Every Friday during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. Today, they discuss whether or not Tom Brady and Antonio Brown will ever really develop chemistry.
Will Tom Brady and Antonio Brown ever really develop chemistry?
Antonio Brown has outlier skills similar to Gronk. But all you had to do was watch the second half of last week’s game to see how hard it is to fully build the rapport needed for Brady and Brown to be anywhere close to their potential this year or maybe ever.
On a second-and-5 from the Miami 19 early in the third, Brady shot a ball to the right side of the end zone that bounced near the boundary. Brown was turned the other way.
Three plays later, on second-and-7 from the Miami 10, Brown was running a slant. Brady fired almost a half-second before Brown even got his head turned and the pass glanced out of the end zone.
On the next play, Brown beat his man at the line and Brady underthrew him in the end zone, the quarterback taking the rap for not reading it right.
Brown started the day catching all four passes he was targeted with for 56 yards. Brady couldn’t hook up with him on any of the next four targets. This stuff is hard even for brilliant players.
Brown will be productive for the Patriots as long as he lasts with them. There will be moments he and Brady are not just on the same page but reading the same letter in the same word. And other times, Brown won’t even be in the same library. They just won’t have the time to truly tap the potential for absurd on-field effectiveness.
We've seen Brady connect with first-year Patriots many times over to have productive -- sometimes wildly productive -- seasons. The connection might not be what it's been with some of Brady's all-time favorites. But in sync? Sure.
Brandon Lloyd caught 911 yards worth of passes from Brady in 2012 and was a true outside-the-numbers option. In 2014, Brandon LaFell brought a more physical presence to the "X" receiver spot and reeled in 953 yards receiving en route to a Super Bowl title.
In 2016, we might not give Brady enough credit for what he did with new faces on the way to Lombardi No. 5: Chris Hogan (680 yards), Martellus Bennett (701 yards) and Malcolm Mitchell (401 yards) all ended the season with a rapport with their quarterback that could certainly be described as "in sync." The following year, Brandin Cooks showed up and broke 1,000 yards as a gifted down-the-field receiver.
Last year it was Josh Gordon. I don't think he'd fall into the in sync category . . . but he still had 720 yards in 11 games and led the league in yards per catch. Plenty of teams around the league would kill for that type of "out of sync" presence.
Those examples don't even mention the obvious first-year wonders that were Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth in 2007.
Of course there are one-and-done duds. Chad Ochocinco never got it. Clearly. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were the best the Patriots had for a brief stretch, but that didn't mean they really worked out.
There are two things clearly working against Brown: No. 1 he didn't have an offseason with Brady; No. 2 he might be yanked off the field at any time. But if he continues to play, he'll contribute at a level that's approaching Lloyd or LaFell. Though he lacks in preseason Patriots reps compared to those two, he easily surpasses them in terms of talent. They'll have instances of miscommunication sprinkled throughout the season. Maybe all year. But if Brown plays 15 games with this team, or something close to that, we'll look back at the numbers at the end and say, "Man, he and Brady developed chemistry quickly." Brady's done it too many times with lesser talents to expect anything different.
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