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Following a massive changeover in pass-catching personnel, Tom Brady put up relatively pedestrian numbers in 2013. Still, the Patriots posted the league’s third highest scoring offense in 2013.
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During the six and a half games that Rob Gronkowski was in the lineup, the Patriots offense looked much like the dynamic unit we’ve become accustomed to since 2007. However, without Gronkowski as a security blanket, Brady struggled at times in the red-zone. The 2013 offense saw nearly a 10 point reduction in red-zone touchdown percentage from 2012, going from 67.5% to 58.11%.
A healthy receiving core should help Brady return to regular form. I don’t buy into the number-geek analysts who say his skills are beginning to diminish. In reality, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see 2007, 2010, or 2011 Tom Brady again, but those offenses weren’t built to win in January and February.
The personnel surrounding Brady should allow the team to throw inside and outside, and they should continue to be able to run the ball with a plethora of talented running backs. Versatility is key in today’s NFL, and Brady’s offense will continue to develop into a balanced, more multiple unit in 2014.
Entering 2013, much of the focus in Patriots training camp was on the presence of Tim Tebow. While he didn’t make the squad, his presence, combined with a dip in Tom Brady’s numbers, cast a spotlight on the future after TB12.
With Ryan Mallett’s contract up at the end of the season, many expected the Patriots to use a mid-round draft pick on a quarterback. To the shock of almost everyone in New England, the Pats drafted Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round.
Garoppolo led one of the FCS’ top offenses at Eastern Illinois, but he is a true project. He won’t be ready to touch the field at all during the regular season. His pre-season appearances, however, will be appointment television for Patriots junkies.
All reports have indicated that he has been dreadful thus far in training camp. However, nobody should expect him to shine this early. He’s going through massive adjustments going from a spread, one-read offense in college to a system as complex as the Patriots.
For the past few years, the Patriots have only kept two quarterbacks on the roster. This season, all indications are that Brady, Mallett, and Garoppolo will be on the 53-man roster entering the season.
One interesting sublot emerged last week when the Patriots worked out former Notre Dame standout Brady Quinn. There was speculation that the Patriots could have been holding the workout as a favor to Quinn as a last ditch effort to save his career. Others have speculated that Quinn could be a safety-net should the team choose to trade Ryan Mallett during the pre-season.
Should a team lose a starting quarterback to injury during the pre-season, Mallett could be a potential trade target. However, with Garoppolo struggling as much as he has, the Patriots would have to be blown away with a trade offer to send Mallett away.
2014 should bring more of the same for Patriots quarterbacks. Tom Brady will continue to be Tom Brady, despite what his critics may think. We’ll get a glimpse of Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Mallett during the four pre-season games, but we’ll all be holding our breath that neither sees the field during the season.
As Tom Brady approaches ten years since his last Super Bowl, he does so knowing that he probably has his best defense since that season. If the 37 year-old quarterback and his receivers can stay healthy, the offense should be on par with the defense. That alone makes this team one of the NFL’s few Super Bowl favorites in 2014.