Patriots add new weapons for Brady
The Sports Xchange, July 31, 2012
While it's too early to start drawing parallels to
the 2007 team that went undefeated during the regular season - and, in
all honesty, it may never be entirely fair to make that comparison -
it's hard to ignore the rapport quarterback Tom Brady has with his
"new" wide receivers in training camp.
The emphasis on the word "new" is something
fitting because while Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth are new
additions to the 2012 roster, they're certainly no strangers to Brady's
heroics or the Patriot way; Gaffney spent three seasons in New England
from 2006 to 2008 and was one of Stallworth's teammates in 2007, which
was Stallworth's only season with the Patriots.
Brady has often referred to Gaffney as one of his
favorite receivers, both while Gaffney was here and during the time in
which he played elsewhere. Stallworth, despite playing only one season
with the Patriots, had a solid year in '07 as somewhat of a decoy,
catching 46 passes for 697 yards. Opportunities were limited playing
behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but Stallworth still put up
productive numbers as the forgotten man in New England's record-setting
Now they're both back in New England, joined by a
real newcomer in Brandon Lloyd, whom the Patriots acquired on the
free-agent market following Lloyd's tumultuous 2011 season in which he
played for both the Broncos and Rams.
Along with Wes Welker, who's back after signing a
one-year franchise tender, the Patriots are poised to improve
dramatically at the wide-receiver position, a sore spot in 2011 when
tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 of
Brady's 401 pass completions.
Now they have options -- some new, some familiar -
and it will more than likely make opposing defenses unable to cover
every threat on the field. While Lloyd is, at his best, an elite
receiver, and has looked the part in training camp thus far, there's a
certain level of "familiarity" for Brady when it comes to Gaffney and
"It doesn't seem like it's taken long for them to
kind of get re-acclimated to what we do," Brady said. "Both of them are
making a lot of plays out there and it's exciting for a quarterback.
"I think there is a certain level of trust that
you have. Offensive football is about 11 guys doing their job. You
can't do anyone else's job on offense. If 11 guys aren't doing the
right thing, it doesn't end up being a good play."
While Gaffney and Stallworth are benefitting from
having teamed up with Brady in the past, Lloyd is making a seamless
transition thanks in large part to his familiarity with New England's
offense; he played under current Patriots offensive coordinator and
quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels in Denver when McDaniels was the
Broncos' head coach from 2009 to 2010.
"He knows what he's doing out there. It's not like
there is a lot of studying the playbook," Brady said of Lloyd. "He
wants to be a big part of this offense. I obviously want to help him
become a big part of this offense, so there is constant communication
between the two of us."
Lloyd has gotten off to a strong start in camp,
particularly in the deep part of the field, where the Patriots weren't
as big of a threat offensively last year, but he isn't getting too far
ahead of himself.
When asked if there's a solid connection between
he and Brady, Lloyd said, "Not yet," but expressed optimism that it'll
happen in due time before the end of camp.
"It just takes time," Lloyd said. "We'll continue
to talk and work together, and see what one another is expecting out of
the route-running, and then eventually just start clicking.
"Most of the time that kind of stuff happens in
the game and everybody's just on the same level. You can talk, you can
discuss, and practice a lot of stuff, but you really figure things out
in a game-time situation."
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