FOXBORO -- They are past the point where they need to wear “Hello, my name is . . .” tags to their positional meetings, but the 2013 Patriots wide receiver corps is still new to assistant coach Chad O’Shea.
Check this stat: 230 catches were made by Patriots wideouts in 2012. And 209 of those were made by players no longer with the team (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and Donte' Stallworth).
Only Julian Edelman and his 21 catches return at a position now populated by Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Lavelle Hawkins and rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce.
O’Shea, now in his fifth season coaching the Patriots wideouts, has his work carved out for him.
“I like the group that we have, they’re working really hard,” said O’Shea. “It’s unique because a lot of them are new to our system so every day is a work in progress but they’ve made improvement, and we’re gonna keep working hard, and it’s a good group to work with.”
It is a collaborative effort. O’Shea readies the receivers but, when the group comes to the field, there is tweaking done. For instance, during Tuesday’s OTA, wideouts lined up on the left hash. Accelerating off the line, they decelerated at about 7 yards, chopping their stride, then accelerated again to about 15 yards before hooking back to the inside where a pass from Tom Brady would be lasering toward them.
“Good!” said O’Shea, to the first wideout after the play.
“Tighter!” Brady implored, indicating he didn’t want the wideout to round his return to the ball and come back a yard or two inside where his original route was. He wanted his target coming directly back down the same straight line.
The next wideout in line, Dobson, dug in and came straight back. Brady’s pass was right at his Dobson’s chest cavity and all he had to do was raise his hands and brace for the ball’s impact.
Pleased “attaboys” from both Brady and O’Shea.
“Those guys that have been veteran football players in this league come in with that experience,” O’Shea explained when asked how players like Jenkins and Amendola can tutor the rookies. “That’s good for them but just like the other players that are new to the National Football League and new to our team, there’s still so much to learn and it’s such a learning process. Every year when we start off in the spring there’s just so much to learn and I think those guys have done a good job of getting better every day.”
The media -- and fans at training camp -- see only a small percentage of what the players do. We don’t see the meetings in which concepts are delivered or the day’s plan is revealed. And we don’t see the post-practice film sessions in which corrections are made.
“We go through the process every day,” he explained. “Go in the meeting room and then try to execute on the field what we give them, the plan that’s in place. What I like about this group is they go out every day and have tried to get better and make progress.
“This is a group with a couple of guys that have been here before, and we have some guys that are new to the system so it’s neat to see those guys interact and try to help each other,” he added. “As their coach, I’m ultimately the one that’s responsible and making sure they’re doing their assignment, but we also have guys in the room that are also really helpful in getting them on the same page with what we want because they’ve been here before and they obviously know the plan in place.”