The Patriots find themselves in the unfamiliar position of playing on wild-card weekend for the first time in a decade and part of the reason why they're there is an offense that has sputtered at times as Tom Brady tries to incorporate young receivers into the mix.
New England's playoff opponent Saturday in Foxboro, the Tennessee Titans, have gotten plenty out of their rookie receiver, A.J. Brown. The second-round pick from Ole Miss (51st pick overall) is averaging a whopping 20 yards per catch.
On the latest episode of Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, that kind of production compared to the struggles of the Pats' young receivers (rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers) left Curran asking the key question of former New England backup quarterback Matt Cassel.
"Why, why, why???!!!"
Cassel spoke about an "intimidation factor" in being incorporated into the Patriots offense.
"There's a disconnect in terms of somehow the rookies just coming in and being able to produce," Cassel told Curran. "I don't know if it's an intimidation factor of who they're playing with. There's a high standard and it takes a little bit of time to get used to the culture, the environment and the demanding nature of being in that building.
"Part of it is the intimidating culture and what it creates. Instead of going out and playing free they just don't want to mess up."
The problems drafting and developing receivers through the years left Curran wondering if any of those successful with other teams in recent drafts would have flourished in Foxboro.
"I sat out here and I knew prior to each of these drafts the Patriots should get Sterling Shepherd, the Patriots should get Tyler Lockett, the Patriots should this year have gone after Mecole Hardman," Curran said. "I just don't get it...if any of them came here, how would they have done?"
Hear more from Curran and Cassel on what the Titans do well on both sides of the ball and how coach Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Dean Pees' familiarity with the Patriots could work to Tennessee's advantage. Also: why Tom Brady might have regressed last week against Miami and a final look back at the season-ending debacle against the Dolphins on the latest episode of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast presented by CVS Health, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.