The Patriots are Facing Significant Adversity at Wide Receiver
The defending AFC champions are facing a significant issue at their wide receiver position, unlike anything they’ve experienced in the last handful of years. The problem has to do with injuries, but it can also be traced back to some offseason moves that are now putting a strain on the front office to find more healthy bodies to catch passes from Tom Brady.
As the Patriots are fully immersed in their training camp, they’ve been without Kenny Britt and Matthew Slater as both receivers have been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the first week of camp. The good news is that both receivers have slowly made their way back to practicing, but have a lot of work to catch up and move their way up the depth charts. Slater is also New England’s top special teams’ ace.
Malcom Mitchell is still working his way back from an injury suffered last year. There were rumors that the Patriots were looking to trade Mitchell this offseason.
Another injury that has put the Patriots into a bind was the serious hamstring injury that Jordan Matthews suffered a few days ago. Matthews signed with the team as a free agent after an uneventful, injury-filled 2017 season in Buffalo. Unfortunately for Matthews, the Patriots just put him on Injured Reserve, which will most likely end his tenure with the team.
Offseason Moves at Wide Receiver
In March, wide receiver Danny Amendola left the Patriots to sign a 2-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. Amendola played 5 seasons with the Patriots and worked his way into Brady’s heart with a steady presence and reliable hands. Last year, Amendola had his best season with the Patriots as he caught 61 passes for 659 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, he had a fantastic postseason run that saw him catch 26 passes for 348 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s almost half the yards and the same amount of TD’s in 3 postseason games compared to 15 regular season games.
It’s unclear as to whether or not New England made a fair contract offer to Amendola, but it was definitely clear that they felt trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams was best for their team rather than keep him on the roster. Cooks had 65 catches, 1,082 yards, and 7 touchdowns for the Patriots last year. New England traded Cooks and a 4th round pick in April to the Rams for a 1st round pick and 6th round pick.
These two moves left the team without 2 of their 3 top receivers from last season.
Julian Edelman’s Suspension
Edelman missed all of last season due to a knee injury. When healthy, he’s Brady’s favorite wide receiver. He also brings that moxy to the offense that the team needs. Edelman’s best season with New England came in 2016 when he caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2015, he had 7 touchdowns, but missed almost half the season with injuries.
This year, Edelman will miss the first 4 games of the season due to a suspension over violating the PED policy. Julian appealed this failed test, but was denied.
Coach Hoodie isn’t Fazed At All
Without Edleman, Cooks, and Amendola for the first month of the NFL season, New England is going to have to rely on other receivers to step up. That’s why these injuries have been a concern to many outsiders and fans. But, if you ask head coach Bill Belichick (Coach Hoodie), you wouldn’t even think he was fazed by this adversity at all. According to NBCSports.com, Belichick made the following comments about the wide receiver position:
“That’s always a part of training camp – management. Some positions are deeper than others. That can fluctuate from day-to-day, week-to-week in camp. So, sometimes that barometer goes up and down — not always predictable. So, yeah, it’s a part of training camp.”
Coach Hoodie has the best poker face in the entire NFL. This is just another example.
Patriots Sign Eric Decker
Perhaps, this is why Coach Hoodie was so calm, cool and collected. He knew that the team was going to sign Eric Decker to a contract. On Wednesday, the team worked out Decker. By Thursday, reports were circulating that the Patriots were going to sign him to a 1-year deal.
As much as I dislike the Pats, this is a solid signing for them as Decker brings a veteran stability that can replace the loss of Amendola and the suspension of Edelman.
Decker played with the Tennessee Titans last year and finished the season with 54 catches for 563 yards and 1 touchdown.
A Collection of Castaways
When looking over the Patriots current crop of receivers, it’s almost as if they’ve gone out there and picked up all of the castaways from other teams like: Britt, Decker and Matthews. Additionally, they still have Phillip Dorsett who they got in a trade with the Colts last year and they have Chris Hogan who will be Brady’s favorite wide receiver target while Edelman is out.
Let’s also not forget that the team has a caveman at tight end named Rob Gronkowski. He finished 10th in the NFL last year with 1,084 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Without or without an imposing receiving group, Gronk makes it harder for opposing secondaries to key-in on Brady’s top receivers.
Don’t cry for the Patriots, because this is the type of motivation they use to go on a run and make another trip to the Super Bowl.
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