Troy Brown

Who were Tom Brady's all-time favorite Patriots targets? What the numbers say

Who were Tom Brady's all-time favorite Patriots targets? What the numbers say

Tom Brady completed a lot of passes in a New England Patriots uniform -- 6,337, to be exact.

Brady was diplomatic in his distribution, too: He threw at least one touchdown pass to 77 different targets during his 20-year tenure with the Patriots, which ended when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.

But the six-time Super Bowl champion certainly had his favorites. And as it turns out, the most prolific pass-catcher of Brady's Patriots era by sheer volume is on the current roster.

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Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf on Twitter) compiled a list of Brady's 10 most-coveted targets based on total receptions. At the top of the list: wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Edelman has the benefit of experience: He spent 10 years catching passes from Brady, more than any other player on this list. But the 33-year-old still averaged 68.9 receptions per season with Brady after beginning his career as a converted quarterback drafted in the seventh round.

As for Brady's most prolific pass-catchers based on their career averages in New England rather than total numbers? Here's our unofficial top five:

1. Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski's stats are absolutely mind-boggling: A Patriots-leading 8,949 receiving yards in the regular- and postseason with 90 touchdowns over nine seasons.

2. Wes Welker
Welker was nearly as prolific in a shorter amount of time: He averaged 112 catches per regular season alone during his six-year stint with Brady from 2007 to 2012.

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3. Julian Edelman
Edelman has three 1,000-yard seasons under his belt with Brady and has caught at least 74 passes from the GOAT in five of the last six seasons.

4. Troy Brown
Brown was Brady's Welker and Edelman before either player came to prominence, winning three Super Bowls with TB12 in the early 2000s while amassing 101 receptions in 2001.

5. Randy Moss
Moss only spent three seasons in Foxboro, which makes it even more remarkable that he cracked the overall top 10. The Hall of Fame wideout hauled in an NFL-leading 23 of Brady's 50 touchdown passes during the Patriots' historic 2007 season.

Brady has a strong set of weapons in Tampa Bay with wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. But none of those players will come close to cracking the "Brady 10."

K.J. Hill's recap of meeting with Patriots included interesting coaching nugget

K.J. Hill's recap of meeting with Patriots included interesting coaching nugget

It's sometimes interesting to hear what players talk about when they meet with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In K.J. Hill's case, what's interesting was who he talked to.

The Ohio State wide receiver prospect recently met with the Patriots and apparently had a productive conversation with the team.

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"It went well," Hill said, via's Zack Cox. "Mainly, we were talking about plays. I did a lot of similar things [to] their offense, and they were just trying to pick my brain about what we did. And come to find out, it was mostly the same plays.

" …[We talked about] motioning, seeing if it was man or zone, using option routes — definitely what (Julian) Edelman was doing. I was talking to the receivers coach about that."

According to our Phil Perry, the "receivers coach" Hill referred to was Troy Brown, who's not listed on New England's coaching staff but helped the Patriots' wide receivers in an unofficial capacity last season.

New England has been without a wide receivers coach since Joe Judge took the New York Giants' head coach job, but if Brown is interviewing receiver prospects at the NFL Combine (who think he's the team's receivers coach), does that mean he's in line to succeed Judge?

That's speculation, but Brown seems well-suited for the role. The three-time Super Bowl champion -- who spent his entire 15-year playing career in New England -- was a presence at Patriots training camp last year and worked closely with rookie wideout N'Keal Harry.

Recently-hired assistant Jedd Fisch (whose role is still unclear) also could be a candidate for Patriots wide receivers coach: He worked with the Denver Broncos' wide receivers in 2008 and the Michigan Wolverines' receivers in 2015 and 2016 and most recently served as the Los Angeles Rams' assistant offensive coordinator.

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How will Patriots react now that Giants have hired Joe Judge?

How will Patriots react now that Giants have hired Joe Judge?

Joe Judge is headed to the Giants as their next head coach. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. 

Highly thought of inside the building at One Patriot Place, Judge was trusted to take on the responsibilities of both the special teams coordinator and receivers coach in 2019 as the coaching staff underwent a series of changes before the season.

Judge joined the staff in 2012 as a special teams assistant to Scott O'Brien and served in that role for three seasons. He took over the coordinator's role in 2015 and then added receiver responsibilities last year. 

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In Judge's five seasons as special teams coordinator, his kicking units were graded by Pro Football Focus as 8th, 1st, 10th, 5th and 7th in football. According to Rick Gosselin's special teams rankings — rankings that Bill Belichick has referred to multiple times over the years for their ability to compile metrics from all units and package them together for a relatively accurate, all-encompassing view — Judge's units ranked 3rd, 6th, 3rd, and 10th from 2015-2018. 

Judge also watched Stephen Gostkowski become the franchise's all-time leading scorer, he helped Matthew Slater win two first-team All-Pro nods, and he helped rookie punter Jake Bailey quickly establish himself as one of the best at his position this season while also taking on kickoff duties with Gostkowski out injured. The Patriots also blocked four punts this season, a new team record.

Judge taking the Giants gig means one less job on the table for Josh McDaniels to potentially scoop up. He was scheduled to interview with the Giants for the second time in three years later this week. McDaniels was also a candidate for the Panthers job, which went to Matt Rhule on Tuesday. 

With Judge gone, though, Bill Belichick will have to replace one of the most valuable pieces on his staff. 

On special teams, Cam Achord looks like the favorite to replace Judge. He's been with the Patriots for two seasons, joining in 2018 as Judge's assistant. Achord spent five seasons with Southwest Mississippi Community College as offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends coach. 

With the receiver, the Patriots could turn to a name that would be much more familiar to fans of the organization. Troy Brown joined the staff in the spring to assist with receivers and returners, and he maintained that role throughout training camp and through the season.

He spent significant amounts of time with young receivers, in particular, trying to get rookies N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski up to speed. He also worked closely with Mohamed Sanu and Antonio Brown when they joined the team mid-season. With Judge's responsibilities split between two units, Brown had plenty on his plate in his first year in pro coaching. 

The Patriots could potentially turn to another familiar face at the receiver spot. Former receivers coach Chad O'Shea left the team last year to join the Dolphins as their new offensive coordinator. But after one season in Miami, the Dolphins parted ways with O'Shea. With a staff and front office that could use reinforcements this offseason, would the Patriots be open to bringing O'Shea back into the fold? 

That remains to be seen. But with Judge taking off for New York, the Patriots have some work to do to fill his multiple roles.