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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LaFell Can't Help Himself

Brandon LaFell keeps talking, whether it's good for him or not.

After essentially having his twitter taken away from him earlier in the
offseason, the new Patriot has had plenty to say about his transition
from Carolina to New England. He's not doing himself any favors, but I
don't think he means harm. I don't think he's smart enough to not say
the wrong thing.

My interpretation? He's struggling. He's struggling with change, and
he's struggling with finding his place in uncertainty. He's a southern
boy in a new part of the world, under a 'new' system and new coaching.
For the first time in his career, he's not one of the top three guys,
earned or not in his he's got a long term deal and has to
earn a roster spot all at the same time.

His talk about practice - he tried to pull back and say Carolina does
work hard - is a matter of difference, a lack of comfortability in
what's going to happen. I saw it most specifically in talking about
the offense, where he says he's gone from a numbers scheme (*Coryell) to
a 'code' based system. Listening to him talking about this, like his
other statements, just gives me a feeling that he's out of his comfort
zone at the least.

You could criticize him for not working hard enough here. It's logical.
I don't have much to base that on one way or another so I won't put
work into something I'd have no way of proving. I do believe that
LaFell is a big receiver who plays small, but style of play doesn't mean
he didn't work. His small hands can be considered a flaw regardless of
whether he put extra work in. But, it's in the same ballpark. Being
more physical, having better hands, these are things that can improve
with significant work. If you wanted to be critical, you could push
Steve Smith's habit of doing his offseason work on the west coast many
years, and not taking guys under his wing.

At any rate, LaFell is struggling a bit with his new surroundings.
That's where he's coming from. I don't think he's trying to slight
Carolina. He just doesn't communicate well enough to understand what
he's really saying. That said, I've spent long enough defending him
over the years, and he's not with Carolina anymore. For some reason,
they even decided they'd try to keep him, and I'm honestly glad to have
an upgrade in the slot (whether Jason Avant or Jerricho Cotchery, both
are better slot guys, and LaFell was most often in that role in
Carolina). I don't know if there's anything outside that'll upgrade on
him, but I really don't think of LaFell as a guy that Carolina has to
work hard to "replace". They have a physical, potentially sloppy
outside receiver who should give them what LaFell never really tried to
be, in Kelvin Benjamin. So I don't find him "missed". I don't find him
that much of a loss.

*Coryell is often called 'numbers' by passing game guys because the
receivers are given their numbered routes within the playcall.
Honestly, everyone gets to know what they're doing inside the playcall,
though in Mike Shula's scheme the number routes and back instructions
are wrapped in a single word that they learn.
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