In 2013, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady relied on a receiving corps that lacked experience and battled injuries throughout the season. After a season of working with Brady, organized team activities and half of training camp, the Patriots' receivers will face higher expectations in 2014.
Here is a look at each wide receivers' progress at camp thus far:
Julian Edelman. Edelman continues to be Brady's go-to target. With crisp route-running and a level of toughness that is rare in a player of his size (5-foot-10, 198 pounds), Edelman seems to find a way to separate himself from coverage most of the time. Throughout camp, Edelman has battled top cornerbacks including Darrelle Revis at practice and made some impressive catches even through contact.
Danny Amendola. Amendola possesses a similar shiftiness and sharp cuts like Edelman, but he also has impressive speed and awareness to make plays on the outside as we have seen at camp. Amendola has made work of cornerback Alfonzo Dennard at team practices and has torched him with solid cuts and quick bursts of speed. Barring his health, Amendola looks primed for a strong 2014 season based on his training camp performances.
Aaron Dobson. Expectations for Dobson are high since he is supposed to make the leap from rookie to second-year player. With a surgery on his foot derailing his offseason, Dobson has seen limited action, so it is hard to judge where he stands right now. As a prototypical receiver (6-3, 200), Dobson has a lot of pressure on him to elevate his level of play.
Brandon LaFell. At the start of camp, LaFell looked inconsistent as he dropped a number of passes and appeared to need a lot of work with Brady. Fast forward a few weeks and LaFell and Brady look to be on the same page. At joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles, Brady had the confidence to make any throw to LaFell especially on the outside with his long frame (6-2, 210). "He keeps making more plays," Brady said about LaFell during practices with Washington, "He's understanding better and better, he's a veteran and he's savvy, knows how to run the routes. Big body, big frame, knows how to make a lot of tough catches."
Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins lit it up during the first few days of camp with diving catches and a strong connection with Brady. Since then, Thompkins has shown a little more of the inconsistency that was seen during his rookie season. Regardless of his inconsistencies, Thompkins is physical at the line and has a great first step, as cornerback Brandon Browner said one day after some tough one-on-ones with Thompkins. Brady has a lot of trust in Thompkins, especially evident on the back shoulder touchdown to him for the opening score against the Eagles. "I've got so much confidence in him and what he's been able to do, and continue to achieve for us. So hopefully there will be a lot more of those."
Josh Boyce. Boyce repeatedly shows why the Patriots decided to use a fourth-round pick on him in the 2013 NFL draft. His speed and vertical route running are excellent. But, throughout training camp, Boyce has not shown the ability to finish plays. He has inconsistent hands and seems to lack awareness, such as on the block in the back penalty during the Eagles game.
Brian Tyms. Tyms is drawing a lot of attention with his impressive performance against Washington (5 catches, 119 yards) and then following it up with a great touchdown catch as he went over the top of Eagles cornerback Curtis Marsh in the next game. He makes plays at practice and seems to have a connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. A four-game suspension could allow him to stick around a bit longer.