Talk of New England's demise on offense remains a topic in vogue, but after what we saw from the Patriots on Friday night, the doomsday chatter feels premature.
A flock of Patriots rookie receivers -- Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins -- saw action early and often in a 31-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, combining for 77 snaps on the night, per ESPNBoston.com. Spending plenty of on-field time with quarterback Tom Brady, Dobson (44 snaps) was used liberally, followed by Boyce (32) and Thompkins (31). All three looked the part.
"We spread the ball to different guys," Brady told reporters after the game. "(Thompkins) did a good job, Aaron did a good job, Josh had some opportunities, Danny (Amendola) -- everyone contributed."
The Patriots had their way with the Eagles' defense all week in scrimmages, and that continued Friday. The tempo was fast -- with 46 plays and 334 yards at halftime -- as Brady spread the ball around. The Patriots heavily leaned on a run game highlighted by LeGarrette Blount's 101 yards and two scores on just 11 carries. New England rolled for 248 yards on the ground, with 212 of those coming in the first 36 minutes.
Then there was runner Shane Vereen, who was lined up wide when Brady found him in the end zone on a 13-yard fade route on the team's second scoring drive. We heard whispers all summer of Vereen playing a "joker" role, and he did just that against the Eagles. Vereen's touchdown came with Brady in the shotgun out of an empty set, an approach we expect to see plenty of this season.
As for the rookies, Thompkins's four catches for 23 yards led the way, but Dobson (two for 35 yards) and Sudfeld (one for 22) also produced. The early buzz on Thompkins seems well-placed. ESPNBoston.com noted Thompkins "redirected Boyce to the proper alignment after Boyce broke the huddle and went to the wrong side of the formation" on one play.
That, right there, is what Belichick and Brady melt over in a receiver. These newbies are off to a solid start.