While Patriots QB Mac Jones didn’t statistically dominate last season, a big reason for that was his surroundings, both on the field and on the sidelines. The team has taken multiple steps towards increasing Mac’s comfort level. On the sideline, the Patriots have significantly strengthened, replacing the ineffective Patricia with an experienced and valented offensive coordinator – offensive line coach duo of Bill O’Brien and Adrian Klemm.
Through draft and free agency, they should be able to take care of the offensive line issues. Among other important acquisitions, acquiring Slade Bolden would be an economical move that could have disproportionately positive impacts for the Pats.
Reunions Work In Today’s NFL
The transition from college football to the NFL is hard, and having some traces of familiarity helps with that kind of transition. With the turbulence on the sideline last year, a familiar target could be exactly what Jones needs. A number of QB-WR duos (among other positions) that were reunions from college have aided young quarterbacks in their evolution, especially in the last few years.
After a tough first year, Joe Burrow reuniting with JaMarr Chase helped him evolve into an elite quarterback, and helped the Bengals evolve into a perennial contender. Tua’s evolution in the last couple years has been aided by Jaylen Waddle, and Jalen Hurts is a super bowl finalist just a year removed from drafting Devonta Smith.
All of these combinations evolved not only the quarterbacks, but the course of the franchises in general. Of course, the quarterbacks’ own evolution was essential for this, but the combination of gaining a talented receiver and the preexisting chemistry they had with their weapons. Now, Slade isn’t in the category of the aforementioned receivers, but still possesses potential that Mac could likely draw out better than most.
What Does Slade Bolden Offer To The Patriots?
Despite his relative lack of prestige, Slade was worked out for a reason. The Patriots enjoy their diamonds in the rough, and Slade has plenty of hidden potential. First of all, he is a versatile receiver who can make catches at any distance, and at Alabama he was productive in screens, mid-range passes, and even the downfield game.
He is an excellent route runner, both in terms of traditional pre-catch routes and after the catch on screens behind the line of scrimmage and gets open way more often than someone with his measurables logically should. His strong hands allow him to catch even off balls and his combination of decent jumps and ball-tracking skills have led him to be able to make some really acrobatic, deep catches in his time with Alabama.
The limitations with Bolden are obvious. He’s on the shorter, smaller side, and is also not the fastest in terms of off-the-line speed. As a result, he doesn’t present an intimidating matchup for defensive backs on paper, and at the NFL level, this can be a problem – one of the big reasons he went undrafted and didn’t get playing time last year.
However, that kind of physical profile is nothing new for the Patriots, who have been able to integrate these kinds of receivers in their offense before. Slade is reliable, versatile, and good in big moments. For Mac, he’s not just a former target, but also a former roommate and can be an asset for Jones on and off the field – as is true for another former target of his, Jerry Jeudy, who the Patriots should also absolutely pursue. For the Patriots, this would be a low-cost, low-risk move that could sneakily pay some serious dividends for the team.
The Bottom Line
The Patriots did the right thing in working out Slade. Can they do the right thing by acquiring him?
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