Dec 4, 2011; Foxboro, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie (17) shakes hands with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick following the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
One can understand why Bill Belichick felt comfortable sticking with rookies over veterans in his offense heading into a season. After all, the last time he did it his team went 14-2 and two rookie tight ends were a huge reason Tom Brady won his second MVP award. However, this season appears different, and not in a good way.
Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman cover up ineffectual rookies
Belichick has a tremendous record as a head coach and talent manager. However, a big problem over the course of his career with the New England Patriots was evaluating quality talent at wide receiver in the draft. The most productive pass catchers during his tenure like Randy Moss and Wes Welker were free agent additions. His most successful draft pick was Deion Branch way back in 2002. Since then the Patriots have routinely missed on a number of attempts. Opening week offered few signs of progress too. Tom Brady threw 52 passes in the game but only completed 29 to five different receivers. Doing the heavy lifting for the day were free agent acquisition Danny Amedola and veteran reserve Julian Edelman. The only rookie standout was Kenbrell Thompkins who caught four passes for 42 yards. Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, a preseason fantasy favorite, did not register a catch. Worse still, Amendola is reportedly injured and will miss the week two games against the Jets, a problem that has dogged him since his days in St. Louis.
Buffalo Bills and Rob Gronkowski injury make Collie an option
So why bring in Austin Collie? It’s well established the former Colts receiver has had his share of injury problems, most of them having to do with concussions. This caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. Given the ongoing fight between ex-players and the NFL about concussions, it has been difficult for players like him to get signed. Still, he has proven productive when healthy. In 2011, with quarterbacks like Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter under center in Indianapolis, he managed 514 receiving yards. A year earlier with Peyton Manning he had 649 along with eight touchdowns in just nine games. In the right conditions he can still be dangerous at age 27. The New England Patriots offense can use it. Even before they lost Amendola, the unit struggled against a Buffalo Bills defense they had routinely shredded over the past few seasons. The continued absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski certainly hasn’t helped. If they hope to run the team through Tom Brady as in years past then it is left to the Patriots to not linger too long on their wait for the rookies to do something. Collie is experienced, eager and productive when given a chance. At the right price he is a low risk/high reward proposition.