Patriots

Other playoff teams don't seem to be having this big an issue with young receivers

Other playoff teams don't seem to be having this big an issue with young receivers

Here’s something that's tough to hear as we blame everyone but Tom Brady for the Patriots’ struggles in the passing game: Other quarterbacks don’t seem to be having this big a problem with young receivers. 

Among potential playoff teams, the Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers, Steelers and Chiefs are all getting immediate contributions from rookie wide receivers. In particular, and D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, both of whom were drafted within eight picks of N’Keal Harry, are having very good rookie campaigns on contending teams. 

Here’s a breakdown of rookie receivers on playoff teams. I’ll keep it to guys taken in the first three rounds: 

Marquise Brown, Ravens, 25th overall: 36 rec, 520 yards, 6 TD

N’Keal Harry, Patriots, 32nd overall: 4 rec, 28 yards, 1 TD (spent first eight weeks on IR)

Deebo Samuel, 49ers, 36th overall: 42 rec, 564 yards, 3 TD

Mecole Hardman, Chiefs, 56th overall: 23 rec, 450 yards, 5 TD

D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks, 64th overall: 44 rec, 705 yards, 5 TD

Diontae Johnson, Steelers, 66th overall: 36 rec, 423 yards, 3 TD

Jalen Hurd, 49ers, 67th overall: IR

Miles Boykin, Ravens, 93rd overall: 11 rec, 185 yards, 2 TD

Before you play the “Harry’s only been available for three games” card, no he hasn’t. Week 9 in Baltimore could have been his first game back, but the Patriots were in no rush to play him, which further begs the question of why the Patriots haven’t been in much of a rush with him. 

Or these questions: Is Deebo Samuel that much better than Harry? Is Mecole Hardman? Is D.K. Metcalf leaps and bounds superior? 

Do you think if the Patriots had any of these guys, they’d be putting up the numbers they are with their respective teams? Or would they be the subject of endless “they’re just not on the same page” laments? 

Part of it is the offense. The same playbook that’s given opposing defenses fits has been tough to learn for youngsters and veterans alike. That’s fine, but if your receiver group is shallow and banged-up enough that you’re going to need production from Harry and Jakobi Meyers, you’ve got to meet them halfway. The Patriots aren’t. 

While it's easy to throw your hands up and say that you just can't count on rookies, consider that these other teams and quarterbacks could have, too. They haven't. Metcalf is second on the 10-2 Seahawks in both catches and receiving yards. Brown and Samuel are their respective teams’ top wide receivers. Hardman is tied for the Chiefs team lead in receiving touchdowns. Same goes for Johnson with the Steelers.  

These teams and their quarterbacks are proof that you can rely on young receivers and still be competitive. The Patriots are the exception to the rule right now, and they’re worse off for it.  

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Jarrett Stidham focused on improving during 2020 offseason, not Tom Brady's free agency

Jarrett Stidham focused on improving during 2020 offseason, not Tom Brady's free agency

Tom Brady is set to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his 20-year NFL career. While the legendary quarterback could return to the New England Patriots in 2020, there's no guarantee that he will.

If Brady doesn't return, the Patriots will have a number of ways to address the quarterback position. They could target a free agent passer in one of the strongest free agent quarterback classes ever. They could spend a draft pick on one in a strong 2020 quarterback draft class.

Or they could roll with the only other quarterback option they currently have on their roster, 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham.

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Stidham spent his rookie season backing up Brady and played a grand total of 15 snaps for the squad. He completed 2-of-4 passes for 14 yards and threw an interception in that action.

Despite his relative inexperience, Stidham would theoretically be the next man up at quarterback if Brady leaves. But moving forward, he isn't thinking a lot about Brady's impending free agency. He's more focused on what he can do to improve heading into his second year.

"Right now, I can't really think too much about [Brady's free agency]. I have to worry about what I need to do to prepare to enhance my game, to learn as much as I possibly can," Stidham said per ESPN's Mike Reiss. "That's the biggest thing I've focused on, making a big stride from Year 1 to Year 2."

That said, Stidham did call his time learning as Brady's backup "priceless" and said that Brady is "phenomenal" in all facets of the game.

"He's a phenomenal teammate, a phenomenal person, obviously a phenomenal player," Stidham said per Reiss. "There was just so much that I got to learn from him. He was obviously very open to me about stuff that he's thought about the game of football, and stuff like that. It was great. I can't speak highly enough of that guy."

Perhaps Stidham's time learning from Brady has served him well. After all, Patriots fans haven't seen him in action since Week 7 and Phil Perry reported that Stidham was impressing his teammates and coaches alike in late-December.

But is he ready to be a starter? The Patriots moves this offseason will surely tell us more about their thoughts on that.

The Patriots won't definitively know what Brady's plans are for 2020 until he puts pen to paper somewhere. In the interim, it's at least encouraging that Stidham is putting in the effort behind the scenes to improve after spending a year learning from Brady. 

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Tom Brady appears to have a kindred spirit as his career continues into his 40s.

Eminem name-drops TB12 on the track "Premonition" off the album "Music To Be Murdered By" which he released on Friday.

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The song takes on the critics of the 47-year-old rapper from Detroit and compares the critiques he gets to ones leveled at LeBron James, 35, and the Patriots quarterback, who'll turn 43 in August. 

Here's part of the song:

“Revival flopped, came back and I scared the crap out ‘em

But Rolling Stone stars, I get two and a half outta

Five, and I’ll laugh out loud

‘Cause that’s what they gave BAD back in the day

Which actually made me not feel as bad now, ‘cause

If it happened to James

It can happen to Shady

They do the same [expletive] to Brady

More people hate me than love me

This game will make you go crazy.”

It's not Eminem's first reference to Brady in one of his songs. In 2013's "Baby", he raps, "I'm what Tom Brady is to the Patriots of rap. Not a man, a weapon."

And it's just the latest Brady reference that has dotted hip-hop and rap since the mid-2000s when the QB led the Pats to the second and third of the six Super Bowl titles they've won. Other artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Kanye West have referenced him as a symbol of excellence. 

Brady told the Boston Globe last year before the Super Bowl he appreciates it.

 “That’s always really cool,” Brady said. “I’m a big fan of so many of those guys. I have a lot of friends [in music] that I’ve met over the years that are fans of what we do, too...I think that mutual appreciation or admiration is really flattering.”