FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots likely will not rest their starters when they visit the Miami Dolphins this Sunday. But they should use the Week 17 matchup to take a closer look at their newest offensive weapon.
Wide receiver Michael Floyd has played sparingly since New England claimed him off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals earlier this month. He was inactive for his first game as a Patriot — a 16-3 win over the Denver Broncos — then logged 18 offensive snaps in Saturday’s 41-3 beatdown of the New York Jets.
Floyd was targeted twice in that game, finishing with one catch for six yards.
“It was good to get him out there,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters Saturday afternoon. “He had a chance out there to play some, to hear the calls. Hopefully, that’ll be better this week and we’ll just see how it goes. I’d say we’re going in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
As it currently stands, the 27-year-old sits fourth on the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart behind Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. And with Edelman, Hogan and Mitchell all enjoying productive seasons, that’s likely where Floyd will remain as New England enters the playoffs. He might even become the fifth option if Danny Amendola recovers from his high ankle sprain in time for the divisional round.
This weekend in Miami, however, expect Floyd to play a more prominent role.
The Patriots have made efforts to lessen Edelman’s workload in recent weeks, putting their leading receiver on the field for just 59 percent of offensive snaps against the Broncos and 48 percent against the Jets. Both were drastic departures from his season average, which was hovering around 82 percent entering the Denver game. It’s safe to assume this trend will continue in Week 17 to ensure Edelman is fully healthy for the postseason.
Moreover, it’s unclear whether Mitchell even will suit up against the Dolphins. The rookie missed practice Wednesday and Thursday after suffering a knee injury during the win over the Jets, and the team could opt to sit him given Sunday’s relatively low stakes. (The Patriots can clinch home-field advantage with a win or an Oakland Raiders loss, but they already have secured a first-round bye, and the No. 1 seed doesn’t carry nearly as much importance in the wake of Derek Carr’s season-ending broken leg.)
If Mitchell and Amendola are inactive, Floyd would become the third wideout behind Hogan and Edelman, the latter of whom likely won’t play his usual allotment of snaps. That would give the Patriots newcomer an opportunity to work with quarterback Tom Brady, whom he’s yet to catch a pass from. Floyd’s lone reception against the Jets came late in the fourth quarter after backup Jimmy Garoppolo had relieved Brady.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images