By: Steve Balestrieri
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With the New England Patriots reportedly signing Jeff Demps, the Patriots fan base has been over the top on Friday with the possibilities, especially in the return game someone like Demps could bring.
First of all, he hasn’t even strapped on pads yet and the Twitterverse already is abuzz with who’s getting cut…..Whoa Trigger. We haven’t seen him do a thing yet, so in the words of Bill Parcells, “Let’s not put him in Canton just yet.”
Demps does have blistering speed, that much we know and has an Olympic medal to prove it, but before you start chalking up those returns for touchdowns, let’s temper those visions of grandeur with a little reality check.
The Patriots have been enamored by speed guys before, not quite to the extent of Al Davis but do the names Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, Antwan Harris, Terrence Wheatley ring a bell? We heard much the same about them, so straight line speed isn’t the end-all for NFL success.
The other thing people are doing is signaling the end of the line for Danny Woodhead because of Demps’ ‘maybe’ signing. Wrong…Wrong….Wrong. Danny Woodhead is a proven RB in the NFL. He played in about 30% of the Patriots offensive snaps last season. He was arguably the best player in a Patriots uniform during Super Bowl 46. Woodhead isn’t going anywhere, especially with two unproven young RBs expected to carry the load.
If anyone is sweating it is…and should be Julian Edelman. Edelman is primarily a STs guy, more importantly a Kick Returner. Has the Patriots return game been great or even good the past few years? Anyone? Bueller? No it hasn’t. And forget about Edelman taking over for Welker in the slot. Edelman had a good rookie season with 37 catches when nobody knew who he was. Since then his production has gone steadily down. Last season four catches….that’s it just four.
While Edelman has flashed in the return game at times….flashed only, the Patriots return game has been a liability. Edelman last year was moved to defensive back. While it speaks highly for his versatility, it doesn’t speak volumes about his offensive prowess. He drops too many balls and doesn’t have great speed, great quickness yes like Welker, but not top end speed.
And with Edelman’s major contribution as the primary kick returner, why would they sign Demps if they thought it was solid? The coaches have even used Donte’ Stallworth and Aaron Hernandez returning kicks. But all of this talk is moot until Demps actually steps on the field. He won’t play against Philadelphia, so he has nine days and two games to wow the coaches.
Demps may indeed wow everyone and make the roster….but the odds are stacked against him. But what it really means is the Patriots coaches aren’t pleased with their return game and that begins with Edelman.
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