July 30, 2013

McDaniels: Patriots' receivers better catch on fast

Departures, injuries and an arrest spell opportunity for rookies, but opening day for the Patriots is just six weeks away.

By HOWARD ULMAN The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It's back to basics for New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and his new group of young receivers.

Josh McDainels
click image to enlarge

Josh McDainels

The Associated Press

Gone are four wide receivers aged 32 and over who caught passes last season. Now six of the team's 12 players at that position are rookies.

"All of us coaches enjoy teaching so much," McDaniels said Monday.

"It's different when you're coaching players that haven't heard it before and you have to tell yourself to start from the beginning and continue to progress slowly because you can't just assume anything, and we've really tried to do that."

First come the fundamentals. Then there's the gradual process of installing the offensive system.

The Patriots are just getting started with opening day less than six weeks away.

"Our offense has never been the same two years in a row," McDaniels said.

"The system, hopefully, is broad enough that we can use the skills that our players have to the best of their ability and we try to put them in position to be successful with whomever's out there on the field.

"We've had to do it a lot of different ways over the course of time. And whatever that way is, we're not real sure yet. That will develop over the course of the next month."

Second-round draft pick Aaron Dobson has a shot at one of the starting spots. The other belongs to Danny Amendola, who also is getting used to the offensive system after being signed as a free agent from the St. Louis Rams.

The other five rookie wide receivers are fourth-round pick Josh Boyce and free agents Mark Harrison, Kenbrell Thompkins, Quentin Sims and Perez Ashford.

"Right now we're really trying to stress the fundamentals," wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea said.

"Obviously, the scheme is very important as we move forward, but nothing is more important right now than being fundamentally sound at the receiver position."

For quarterback Tom Brady, entering his 14th season, it's a challenge late in his career to teach a bunch of players more than 10 years younger than he is.

It's a challenge that Brady welcomes.

"We have a pretty smart group of guys, which is a positive. Hopefully, they will keep being smart," he said with a chuckle.

And he doesn't want to be too harsh with a young group under plenty of pressure already just to make the team.

"I don't want to be the grumpy old guy (with the receivers), and I think there's a need for patience," Brady said, "but everyone must understand there's some urgency."

He can be more direct with his top receivers from last season -- Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth, Deion Branch -- all gone, and Julian Edelman possibly starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski also could be on that list. And tight end Aaron Hernandez, arrested on a murder charge, and running back Danny Woodhead, who signed with the San Diego Chargers after catching 40 passes, won't be back.

"There's so many different things that happen each year," McDaniels said. "I don't know if I've ever coached one season where we didn't have to deal with it, whether it was injuries or the loss of a player for a year."

But he's hopeful the Patriots can adjust their offense.

"We've had years where our tight ends recently have been really a big part of our pass offense," he said. "We've had years where our tight ends weren't a focal point of the offense.

"That's why I hope that the offense has enough versatility and flexibility built within it so that we can do what we need to do to win with the players that we have."

 

NOTES: Tim Tebow spent part of Monday night's practice on special teams as the last blocker in front of the punter. The Patriots want him "just to go out there and take advantage of the opportunities that he has," McDaniels said. "He's putting in a lot of time and effort into trying to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense." ... Former Patriots standout linebacker Tedy Bruschi spoke to the team on the field minutes after being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Also inducted was broadcaster Gil Santos, who retired after last season, his 36th as the Patriots play-by-play announcer.

 

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