There wasn’t much excitement when the New England Patriots signed veteran wide receiver Michael Jenkins in late March. He has been an understated player since being selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and that doesn’t figure to change this coming season with the Pats. Still, that could actually be just what New England needs to tread water during what could be a trying season offensively.
It seems weird to think that Tom Brady and company could have difficulty throwing the football, but he could very likely be missing his top five targets from a season ago with Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, and Aaron Hernandez no longer with the team while Rob Gronkowski is still a big question mark with his injury issues. The team did sign Danny Amendola as a free agent this offseason, but the highest reception total that Brady is familiar with sure to be in the lineup week one is Julian Edelman at 21 catches for 235 yards a year ago. Needless to say, this team has some work to do.
Reports from OTAs have said that Jenkins is assimilating into the offense quickly with his reliable hands and veteran route-running. The knock on Jenkins has always been his lack of elite speed, but the Patriots can find a use for a player that is savvy at running routes and catches everything in sight.
As for the depth chart, obviously Amendola is expected to pick up the slack from Welker’s departure. Right now though, Jenkins figures to be the guy lining up opposite him in the number two wideout role with former Buffalo Bills receiver Donald Jones along with rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in the next slots. Edelman will also be a part of the competition in training camp for playing time, but it seems like New England has a collection of good receivers but no one who really wows you.
That could bode well for a veteran like Jenkins seeing some serious playing time with the Pats in the upcoming season. The team will have some serious roster decisions to make with so many decent guys coming to camp, but if the early indications of Jenkins taking reps with the first team at OTAs hint at anything it’s that he may well be one of Brady’s top targets in 2013.