Here's a Pretty Interesting Breakdown of How Pop Douglas Might Go from the Patriots Best Wideout as a Rookie to a Role Player in Year 2

We're just under a month away from the start of Patriots Training Camp. Meaning we're crossing the Dead Zone that is late June of the NFL calendar. Giving us one last opportunity to look back at the disastrous offense that finished last in the league in points and which would've gotten itself demoted to the XFL if we did things the way British soccer does. 

And as we do look back, there were so few bright spots that it's not hard to pick out the diamonds in that dogshit. And without a doubt the one with the best Color, Cut and Clarity (you fellas will have to know these references if you ever expect to put a ring on it) was Demario Douglas. Pop not only led all Patriots in receiving yards and all non-running backs in receptions, he flat out had the best season of any rookie wideout Belichick drafted here in 24 years. 

So there's every reason to hope for a New and Improved Pop as he makes the all-important Year 2 jump, right? 

My answer is "not necessarily." In the words of Eomer in Lord of the Rings (you fellas will have to forget these references if you ever expect to put a ring on it), "Do not trust a hope; it has forsaken these lands." 

I mean, it's hardly my default setting to expect anything other than the best out of any young Patriots player showing any sort of promise. And Douglas most certainly does. It's just that I'm out of the habit of seeing these guys amount to much. On the offensive side of the ball, at least. Especially at that position. After a few years of being wrong, you forget what it feels like to be right.

Besides, Douglas established himself as a great system fit in the Erhardt-Perkins scheme that allowed great slot receivers with short-area quickness to thrive. A list that began with Troy Brown and carried on through Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to name a few. That system was placed on the ash heap of history, replaced with whatever modified West Coast offense Alex Van Pelt pulled out of his briefcase during his job interview. About which I know next to nothing. And plan on spending the summer trying to get up to speed on. 

Fortunately, The Athletic has an excellent, in-depth look at AVP's system. Which might be unfortunate for Douglas:


Source (paywall) - Douglas always seemed like a good fit for a Bill O’Brien offense that leaned on shifty slot receivers. But there is more uncertainty about how he’ll fit into a scheme like Alex Van Pelt’s that utilizes more downfield passing and jumbo packages.

Despite that, Douglas was the Patriots’ best wide receiver during spring practices. He consistently made tough catches, including a couple in the back of the end zone where you usually wouldn’t expect to see a 5-foot-8, 192-pound slot receiver, and was the team’s top playmaker on offense.

There are still fair concerns about whether he’s the perfect fit for this scheme [which] doesn’t utilize three-wide-receiver sets as much as other teams, meaning the Patriots are likely to often have just two receivers on the field. It’s still unclear if coaches think Douglas is good enough to be one of those two receivers (as something more than a pure slot option). …

But more important is where and how the team is utilizing him in the offensive scheme. If the Patriots are going to use only two wide receivers more than other teams, then who those receivers are will really matter.

Well OK, then. So Van Pelt will run a ton of two-wide receiver sets, leaving little to no need for a slot guy. I'm not disputing that, because I honestly do not know what on Earth the Browns were running. I was too focused on figuring out which young Patriots quarterback would lead our next 3 & out to count receivers in Cleveland. I will say it's a little surprising given that, as you sort the Browns skill players by how many passing snaps they took, TE David Njoku was first, RB Jerome Ford was fourth, and the rest of the top six were all wideouts. So if they weren't running two tight end sets or two running backs, I don't know who their 11th offensive player was if not one of those four WRs. 

What I do know is that after decades of watching receivers this franchise drafted go up in smoke year after year, I hate the thought of losing Douglas just out of some schematic numbers game. Some West Coast musical chairs. Say what you will about Josh McDaniels, but when he was presented with an athlete who didn't have necessarily fit into his system, he found a way to put him in the best possible spot and get him the ball. He managed to hammer the square peg that was Cordarelle Patterson into a round hole and get production out of him in a way his other coordinators could not.

The point being that, while we know next to nothing about Van Pelt because he hasn't consistently run an offense since he was with the Bills in 2009, getting production out of Douglas and furthering his career is going to be one of his first tests as a coordinator. And it would just be nice to see last year's lone bright spot establish himself as the first draft-and-develop success story at the position since Edelman. If he can't, because of his scheme, then change the scheme. Or the coordinator.