteran Mohamed Sanu bring to the field, they are largely question marks... are newcomers Damiere Byrd and Marquise Lee, both with undeniable measurables and speed to burn, but both having underachieved thus far in their brief professional football careers - and the advantage that all of them have is working with the aforementioned new, young quarterback who doesn't seem to have the same obsession with perfection that Brady did.

Not that expecting your receivers to be where they are supposed to be on the route tree is a bad thing, but Brady's heat-of-the-moment, Sam Kinison-style of explosive expression seemed to make his young pass catchers tense up so badly that Harry looked like he was running with a corn cob up his ass near the end of the season.

Stidam is young, so he also needs his receivers to be where he expects them to be, but with the fear of pissing off the greatest quarterback of all time no longer dominating their subconscious minds, maybe they can relax a little and work on their craft instead of running away from it.

I love Tom Brady, make no mistake. What Brady gave to the people of New England - to the entire sports world - was nineteen years of the most clutch performances ever seen. When Brady signed with Tampa, my wife tried to peel the Fathead of Brady off of the cave wall, but I defended it like a wolverine and finally calmed her down enough to allow me to explain to her why it was staying in it's place of honor.

I told her of my admiration of Brady and reminded her of all of the excitement and joy he was responsible for, of how he turned us both into adrenalin junkies by making us stew in anxiety during the two weeks between Championship Sunday and Super Bowl Sunday, then really amped us up by making the crucial plays on the biggest stage in sports to win six of those world titles...

...and having his team in position to steal the three that he lost. He has been the one, lone constant on the field for New England for all nine championship runs, and I am thankful and humbled to have been able to witness every single throw.

One of the best passes I ever saw Brady make was the seriously filthy timing throw on a ten-yard out pattern to Danny Amendola, who was well covered by an Atlanta Falcons' defender on the winning drive in the overtime period of Super Bowl 51. The ball exploded out of Brady's hand with the requisite zip required of such a pattern, but with just barely enough loft to evade the nickelback's fingers...

...the Patriots scoring to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy, Brady taking the opening kickoff of overtime and shoving it down the Falcons' collective throat to complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, perhaps the greatest of all time. I recanted the tale to my wife, who looked at me thoughtfully and said, "He's still a dumb-ass for throwing that pick-six right before halftime."

Brady. You either love him or you hate him, but no matter which way you lean, you have no choice but to respect him.

Brady epitomized the not-so-well-worn cliché uttered by the old-school "Voice of God", NFL Films' narrator John Facenda who said, "Great players aren't great all the time; they're just great when they have to be.". My wife understood this, finally, despite being an insane female hybrid of Oscar Zeta Acosta and John Cleese, who would fly into a sputtering, animated rage when Brady threw an interception (see above).

But as crazy as it sounds, the way that Belichick has stocked the offense over the past half-decade was in preparation for life without Brady - unfortunately for Brady, that meant the offensive personnel last season was geared more towards a power-based philosophy, or at least it became that way when the offense lost their center, both fullbacks and Harry for half of the season...

...while Edelman played broken after missing a few games, and Sanu never really became part of the offense, dealing with a bum ankle that required offseason surgery - the tight ends didn't do squat, leaving the undrafted rookie Meyers as the only healthy receiver, making it easy for defenses to take away the Patriots' running game as well.

That said, the caveat for this season's offense will have to be the well-worn cliché "If Healthy".

"If Healthy", the Patriots have the receivers to force any defense to defend the entire field, with Harry working the perimeter, Sanu the intermediate routes, Edelman and Meyers working the middle and either Byrd or Lee clearing out the trash as deep threats. To make matters even worse for defenses, Belichick drafted two capable tight ends to handle the seam and safety valve responsibilities.

And, of course, all of that opens up room for the real star of the passing game, running back James White, who along with his battery mates Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, will also work in the power running game behind an offensive line built to plow the row.

All Stidham needs to be is proficient, the rest has been done for him. Just get the ball to where it needs to be and let his weapons be weapons. If he can command his troops on the field, earn their respect and manage the game plans, the Patriots have as good a chance as anyone to win the AFC East.

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