Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have a quarterback, tight end and wide receiver who are among the best at their positions in the NFL.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws during practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. The Patriots are preparing for their NFL football season opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (85) cuts as wide receiver Greg Salas (17) watches during a practice drill at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. The Patriots are preparing for their NFL football season opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Add Brandon Lloyd to that rich mix, and the passing game should be even better than the one that took them to the Super Bowl last season.
"We'll see," Lloyd said.
In the preseason, the Patriots' new deep threat displayed little of what he can do, catching just one pass for 12 yards. That was one more reception than Wes Welker, who led the league with 122 last season. And Rob Gronkowski caught only five passes in those games.
Of course, the stars often play sparingly in August. Tom Brady sat out two of the four games, in fact, and played only two series in another.
So even though history strongly suggests another outstanding passing attack — especially with Lloyd signing as a free agent — the first real test comes Sunday in the season opener at Tennessee.
"I'm excited to see how we all come together and are able to make plays," Lloyd said Wednesday. "By me saying, 'we'll see,' it's a fair statement because we all haven't been out getting live action yet."
They should make quite a few plays with Brady starting his 13th NFL season.
He threw for 5,235 yards in 2011, the second most in league history. In 2010, he was the NFL's most valuable player and in 2009, he was the comeback player of the year. But what about the unknown portion of this group, and the chemistry — or lack thereof — because of the light preseason regimen?
"You don't know, but you have confidence that you can do it when it matters," Brady said. "Everything needs to be proven. It's not like the predictions you make on Wednesday all come true."
Welker may not reach his 122-catch total of last season. Gronkowski might fall short of his 90. And tight end Aaron Hernandez could end up with fewer than his 79.
"When a guy like Wes has 122 catches, a lot of times the coverage dictated that the ball go to Wes," Brady said. "Now if they choose to tighten the coverage on Wes, then the ball goes somewhere else. So it's just a matter of trying to evaluate what they're trying to do defensively and try to make a good decision at quarterback in order to get the ball to the guy that should get it."
During preseason, nine wide receivers, four tight ends and six running backs caught passes. Of those 19 players, only eight are still on the roster.
The time is past when the Patriots try out some plays and give an opportunity to players to show whether they deserve a roster spot. Now, everything counts and the regulars play most of the game.
"It's for real. It's go time," Gronkowski said. "Everyone's out there. There's no messing around. (There's) not someone just trying to try out the play or anything. It's all go. Every play counts."
Even coach Bill Belichick is wondering how those plays will work out, despite watching his players during training camp with a careful eye.
"I don't think you know anything right now," he said. "It just hasn't been tested under fire. Things you think are going to be good may not be that great. Things that you're worried about, might be OK. I think that's what opening day, that's really what that's about. Preseason, teams aren't gameplanning for you, you don't see the matchups. It's just not the same."
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