"Dependability is more important than ability."
The quote, from a Bill Belichick press conference in early September, helps explain a lot about the Patriots' personnel decisions over the years. It also helps explain why Julian Edelman has been the most productive wide receiver on the team through five games.
That's not to say he doesn't have ability -- his shiftiness running routes makes him tough to cover. He flew under the radar during training camp because of the focus on the rookie wide receivers, but he was always in the mix with the top unit when he was healthy. However, his chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady and his knowledge of the system have helped him remain a bright spot in what's otherwise been a disappointing season for the Patriots offense.
Let's start there in this week's mailbag.
Consider this Julian Edelman Appreciation Day in the Words With Frenz mailbag.
- Edelman is on pace for 115 receptions, 1,133 yards, 9.8 yards per reception and six touchdowns. Wes Welker last year had 118 receptions, 1,354 yards, 11.5 YPR and six touchdowns.
- In the creepy department, Edelman and Welker both have the same yards per route run (1.78), according to Pro Football Focus.
- Brady is 36-of-48 (75 percent) for 354 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a passer rating of 109.2 when targeting Edelman. Brady's rating on the season overall is 80.5, so Edelman has been one of Brady's most efficient targets.
- As you alluded, Edelman has fewer drops (3) than any of the Patriots top four receivers despite more targets than any of them.
Lots of uncertainty in the Patriots receiving corps, but Edelman has been a bedrock of consistency through the trouble.
Oh, Alison, please never change.
We're going on 39 days of "day-to-day," but it sounds like this might finally be the week. It was reported by ProFootballTalk earlier this week that Gronkowski is likely to play this week against the Saints. He might be on a limited snap count, but he's been practicing now since the beginning of the season, so he should be in -- or close to -- football shape.
The Patriots really need him in the red zone, where they have converted just six of 17 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line and rank better than only the winless Jacksonville Jaguars. Gronkowski has 29 red zone touchdowns in the regular season since 2010, the most in the league despite him missing 10 games in the past two seasons.
Hans, I wouldn't read too much into it.
You're right, Kellen Winslow was on the field for just 20 of 47 snaps against the Falcons, with Jeff Cumberland earning his biggest workload of the season (percentage-wise) at 36 snaps. It looks worse because the game plan was focused, clearly, on attacking the linebackers over the middle.
The Jets rolled out a unique offensive game plan against the Falcons. They were lining up in a lot of different formations to keep the Falcons guessing. As a result of that very multiple attack, the Jets went with the most versatile players on the roster.
Cumberland and Winslow actually ran the same number of routes (17 apiece), but Cumberland was used as a blocker 19 times (18 runs, one pass), where Winslow was used just three times as a run-blocker.
Winslow isn't an incredibly versatile player. I think this was just a case of one game plan where he simply wasn't a fit.
@ErikFrenz who do you think poses the largest threat to the Pats in the AFC east?— Kara Lee (@KaraDoolittle) October 10, 2013
Kara, this will ultimately come down to two teams.
At 2-3, the Bills aren't out of the mix yet, but they were dealt a devastating blow with the injury to quarterback EJ Manuel that could keep him out for six to eight weeks. Safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore have both missed the first five games, but are expected to make their return this week against the Bengals. They then have two tough road games against the Dolphins and Saints, then home against the currently undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets could make a bigger push than expected if rookie quarterback Geno Smith continues to develop. A week after turning the ball over four times against the Titans, Smith didn't commit a single turnover in a 30-28 win over the Falcons. We have come to expect big things from the Jets defense, and Rex Ryan's group has not failed to deliver (second overall). Their defensive line is a force, with three first-rounders in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson. Teams dream of being built as well up front as the Jets on defense.
To me, though, the Dolphins still look like the bigger threat. They still have the best defense of the bunch and the better skill position players. They're on a bye this week, giving them some time to get key players healthy like defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Will Davis. The Dolphins haven't played a single game against an AFC East opponent, so that will be a big test for them. For now, though, I feel safe sticking with the Dolphins as the No. 2 team in the division.
It's certainly a lot more interesting when the rest of the division is competitive, though, isn't it?
@ErikFrenz question: what are the exact dimensions of your mailbag? Can you fit presents in there?— Alessandro Miglio (@AlexMiglio) October 10, 2013
It's about 600 pixels wide and holds two to three stocking stuffers.
Thanks for the questions, everyone! Further questions can be directed to me via Twitter or in the comments.
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