Position is Loaded and Competition Will Tell the Tale
The Patriots head into training camp in just a month and the 90-man roster as it now stands is pretty stocked. Which means there will be a lot of players fighting for a very few spots on the 53-man roster.
Nowhere is that truer than at wide receiver. The Patriots (as of today 6/25) have 11 players vying for probably six roster spots. The team usually keeps around six WRs. That number could fluctuate if they feel they can’t part with a player or two.
Julian Edelman’s looming suspension may play a factor into that as well. If his suspension stands, then the team will have a full month of the regular season to carry an extra wide receiver and give them a longer look at some players. And of course, health will play a major role in the players that they keep, let go, place on PUP/IR.
The Patriots lost their two most productive wide receivers in Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola from 2017. Both left via free agency. Cooks the speedster that came over from New Orleans had a solid season with 65 catches for 1082 yards and 7 TDs. Amendola had 61 catches for 659 yards and 2 TDs. But in the playoffs, Amendola ratcheted up his game in a big way, hauling in 26 catches for 348 yards and 2 more TDs.
Replacing their production will be a big priority. But getting both Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell back from IR, neither played in 2017 will be a huge boost. The team also drafted Braxton Berrios from Miami and has Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett back after each got to spend an entire offseason in New England.
So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater
The Patriots get back a healthy Julian Edelman as well as a healthy Hogan this summer. Edelman missed the entire season with a torn ACL and Hogan was dinged up with a couple of injuries where he wasn’t a 100 percent for much of last season.
Edelman looked like the Julian Edelman we’ve always seen during the spring. We watched him closely during minicamp to see if there was any difference in his cutting to the left or right and his knee looks 100 percent. The real test will be once camp begins and the hitting starts.
The only question with him is if he will miss the first four games with a suspension due to PEDs where he was popped on a random drug test. If his suspension holds, it may end up being a better thing for him, giving him an extra month to fully recover from his surgery and rehab. But it will definitely hurt the team.
Hogan is an intriguing case as if the suspension does hold, will the team use him more in the slot or will they turn to a guy like Berrios or Jordan Matthews? It does give the team options.
Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowler and in speaking with NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry in a podcast today, he again mentioned the changes in the kickoff rules this season and believes Slater and other STs mavens to be even more valuable this season than in years before.
Near Roster Locks: Cordarrelle Patterson, Malcolm Mitchell
Patterson is (at least here) a near lock on our roster due to the changes to the rules governing kickoffs which will make him much more valuable this season. If Josh McDaniels and the coaches can figure out a way to get him involved in the offense, it will be a huge plus.
Mitchell had a really solid rookie season in 2016 and followed that up with a big Super Bowl in the win over the Falcons. But unfortunately, that was the last time he’s played in a meaningful game. His knee issues are chronic and he missed nearly all of the spring. The only thing that can hold him back is health. Will he be good to go or will he end up on PUP or IR?
On the Bubble: Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron
Matthews is a very intriguing signing. He was very productive in Philadelphia, averaging over 70 catches a year for three seasons. Last year he had a myriad of injuries and played on a non-passing team that derailed his season in Buffalo. I believe he’s going to be a big part of this offense in 2018. But he’ll have to prove it once the pads come on.
Ditto for Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett. Both came over last season, Dorsett just before the season opener and Britt later in the season. Dorsett, despite having blistering speed, never really caught on last year. Britt was having a very nice spring before tweaking a hamstring in minicamp and was held out as a precaution the last two days.
Berrios was a late round (6th round, 210th Overall) draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft from Miami. He has the quickness and long speed to be a dynamic slot receiver. But he had a lingering medical issue that precluded him from taking part in any team drills in minicamp. He has some catching up to do.
McCarron spent all of 2017 on the Patriots practice squad and now knows the offense very well. With Berrios out during minicamp, he took advantage of some extra work. He looked okay but not great in the passing offense and got second-team snaps in both the punt and kick return games where he did a good job.
Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Cody Hollister
The Patriots signed undrafted free agent Cody Hollister last spring and he did enough to warrant the team to bring him back onto the practice squad last year. He had a good spring this year as well as last season. But with a top-heavy and loaded wide receiver roster, it is going to be difficult for him to get enough reps to earn a roster spot.
He, Berrios and McCarron may be looking at practice squad slots, at least to start the season. And then, depending on what transpires during the season as the inevitable injuries do occur, they may have an opportunity to get some reps in the regular season.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2018 Patriots Draft 2018 Patriots offseason 2018 Patriots preseason 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Braxton Berrios Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Jordan Matthews Julian Edelman Kenny Britt New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots wide receivers Phillip Dorsett Riley McCarron Tom Brady