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Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game

11.26.14 at 10:26 am ET
Tim Wright has caught 23 passes on 26 targets this season, the best target rate on the team. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Tim Wright has caught 23 passes on 26 targets this season, the best target rate on the team of anyone targeted at least 20 times. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.

In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’€™s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.

If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.

Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.

Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.

“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”

While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.

Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)

According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.

“The key is just finishing the route and always thinking in the back of your mind that the ball can come to you on every play,” he said. “When you prepare like that, you go out there and you play physical and you play strong, you put yourself in a position to receive the ball. When it comes to you, you just have to make the play. That’s my job description — to catch the ball, and to block as well. But when the ball is thrown to me, I have to come down with it. That’s my mentality.”

Wright also added that Brady makes it fairly easy.

“It’s awesome. It’s awesome — just a guy who has been doing it for 15 years,” said Wright, who caught passes from Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman last year with Tampa. “It’s just amazing to see how his tempo is, how he reaches out to his players on the things he sees when you’re out there running routes and what has been working for him for his whole career. An amazing arm and an amazing leader. It’s been a fun ride.

“Me coming in just a few months ago and him working with so many other guys, it’s just a testament to how he can adjust to the people who come in with him and play alongside of him,” he added. “He puts the ball in the right place and a good position so you can attack the ball only. He’s just a great quarterback.”

Read More: Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright
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