FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots kept just four wide receivers on their 53-man roster. Only two practiced in full as recently as last week — one of whom was newcomer Chris Hogan.
It seems the Patriots have big plans for Hogan, who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills for nada as a restricted free agent this offseason, based on their roster cuts.
The Patriots released Aaron Dobson, a 2013 second-round pick , Keshawn Martin, whose contract was extended last season, rookie Devin Lucien and former practice-squaders DeAndre Carter and Chris Harper. That the Patriots only are choosing to carry four wideouts suggests a few things:
— They primarily will run a two-tight end set after acquiring Martellus Bennett in an offseason trade.
— They like and trust rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
— Danny Amendola is healthier than his lack of summer practices would suggest.
— They’re ready to depend on Hogan.
And Hogan gave the Patriots plenty of reasons to get excited between training camp, when he was their most consistent receiver, and the preseason, when he caught 12 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown. He impressed with and seemed to earn the trust of both quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
So, what is to be expected out of Hogan? He has the upside to put up a Brandon LaFell circa-2014 (74 catches, 953 yards, seven touchdowns) or Brandon Lloyd circa-2012 (74-911-4) season. His absolute floor would be the 36-450-2 season he put together last year with the Bills.
Hogan was a core special-teamer with Buffalo but, based on his preseason usage, likely will be used almost exclusively on offense with the Patriots. That’s good news for his expected offensive production, since he signed a three-year, $12 million contact, and the Patriots will want to get their money’s worth.
“I think it’s still evolving,” Hogan said Sunday of his role. “I think week-by-week it could change. I’m still just trying to prove to my teammates and coaches they can hold me accountable, and they can put me on the field and trust me to do my job and be able to make plays.”
Hogan might begin the season with a week-to-week role, but as long as he stays healthy, he should be a prime contributor on offense. Hogan didn’t miss a single game in three seasons with the Bills while Edelman, Amendola and Rob Gronkowski have missed 26 combined games in the same timespan. Patriots running back Dion Lewis will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, Martellus Bennett missed four games last season, and backup third-down back James White isn’t a player who necessarily needs targets. Because of his versatility to play inside or outside, Hogan’s role should increase regardless of who misses time.
Hogan is expected to share the No. 2 receiver role with Amendola. But if Amendola isn’t 100 percent to start the season after spending all summer on PUP, and if Hogan impresses, who’s to say the Patriots would then scale back his snaps?
The Patriots have more weapons on offense than they’ve had in several years, but without a top-tier running back, there are plenty of balls to go around to Edelman, Gronkowski, Bennett, Hogan, Amendola and White while Mitchell gets acclimated to the NFL. And Hogan might wind up being the most dependable of them all.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images