Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Romanowski: Time for Pats' youngsters to 'step up'


Bill Belichick's success (or lack thereof) when drafting wide receivers is well documented through the years.

That criticism continued into last year, where he drafted two wideouts in the first four rounds -- Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce -- and eventually added another as an unrestricted free agent in Kenbrell Thompkins. The trio was expected to fill the void of some big name absentees this season and turn around a passing game that had begun to rely on its tight ends far too much to move the sticks.

The consensus on the rookies has been mixed, to say the least.

"They didn’t get it done this year, they came up short in the AFC championship game, you live and learn," former pro linebacker Bill Romanowski said, via Wednesday. "You're Bill Belichick, you learn from this year. I think he's going to learn, and I think he's going to make some moves.

"You've got to do that through the draft. You've got to do that by really cultivating young talent. … These young guys … they've got to step it up and be the future of the New England Patriots."

The future, at least in terms of production this year, looks uncertain for the youngsters. Each marred by injury at one point or another, none really got on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady despite some preseason success, and each struggled with dropped passes.

Dobson had the highest catch percentage of the three by the end of the season (52.1), good enough for 92nd overall among receivers, according to ProFootballFocus.

"The game is about the horses," Romanowski said. "You've got to have the talent, bring in the talent and make sure you have more talent around Tom Brady and to me, look at what the Denver Broncos did. They made sure they were deep at receiver and they win games by outscoring people. That's usually what New England does.

"Hats off, though, to New England with what they were able to do, change things and turned themselves into more of a conventional offense, phenomenal coaching."

Whether Belichick and the Pats will bite the bullet once again this year and attempt to draft another instant contributor is unclear, but it's hard to imagine New England heading into next season with the same wideout corps they ended with, especially with Brady in the twilight of his career.

It's particularly hard to see Brady doing much more without some significant improvement, whether that comes from another year of offseason training for his young crew or a big name addition.

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