FOXBOROUGH — Whether it’s fair or not, a lot gets made from what Tom Brady says, or in some cases doesn’t say, which is what happened over the past week.
"It’s a lot of mental and physical toughness we’re going to need,” Brady said Monday on The Greg Hill Show. “We’ll need it from Mo (Mohamad Sanu), we’ll need it from Jules (Julian Edelman), we’ll need it from Phillip (Dorsett) and the tight ends and the backs and the line and everything.
“We have a long, tough stretch ahead of us and we’re going to have to play our best football.”
There were two noticeable omissions from that answer — rookie wide recivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
It is also worth noting what he said when asked a specific question on Harry and if he was surprised he wasn’t active for last Sunday’s game with the Ravens.
“Yeah, again Coach (Bill Belichick) makes all those decisions, so I just go out there and try and play," he said.
So, when discussing the offense as a whole, Brady didn’t name the two rookies. And then when asked specifically about Harry, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, he didn’t give a generic response to praise the rookie and say he’s looking forward to getting him on the field. Instead, he opted to deflect to Belichick and say he makes the decisions.
This narrative of Brady not being fully committed to working with rookie receivers goes back a ways, including before the Ravens game when he was asked about Harry then.
“Yeah, he’s missed a lot of football – missed a lot of training camp, missed eight regular season games,” Brady said. “So, you know, he’s just got to try to work at it every day, and it’s going to be up to him to put the effort in and to – you know, everyone’s there to help him, but you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to do it and earn it, and earn the trust of your teammates and coaches and stuff.
“So, it’s good to have him out there.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Against Baltimore, Brady and the Patriots offense relied exclusively on veterans Edelman, Sanu and Dorsett at the receiver position. Those three played every snap with the exception of Meyers replacing Dorsett on one play in the first quarter when he got banged up. And overall through the first nine games of the season, the passing game has relied almost too much on Edelman and James White. The pair has totaled 1,067 receiving yards, which is 41 percent of the offense’s total for the year.
New England has gotten extremely lucky that these two players have been able to play in every game so far this year, and it’s worth wondering when its luck will come to an end.
It seems highly unlikely Edelman will be able to make it through the remaining seven games healthy given the abuse his body takes on a weekly basis. And with White, while he has only missed four games since 2015, his 205-pound body isn’t built to take the hits with regularity that he has this season.
Besides the health-perspective, it’s also worth looking at it from an on-field perspective. Sooner than later, a defense is going to figure out how much sense it makes to double-team Edelman every play and take him out of the game. If this happens, it will be up to other players on the roster to step up.
Bottom line, it seems very unlikely the Patriots will be able to reach the Super Bowl without getting contributions from either of their rookie wide outs.
In his limited time on the field — 33 percent of the offensive snaps — Meyers has 14 catches on 17 targets for 172 yards, so when given the opportunity he’s produced. Then while Harry has been on injured reserve since the start of the season, he has a massive body — 6-foot-4, 225 pounds — and is known for making contested catches. It seems he could be beneficial to Brady, especially in the red zone given a 1-on-1 matchup on the outside.
While we’re not arguing for Meyers or Harry to play nearly all the offensive snaps, phasing them out is not the best way to approach the rest of the season.
Like we mentioned, what if Edelman, White, or even Sanu/Dorsett go down for a few weeks? What if opponents get smart and figure out how to take Edelman out of a game? Good offenses are versatile in the passing game and don’t focus on one or two players, especially when one is a running back.
Yes, it may not be what a 42-year-old Brady wants to do, but in order for the Patriots to reach their full potential, Harry and Meyers need to start getting involved.