Deion Branch’s role in the offense is something I’ve tracked closely. The team decided from the beginning to leave Branch at split end so he could focus on a single position, and because Darrell Jackson was already established at flanker. I would expect Branch to learn more than one position next season. At that point, he’ll have a year of minicamps and training camp to give him a fuller grasp of each position.
Interesting trends emerge when we break down the receiving numbers by down. The results could show a few things (which position and/or player is featured on a specific down, which player the quarterback trusts in certain situations, who defenses focus on, etc.). Those are things for me to ask about. In the meantime, the raw numbers come through clearly in the chart: Branch’s production drops off dramatically on third down. The position he plays accounts for some of this. Hackett is getting more of those balls because he’s playing Bobby Engram’s old slot role. Still, it seems to me they would want to find ways for Branch to have the ball in his hands more on third down. He is the team’s 2007 first-round pick, after all.