Patriots’ Wide Receiver Group Is Team’s Best In Years, But Depth Raises Questions

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots should enter the NFL playoffs with the deepest and most talented receiving corps they’ve had in years.

If Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Danny Amendola (ankle) recover from their respective injuries in time, the Patriots will have five legitimate, potentially explosive wide receivers at their disposal — Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Mitchell, Amendola and new guy Michael Floyd — for the divisional round, plus receiver/special teams ace Matthew Slater.

Compare that to the group they carried into last year’s postseason, and the difference is stark. Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin complemented Edelman and Amendola back then, while LaFell and Martin combined for five catches over two playoff games, including zero in New England’s AFC Championship Game loss to the Denver Broncos.

“We’re probably better (at wide receiver) than we were last year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. “But that wouldn’t take much.”

The most intriguing piece in the Patriots’ wideout puzzle is Floyd, whom the team claimed off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals last month. The 2012 first-round draft pick had a huge game in Sunday’s regular-season finale, highlighted by his hard-fought touchdown reception and the thunderous downfield block he laid on Miami Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett.

“That’s definitely what he’s capable of,” said Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, who trains with Floyd during the offseason. “He’s probably capable of more, as well. So as he gets more comfortable here and in this offense, I think that’s what you can expect, because I just know (he’s a) player that works out and trains hard. And I’m happy for him.”

Floyd’s Patriots breakout came when Mitchell and Amendola were sidelined, however, and it remains to be seen how he’ll fit into the group once both are ready to return. It’s been more than two years since New England had five wide receivers, plus Slater, active for a game, last doing so against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13 of the 2014 season. And two of those receivers — Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms — played fewer than five offensive snaps in that game.

Simply put, there are only so many snaps to go around. But how do you divvy them up? And if you want to add an extra wideout to the pool of 46 active players, who do you sit down?

Those are the questions Belichick and his staff will have to answer over the next week-and-a-half.

“(The Patriots’ receiving corps) is very diverse and is very competitive,” Edelman said Thursday. “We have a room full of brothers. Everyone, I can tell you right now, is mentally and physically tough. The addition of Mike, he’s a stud. A guy that has come in, worked hard, showed and displayed toughness. When you get those kinds of things, we like those kinds of guys.”

Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images

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