New England Patriots are deploying a mixed bag of receivers

The New England Patriots are headed into the season with a wide array of receivers. Between the different types of receivers, old faces, and newcomers, 2019 will be an interesting year for the pass catchers in Foxborough.

The New England Patriots are woefully thin at tight end. In case you haven’t heard, Rob Gronkowski retired. Additionally, Tom Brady’s receiving options have been significantly downgraded. Even as a shell of his former self in 2018, Gronkowski’s chemistry with Brady cannot be quantified and has no potential replacement.

New England will enter 2019 with many question marks at the receiver position. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett are the only two wide receivers on the roster with any sort of standing chemistry with Brady. The team is taking a chance on Demaryius Thomas coming off a second torn Achilles tendon. There seems to be a lot riding on rookie wide out N’Keal Harry. Fans should expect zero from Josh Gordon, and rejoice if he exceeds that expectation.

As the Patriots look to repeat as Super Bowl champions, we continue our series analyzing each position and dive into what the receivers in New England can bring to the table.

Julian Edelman

You don’t need us to tell you much about the Super Bowl LIII MVP. With Gronkowski gone, Edelman is now without-a-doubt Brady’s go-to target. From 2014-2018, Edelman has posted a combined 39 AV. That mark ranks 18th among all receivers over that time span, despite the fact Edelman missed 13 games.

Edelman’s role figures to be the exact same as it has been. He will be a slot receiver that runs a ton of three-five yard routes and consistently move the chains. When it matters most, Brady will look his way.

There is a valid concern about his age, as 2019 will be Edelman’s age 33 season. However, last year Edelman tied his career-best mark in yards per target, at 7.9. His yards per reception, 11.5, was, in fact, his personal best for a single season. Point being, despite his advanced age, he isn’t exhibiting signs of slowing down.

Phillip Dorsett

Dorsett heads into his third season with New England in 2019. He has managed to post worse production with the team in comparison to his already lackluster tenure with the Indianapolis Colts.

In two years with the team, Dorsett has totaled 44 receptions, 484 yards, and 3 touchdowns. In his last season with the Colts, Dorsett posted 33 receptions, 528 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The burner was expected to be a vertical threat coming out of the University of Miami. However, that particular skill has never materialized.

In Dorsett’s defense, in prior years there were many mouths to feed in New England. It’s possible with an expanded role he can play/produce better. Based on his four-year career to date, however, there isn’t much of a track record to point to for optimism.

Josh Gordon

As stated at the outset, the expectation fans should have for Gordon in 2019 is that he won’t play a single snap. Anything on tap of that is gravy.

It is sad, really, that Gordon is plagued with his demons. We all know the immense talent he possesses, and something was really beginning to build in New England.

The highlight of Gordon’s season came against the Chicago Bears, when he was developing into the downfield, explosive playmaker that the 2018 Patriots offense sorely lacked.

Upon the acquisition of Gordon, the Twittersphere ran amuck with comparisons to how Randy Moss impacted the New England offense. While those comparisons from the outset were preposterous, we saw in the Bears game something between Brady and Gordon that is rarified air in Brady’s offense.

That is Brady, on fourth down, saying, “there’s single coverage over there, nothing else matters, I’m throwing this guy a jump ball.” The list of receivers where Brady makes that exact throw in a 1-on-1 scenario every time since 2007 is Moss and Gronkowski. That’s it. That’s the entire list. To get a 1-on-1 jump ball from Brady on fourth down is the ultimate vote of confidence from the ageless quarterback.

Get well soon, Gordon. We would all love to see you improve from a health perspective and to see how far this thing can progress.

Demaryius Thomas

We previously explored what Thomas can bring to the Patriots offense upon his signing. For the full breakdown, make sure you check out the article.

In a nutshell, Thomas is a big bodied receiver that may be used to replace Gronkowski’s red zone presence and his back shoulder fade routes. Additionally, Thomas is excellent in the screen game, something the Patriots utilize constantly.

The downside is obvious, however, as Thomas is entering his age 32 season and coming off his second torn Achilles tendon injury.

N’Keal Harry

The rookie out of Arizona State is another big-bodied receiver that has an opportunity to replace Gronkowski as a red zone threat. As detailed in our New England draft breakdown, the biggest issue with Harry as a prospect is his inability to separate from college defensive backs. Harry is a contested catch monster that wins 50/50 balls. However, the problem is there isn’t much of a successful track record of college receivers dependent upon that one particular skill transitioning into the National Football League.

On the bright side, similar to Thomas, Harry excels after the catch and is a weapon in the screen game. There are synergies between what Harry does well and how the Patriots want to play. It also helps that New England will always put a player in position to utilize his strengths.

While placing so much onus on a rookie while attempting to be the first repeat Super Bowl champions since, well, themselves is ominous, the Patriots will put Harry in a position to be successful immediately.

Dontrell Inman

Dontrell Inman is now three years removed from an 810 yard, 4 touchdown campaign in 2016, with little production in between. If there is one thing Inman can hopefully bring to the team, it is the ability to stretch the field. During that 2016 season, Inman was 24th in yards per reception among receivers that saw at least 60 targets.

Braxton Berrios

If you were to typecast a sixth-round pick of New Englands, you would have chosen Braxton Berrios, the Patriots 2018 sixth round selection. The second-year former Hurricane missed his entire rookie year due to injury. As a result, we still don’t know anything about him.

On the encouraging front, however, Mike Reiss recently said Berrios stood out Tuesday’s practice.

There are plenty of opportunities for the young receiver to carve out a role for himself. The Patriots will also make no bones about fielding two slot receivers simultaneously, as New England put Edelman and Danny Amendola on the field together for years.

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