October 20, 2012; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Aaron Dobson (3) can

New England Patriots on Paper: Tape Cheetahs to their backs…


Taping Cheetahs to people’s backs is a phenomenon unheard of mere months ago until a popular communications company suggested in a commercial that the practice could cause old women to go faster – so new and weird and innovative is the idea that some are surprised that New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick didn’t generate the concept.

After all, the Patriots have been without elite speed in their receivers corps since a certain Randy Moss was run out of town, and while last year’s tandem of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd were reportedly faster than old women, it wasn’t by much….

…so…Cheetahs.  Not any laws that I can find in regards to taping cheetahs to people’s backs, and nothing in the NFL rules books either, but the idea – while provocative – would have too many drawbacks to have long-term success in the league.

For example, what happens when the beast gets hungry during a game?  Cheetahs have a top speed of 75 miles per hour, and there’s lots of big, slow meals walking around on a football field, plus they’d knock over the Gatorade trying to get a drink out of the huge vats to wash down snackage.

And things really start to go south when the tailgaters drive into the parking lot only to see vultures circling the stadium, looking for leftovers…so perhaps it’s best to leave the idea of duct taping large wild animals to people to a kids’ imagination, where things like these aren’t discussed…

…besides, Belichick took care of the speed issue this offseason – at least as far as the needs of his Patriots…

The New England Patriots’ receiver’s corps are going to look much different in 2013 than it did last season – something that shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.

Gone is last season’s tandem of Welker and Lloyd – a fair duo that got the job done every time – except when it really counted – and in their stead comes an intriguing mix of veterans and young greyhounds that in themselves can cause mismatches in the secondary, but when combined with the power and skill sets of the individual tight ends they form an imposing wall of weapons that the Patriots can bring at you in waves.

The popular view is that former St. Louis Rams’ receiver Danny Amendola is a replacement for Welker – a job that actually will fall to rookie Josh Boyce if the speedster comes as advertised – and though the skill sets are similar, Amendola’s game is more about suddenness and speed as both a slot presence and also a perimeter threat…and he proved to be the guy that coach Bill Belichick wanted all along, as his signing made Welker’s agent’s whining about money something that the team didn’t have to deal with any longer.

And…aw, man…haters…

…Ever since Spygate every hater in the civilized world, parts of Canada and the IRS views the Patriots as cheaters, and said with a heavy Southie accent…you see where I’m going with this?

We can’t use Cheetahs – the haters would have a field day with that play on words, and animal rights activists would be up in arms, not to mention that the Hoveround people would be unhappy as well because Cheetahs are much faster and far more dexterous than their machines…

…and if you think Hoverounds take you where you wanna go, wait until you get a load of of one of those big cats slowly coming out of the tranquilizer fog and realizing that its duct taped to a 300 pound man…

So it’s a good thing that Belichick went all in with receivers this offseason, both in free agency and through the draft – free agent pickups Donald Jones, Lavelle Hawkins and Mike Jenkins represent an odd lot for sure, as either bust or underachiever tags come with all of them while draft picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce couldn’t be any more different.

While Jenkins has had some success in his 10 years under the shield, many assumed that his best days were behind him, and those days weren’t that much to talk about anyway – so who else would have formed an immediate chemistry with Quarterback Tom Brady?

Jenkins earned the unfortunate nickname of “Molasses Mike” due to lack of track speed – which hardly strikes fear in opposing corners – but at 6′ 4″, 220 pounds he is an imposing target on the perimeter and is a solid blocker,  and seems to have gained favor with Brady, his veteran attitude and work ethic and pass catching skill attributes that instills confidence with the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback.

Hawkins came into the league as a fourth round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008 and has started one game and has all of 71 receptions and one lonely touchdown to his credit in five full years riding the pine in Nashville.  At first many thought the Hawkins signing was deemed as bringing in competition in camp, but a $150,000 signing bonus suggests otherwise – the team expects Hawkins and his 4.49 speed to carve a niche in the offense for himself .

Patriots fans will remember Jones as the poor geek that Vince Wilfork decleated in their drubbing of the Bills in Buffalo last season, becoming the the poster child for the Patriots’ intimidating defense in the process.  Like Hawkins, Jones is not terribly tall but is quick and served as a somewhat reliable possession-type receiver for the Bills after signing a rookie free agent contract with them in 2010.

In fact, the Bills organization was so enamoured with Jones that they were hoping that with his speed he would take charge of the #1 receiver slot on their roster, but the emergence of Stevie Johnson and the recurrence of IgA nephropathy, a kidney disease that can lead to total, abrupt kidney failure dropped Jones to the status of afterthought with the Bills, who released him early in the offseason process.

While none of this sounds intimidating, it is true nonetheless that Amendola and Jenkins will enter camp as the starters at wide receiver, the hope being that second round draft pick Aaron Dobson will supplant Jenkins and relegate him to a backup role – Dobson is much faster but both are big bodied pass catchers with incredible hands.

Dobson has had some concentration lapses in OTA’s while Jenkins has been Johnny-on-the-spot on the other end of Brady’s bullets, so Dobson’s progress in camp will be one of the more intriguing story lines…

…as will be the status of roadrunner Josh Boyce.  A legitimate speed merchant that Belichick drafted in the fourth round, Boyce owns just about every receiving record there is at TCU.  A bigger slot receiver, Boyce can earn his money using his initial move off the line of scrimmage to gain a step on the nickle corner and his 4.38 speed to run away from him.

It is possible – in fact probable – that all of the afore mentioned will make the Patriots’ 53 man roster, Boyce and occasionally Amendola in the slot, though Amendola will be used primarily as a perimeter threat, greyhounds Jones and Hawkins providing speedy depth and big bodies Jenkins and Dobson hauling in the tough catches outside the numbers.

Though there are numerous story lines involving broken and mending tight ends, the x-factor in the Patriots offense is still Aaron Hernandez – an H-back for all intents and purposes, Hernandez has to be included in the mix at wide receiver and in the slot, essentially giving Brady the most diverse and potentially talented group he’s ever had in New England…

…Belichick leaving nothing to chance, bringing in the pieces that are versatile enough to play it anyway he wants it, with the size and skill sets to make an injury or two not so devastating, and when one stops to consider that at some point the Patriots are going to be able to field a lineup including names like Gronkowski, Ballard, Hernandez, Jenkins and Dobson as bigs with Amendola, Boyce and either Jones or Hawkins as the speedsters, it is collectively intimidating.

Not even mentioned is Julien Edelman who started to blossom as a regular contributor last season, but has had a hard time staying on the field and has reportedly had a setback in his recovery from a broken bone in his foot and it is unclear what the expectations are for Edelman in 2013, but at this point he looks like loose baggage or a candidate for the IR or release.

So it looks as if Bill Belichick has been able to avoid the whole Cheetah/Duct Tape deal by bringing in a few greyhounds to stretch the field and abiding by the most fundamental rule in all of offensive football, that being to make the opposing defense defend the entire field…

…and if things go as planned, the opposition will find itself being stampeded by all manner of metaphoric beasts downfield – and we haven’t even struck on the fine stable of horses in the backfield…

Next: 4.2 yards and a cloud of rubber tire pellets…

Tags: Aaron Dobson Donald Jones Featured Josh Boyce Julien Edelman Lavelle Hawkins Mike Jenkins New England Patriots Popular