It’s one thing to sit back and listen to your local radio talk shows cover training camp, but it’s a completely different experience to actually pick up a few things in person with your own eyes. Watching joint practice between the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, a couple of things jumped out that may not have been touched upon fully.
1) Out of all the quarterbacks seen taking snaps, including backups
Tim Tebow and
Ryan Mallett, Tampa Bay’s
Josh Freeman looked the worst. Freeman will be on a short leash this season and could be put on ice if the season starts off rough. There are no excuses for underperforming as any quarterback would be blessed to have targets like
Mike Williams and
Vincent Jackson running routes for them. He has the opportunity to climb the rankings ladder throughout the 2013 season, but based solely on the snaps seen at training camp, Tebow looked more worthy of starting. Yeah, Freeman was that bad.
Tom Brady was ridiculously reliant on wide receiver
Danny Amendola, as later illustrated in the Friday preseason game against Tampa Bay. Brady looked for him often and held onto the ball in order to let Amendola’s patterns and routes fully develop, especially on third down. With all the
Aaron Hernandez issues and
Rob Gronkowski reports, the loss of
Wes Welker is almost being pushed into the background. Honestly, the loss of Welker could turn out to be a bigger deal than the other two as we’ve seen Brady work with lesser tight end talents with success before. See Mike Vrabel. With Welker gone there’s about 125 catches up for grabs. Who knows … they could almost all go to Amendola. Don’t underestimate his value.
Shane Vereen will be the new X-factor in the Patriots offense. He’s being used as a runner, as a receiver out of the backfield, and even split out wide. Tight end
Aaron Hernandez was a jack of all trades on the New England offense last season and that spot is clearly up for grabs. Watching Vereen run routes like a wide receiver yet lining up behind the quarterback makes him a very interesting prospect. He’s not being mentioned often when it comes to must have backups, but if you take starter
Stevan Ridley in the second round, you best be sure to lock up Vereen. He’s an injury away from going on a monster run like
Andre Brown did last year with the New York Giants.
Tim Tebow is awful. There’s really not a whole hell of a lot to say after that, again illustrated in the preseason game as he had one completion for minus-1 yard. Even if you’re in a two quarterback league you should never even be thinking of Tebow as a roster guy. His role in fantasy this season will be that of a stat stealer. He’s going to take away scoring opportunities from both
Stevan Ridley and
Tom Brady. Apparently, he needs a refresher on the whole “Thou shall not steal” portion of the 10 Commandments.
Mike Williams has the talent but needs to make the jump this year. Freeman looked to Williams on short yardage throws trying to convert on third down frequently in practice.
Vincent Jackson is the home run guy but Williams has turned into Freeman’s security blanket. When the play breaks down or Freeman needs a sure completion, he leans on Williams. The young wide receiver has the build and talent to take the next step and go from really good to borderline elite. If all goes well, Williams and Jackson could be just as feared as the other great 1-2 wide receiver punches in the league. We shouldn’t go as far to put them in the same company as
Julio Jones and
Roddy White but more like a healthy
Hakeem Nicks and
Victor Cruz or a healthy
Miles Austin and
Dez Bryant. It will potentially be a big year for the new multi-million dollar receiver.