No offense in the NFL produced more yards than the Patriots in 2012. No team scored more points.
This season? Five of the top six pass catchers are off the team. New England dives into 2013 this Sunday with three rookie receivers and a rookie tight end.
"It's going to be a great challenge for our offense and it's going to be a team situation in terms of how we play the game, how do we call it on offense, what we do with each one of our players, and certainly make the best decisions we can to allow them to make an impact," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels admitted Tuesday.
"But this won't be our first time going out there with a young player or more than one young player that will play for us."
True. And this group -- second round draft pick Aaaron Dobson, fourth rounder Josh Boyce, the undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins, and rookie free agent tight end Zach Sudfeld -- got plenty of reps in the preseason.
As for what specific skills they bring to the table: "Youth," he laughed. And laughed, and laughed.
After sobering up, McDaniels affirmed all three are capable of playing in the complex Patriots offense.
"We've already moved them and played multiple roles with them, multiple positions with them, which, in our system, is a really big plus for us to have some flexibility with those guys. They've shown that they'll study and work at the game, the mental side of the game, to be able to be flexible and play in multiple spots when we need them to."
"At the same time we understand that this will be their first opportunity to play in a regular season game, and we're going to try to put them in the best position they can to be successful in whatever it is they're doing.
Having Tom Brady at quarterback isn't a bad start. Add in one of the best offensive lines in the league and a seasoned running back corps, and McDaniels feels just fine about his rookies' chances.
"It's exciting to have them get started, but they've got a lot of veteran-experienced players around them and certainly we're not just going to throw them out there and not have a good idea of exactly what we're going to do with them."