FOXBOROUGH — Slow has never been an adjective linked to Antonio Brown.
Quickness, speed, and suddenness are typical words that fill scouting reports describing the dynamic receiver. Those traits were all on display in Brown’s Patriots debut last Sunday, when he caught four passes for 56 yards.
Bill Belichick said Brown worked “hard and diligently” with Joe Judge, Troy Brown, and Tom Brady to get up to speed quickly for the Dolphins game, and it showed. Brown was targeted eight times despite having just three practices under his belt.
It was clear Brady and Brown had put in the work, and their chemistry should only continue to build the way it has with other recent receiver acquisitions.
For comparisons sake, Josh Gordon didn’t receive his eighth target until his third game last season, and Phillip Dorsett was targeted just 18 times over the course of his first season in New England. Both have blossomed into valued members of Brady’s circle of trust.
It was a fast start for Brown, but the continuation of his immersion in the offense may start to slow, simply because of a lack of time.
As Belichick explained Wednesday morning, it’s a balancing act when it comes to adding plays tailored to a newcomer’s skill set.
“There’s things we can utilize [Antonio] for, or Josh, or anybody else. It’s just a question of volume and, again, time and reps,’’ said the coach. “You can’t put in 20 new plays when we have, call it, 90 plays in practice over the course of a week. You can’t put in 20 plays and expect to be able to rep those and get them right and then do all of the other things you have to do. You have to be selective.’’
That selectiveness has a lot to do with what needs to be worked on during the week when there’s only three practices (with just one in full pads) and a walkthrough. If too much time is spent in one area, other aspects of the game plan could suffer.
“If you want to put in something new, then how much time can you allocate to it? How much are you going to use it? How effective is it going to be?’’ said Belichick. “Do you really want to put in a play that’s going to gain 5 yards and waste 10 percent of your practice reps during the week on that? I don’t know. I’d rather work on a play that’s going to gain 50 yards. You just have to decide how you want to do it, so can you expand it? Sure. It’s not infinite.’’
It’s why training camp is so valuable. Time is on a team’s side.
“We’ve got to get ready for a game, so there are other considerations with other parts of the team and players on the team that you just have to try and balance and all that,’’ said Belichick. “I’m sure each week we can add a little more with new players, whether it be [Marshall] Newhouse or Korey [Cunningham], or Antonio, or Josh, or Matt LaCosse — there’s another guy that hasn’t played much football. Those guys, as they get more back into, in this case, the offensive flow, yeah. It’s not limitless. We just don’t have that many opportunities.’’
Brown was back at work Wednesday afternoon, going through stretching and individual drills during the portion of practice media was allowed to observe. All signs point to Brown making his first home appearance for the Patriots Sunday against the rival Jets.
New York coach Adam Gase said the Brown he saw on tape against the Dolphins looked like the same player teams have been game planning against for the last decade.
“I think it’s probably about what all of us expected as far as production,’’ Gase said. “You see the quickness, see the speed, see the hands. I mean, he’s one of — if not the best receiver — one of the best receivers in the league.’’