For the final month leading up to the regular season, I will be featuring two “Over/Under” pieces per week. I’ll take a New England Patriots or AFC East topic and give you my opinion of whether we will see more (over) or less (under) than the number provided.
For the 3rd piece in my 8-piece “Over/Under” series, we look at the Patriots’ wide receivers… Specifically, the rookie wide receivers. They’ve been the focus of every Patriots critic this offseason, and they have a tough task ahead of them. The Patriots have been the centerpiece of offensive production for the last half decade. Can the wide receivers perform well enough to continue the trend?
New England Patriots Rookie Wide Receivers : Over or Under 13 combined touchdowns
First off, I’m going to venture a guess that out of the five rookie wide receivers currently on the roster, only Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce will make the 53 man roster. 13 touchdowns may not seem like much for three receivers when you look at how many touchdown passes Tom Brady has thrown in recent seasons (34 last year, 39 in 2011, and 36 in 2010). I think the Pats offense will operate differently this season, and I don’t see the rookies catching 13 TDs.
Even with their impressive showing in the first preseason game, 13 touchdowns is a lot to ask when it comes to a single team’s rookie class of WRs. You have to consider some of the other veteran receivers on the Patriots’ roster will take Brady’s attention away from the rooks.
Based on recent seasons, I would assume that Brady will throw between 30 and 35 touchdown passes this season. If Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Shane Vereen combine for over 20 receiving TDs (a very attainable number), then the rookies would have to catch essentially all of the rest of Brady’s touchdowns.
Amendola is a lock for a starting role, and Edelman will see a decent amount of playing time. One of the rookies will start. The other two will substitute and play in formations with three, four, and five receiver formations; they’ll have to earn their catches in limited playing time.
Another point to consider is New England’s rushing game, which was best in the NFL in rushing TDs last season. I see no reason why the Pats won’t roll into this season with just as strong of a rushing game. If they can play like last season, I think we will see a higher percentage of running plays than last season (which was roughly 45% of offensive plays). Stevan Ridley has had a good offseason, and has everything set to improve upon his 2012 campaign. If he rushes for more than TDs this year, that’s just less opportunity for the rooks.
I predict the Patriots’ rookie wide receivers will combine for 8 to 10 touchdown catches.