FOXBORO — The Patriots have always managed to figure it out when it comes to who will catch the ball from Tom Brady. The Patriots have a lot to figure out when it comes to who will be catching the ball this season.
Danny Amendola has taken his 61 receptions in 2017 to South Beach. When the Patriots were in empty set with four wide receivers, Amendola had 47 receptions. He has 426 career receptions, spread fairly evenly from first to third down. Amendola has 143 career catches on third down, 141 on second down and 135 on first down, to go along with 7 on fourth down.
Cooks has left for greener pastures in Los Angeles after signing his five-year, $81 million deal with the Rams. Cooks (65) and Amendola (61) were the second and third most productive receivers in terms of receptions and the two combined for 1,741 yards and nine touchdown catches.
The most reliable receiver in the Patriots offense is Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski is obviously a candidate to lead the offense in targets and receptions with Edelman out the first four games. Chris Hogan emerged last year as the team’s best deep threat.
James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel figure to be third-down options out of the backfield.
Jordan Matthews, Braxton Berrios and Cordarrelle Patterson are all new to the program. Phillip Dorsett got some time last year. Devin Lucien and Riley McCarron have spent time earning preseason snaps in the first team offense over the last two seasons. And Bill Belichick declared Malcolm Mitchell “day to day” on Monday evening.
That’s where Chad O’Shea comes in. The veteran assistant is entering his tenth season as receivers coach in New England. He is as trusted as anyone in the Patriots offense. He’s coached the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Amendola, Edelman and Cooks.
HONEST PATTERSON: Cordarrelle Patterson admits first week of camp “hasn’t gone the I wanted to go… a lot of mistakes… just got to quit thinking so much.” pic.twitter.com/76qJduCKzo
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) July 31, 2018
What exactly has O’Shea brought to Bill Belichick’s staff as the wide receivers coach since his arrival in 2009?
“Yeah, that’s a tough position to play here. Chad does a very good job with all of those guys,” Belichick told me. “He coaches multiple positions, outside to inside. Our guys are very involved in blocking and we do a lot of game planning and formations and so forth. Chad’s an excellent teacher, a very good fundamental coach.
“(He) has a good relationship with his players, has a good relationship with all of the staff members, easy to work with. He comes from a football background. Of course, his dad, Mike O’Shea, is one of the great trainers in his profession of all time. He has a great history with the game and with the sport. Chad’s done a really good job for us.”
One Patriot new receiver has a lot to work on by his own admission.
“To be honest, it hasn’t gone as I wanted it to go,” Patterson said after Monday’s practice. “There’s a lot of mistakes I’ve been making. I’m just trying to get better each and every day. There’s a lot of mistakes. I’ve just got to quit thinking so much. New offense, new scheme, new everything. I’ve got to stop thinking and go out and play football the way I have my whole life.
“The playbook is the playbook. I’ve been in seven offenses in six years. I’ve got to tune into it. It’s the little things I need to keep working on.”
There’s a lot of potential in Patterson. However, it’s up to O’Shea to work on with the speedy receiver, known primarily as a weapon in the return game because of his skills when the ball is in his hands. He had just 31 catches for 309 yards in 2017 with the Raiders and no touchdown receptions.
“He’s the man. He’s real good. He’s just like (special teams coach) Joe Judge,” Patterson told me. “They’re always there to help you. They really focus on the little things. They know we can play ball but we keep fixing the little things we keep messing up on, and Chad is always there to help me with the little things.”
As anyone who has ever played for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England will attest, those little things usually add up to big production if the player is committed to success. And getting in good with O’Shea is usually a very good first step.