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BOSTON (CBS) – In March of 2007, the Patriots traded for Wes Welker, and then quickly followed that up in April of that same year, trading for Randy Moss.
March 19th, 2009, the New England Patriots signed Joey Galloway.
April 20th, 2010, the New England Patriots signed Torry Holt.
All of these men were afforded the opportunity to get their playbooks early, work in OTA’s and have a full preseason, without any rushing, to acclimate to the Patriots offensive system. Two of them worked out, two of them didn’t. But, they were all roughly under the same timeline and given the same opportunities to learn what to do within Tom Brady’s world.
On July 29th, 2011, the Patriots acquired Chad Ochocinco from the Cincinnati Bengals. Can anyone spot the difference?
It all began on the first day of Ochocinco’s Patriots tenure, with the over-reactionary tweets of the new wide receiver dropping a couple of passes during practice. Yes, practice. Have you ever seen a tweet about David Ortiz hitting ground balls in the batting cage before the game? Can’t remember when we saw tweets from any Celtics beat writers reporting on a new C’s acquisition having a tough day at shoot-around in camp, do you?
That should have been the warning sign for the message from some fans and most media: Ochocinco, you’re on the clock.
This type of “you must impress me immediately or you’re done for” continued throughout the preseason. You could hear guys at the bar on Friday night, “Did you see Ochocinco drop that pass the other night.” It didn’t matter that it was a preseason game, “you must impress me immediately or you’re done for.”
So, predictably, after the first game of the regular season has come and gone with Ochocinco being targeted three times, catching one ball and gathering only 14 yards, the murmurs have only grown louder. On Tuesday morning, Ochocinco was the topic du jour; how long can the Patriots wait for Ochocinco to catch up? Or, why don’t the Patriots just drop him, we saw what happened to Joey Galloway.
Then came the voices of former Patriots, dressing down Ochocinco for tweeting that he was in “Aww” of Tom Brady’s performance. Would they have much rather had him say that Tom Brady was “OK”? Oh, that’s right, it was the fact that Ochocinco tweeted that got them upset. You know, that 15 seconds it took to tweet that message would have allowed Ocho to flourish in the system. By the way, you think that Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi know that Ochocinco has tweeted 26 times less per day, since he was traded to New England? Give me a break.
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Then there are the whispers that Ochocinco has “lost a step.” That he’s getting old. That he doesn’t have the talent any longer. Guess he just woke up on July 30th and forgot how to play the game or lost all his skill. This is the same guy who had a pretty good year for a terrible team, with a quarterback that couldn’t beat you and your friends in a tailgate game last season.
Everyone do yourselves a favor and step away from the vehicle for a moment. Let’s look at some facts.
Even though Rodney Harrison comes out and jumps on the pile about Ochocinco’s work ethic and his penchant for tweeting, the fact is that Ocho has worked his tail off since being here. How do we know that? Bert Breer, a guy who’s well connected and respected, said those exact words during his weekly appearance with Gresh & Zo. The wide out has come in early, stayed late and has opened his ears for Brady and company to share their wisdom.
Yes, Ochocinco was on the field for only 18 snaps on Monday night. However, the Patriots played a ton of two tight-end sets with a running back, leaving room for only two receivers. In a division game, on the road, is it that crazy that the Patriots decided to play the two receivers that know this system like the back of their hands?
Furthermore, of the 18 snaps Ochocinco took part in, he was targeted three times. That’s once every six pass attempts by Brady. Those numbers aren’t far off from what you’d expect if you extrapolated the snap numbers. And, of the three targets, Ochocinco had one damn good catch, another tough attempt on one of Brady’s few mediocre throws that night and got mugged near the goal line on a non-call. Look at that play again, his jersey was yanked and pulled from the six or seven yard-line on down.
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Also, what did people expect? The unrealistic expectations from fans and media always affect situations like this. Chad Ochocinco is NOT the old Chad Johnson. He’s not an elite WR any longer. The Patriots have a number of weapons. They spread the ball around better than most, if not all, of their NFL counterparts. Chad Ochocinco is a piece of the puzzle, he’s not the puzzle.
And, finally, let’s take a look back at the beginning of this blog, because it is the single most important fact that has been glanced over throughout all this hyperbole. Ochocinco’s tenure is seven weeks old. Not seven weeks into the regular season. Nope, seven weeks from the day he was traded for. Did we really expect Ochocinco to not only grasp an incredibly difficult offensive system within seven weeks, but also flourish in it?
Yes, Wes Welker and Randy Moss came in and had a great first year. No denying that. But, what also can’t be denied is both had roughly a three month head start to learn the offense compared to Ochocinco. Yes, Torry Holt and Joey Galloway failed. But, they also had a three month head start to prove themselves worthy, or in their cases, not worthy.
This blog isn’t to say that Ochocinco will be a success (even though this writer believes he will be). Or, that he’ll end up as a bust. It’s to put things in perspective. This guy’s had seven weeks to change teams, cities and learn one of the most difficult offensive systems in the game.
The point is, in this world of results now, no matter what… in this world of tweet anything and everything, around the clock news coverage, Ochocinco simply needs more time before we’re ready to send him out of town.
You can follow Nick on twitter @NickCattles, listen to him on The Progress Software Fantasy Football Show Sundays at 9am on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and send him a question with the new fantasy mailbag on cbsbostonsports.com