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Jets vs. Patriots: Tom Brady's Unfamiliar Receivers Might Be a Factor

Tom Szczerbowski

When looking at New England's opener against Buffalo, something really jumps out. Receivers who comprised 46% of Tom Brady's targets, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, are probably going to miss this game. Due to injuries, defections, and arrests, of New England's seven leading receivers last year, only Julian Edelman is likely to see action in this one. Amendola was not on the Patriots last year, but he and Brady seemed to get on the same page quickly with the receiver recording 10 receptions for 104 yards in the opener.

Brady is dealing with a receiving corps that is both unestablished and unfamiliar dealing with him in game situations. That could play a factor in tonight's game. It goes beyond the obvious questions of whether the receivers can get open. Not having experience working with a receiver can manifest itself in other subtle ways. There could be crossups on options routes as the quarterback might not innately know where the receiver is running. It could even be something as subtle as not having the timing of when a receiver will come out of his break. Maybe the pass forces the receiver to make an adjustment instead of catching it in stride turning a potentially long run after the catch into a routine completion. Maybe the quarterback holds onto the ball a fraction of a second longer than he otherwise might and takes a hit as a result that makes him less comfortable in the pocket and less confident in his receivers and protection. These are subtle things to watch.

Given the Jets' luck, it's also very possible New England has the next Jerry Rice finally getting his opportunity due to these injuries, and they couldn't know in advance to scheme against him. Even if it isn't this extreme, there might be a suprise star for the Patriots who will force the Jets to adjust on the fly. The unknown might help New England a bit in that regard.

At the start, though, the Jets probably ought to focus their attention on taking Edelman away. Edelman is once again the main receiver with a substantial track record with Brady. Last week he caught 7 balls on 9 targets. The connection between Brady and the other receivers is not yet that sharp. Brady threw to Kembrell Thompkins 14 times, but those only resulted in 4 catches for 42 yards. No other Patriots receiver had more than 2 targets.

Keep an eye on this tonight. It might be something that has an impact on the game.