Tom Brady has always been one to make chicken salad out of chicken feces (even if chicken feces don’t exactly fit into the TB12 diet).
I mean, this is a guy who had Reche Caldwell as his leading receiver in 2006 and had that team seconds away from advancing to the Super Bowl.
Brady’s offensive weapons this season are nowhere near as bad as that 2006 group. In fact, this year’s group was expected to be an all-time unit. The loss of Julian Edelman in the preseason put a halt to the “greatest offense of all-time” chatter, however, and Edelman’s absence was clearly evident early in the season in the losses to the Chiefs and Panthers.
Brady, the greatest “adjuster” in sports history, obviously found a way to adjust to life without Edelman though - just as he adjusted to life without Rob Gronkowski last season.
It’s gotten to the point this season that the major players in the Patriots offense (not named Brady) are nearly an entirely different group from the one that Brady won a Super Bowl with last season.
Last year, Edelman led the Patriots in receptions with 98 – followed by James White (60), Martellus Bennett (55) and Chris Hogan (38). So far this season, the cast of characters Brady is throwing to the most is extremely altered.
Brandin Cooks leads the 2017 Pats in receptions with 51, followed by White (47), Gronkowski (46) and Danny Amendola (44). Cooks, in particular, has looked more and more comfortable in the Patriots offense of late as he had six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins and nine catches for 149 yards and a TD the week prior against the Raiders.
This turnover in production from year-to-year comes not only in the passing game as well. Consider that LeGarrette Blount led the Pats in rushing last season with 1,161 yards. The next closest player statistically in 2016 was Dion Lewis with 283 yards.
This season, Lewis has emerged as the Patriots top running back. It took him awhile to get going but he has steadily been getting stronger as the season wears on and finally broke out this past Sunday with a 112-yard rushing effort in the win over the Dolphins.
So the Pats have finally found a formula that works for this 2017 group and it involves Cooks and Gronkowski as the focal points in the passing game, and with Lewis as the focal point of the running game.
Of course, there’s still two more months to go in this NFL season. What you’re seeing now is not likely what you’re going to be seeing in January and (possibly) early February.