Chris Hogan’s 2017 Could Be Even Better; Bill Belichick Says He’s ‘Way Ahead’ Of 2016

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Wide receiver Chris Hogan had a breakout year in his first season with the New England Patriots. He’s already being relied on even more with a full year under his belt with the Patriots.

Head coach Bill Belichick believes Hogan could make a jump this season, and that the second-year leap isn’t limited to younger players. That makes sense after spending an entire offseason with the Patriots’ complex offense.

“He’s way ahead of where he was last year and he has taken on more of a leadership role just because of his experience in the system and the amount of respect that he has earned from his teammates,” Belichick said Wednesday. “You come in when you first get here, or get anywhere, and try to establish yourself, figure out what’s going on, fit in and all of that. He has done that now. It’s at a different level. Like when (Julian) Edelman started, that’s where he was but he has grown into a different — I mean most players do that — but yeah, I think that has happened for Chris because of his role on the team and his day-to-day work ethic and attitude and toughness.”

Hogan caught 38 passes for 680 yards with four touchdowns in 15 games and 14 starts last regular season, leading the NFL with 17.9 yards per catch. He added another 17 receptions for 332 yards and two touchdowns in three playoff starts, averaging an even higher 19.5 yards per catch.

It’s scary to think Hogan could be even better this season, even if his stats don’t reflect it with such a crowded group of talented receivers on the Patriots. He’ll share targets with wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola. The Patriots also will deploy Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen at tight end and James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee at running back.

“Any time you’re in something longer than what I was last year, obviously I’ve really studied a lot more and my comfortableness is obviously at a different level this year than it was last year,” Hogan said Wednesday. “But for me it’s just about going out there, working on the things I didn’t get to work on last year or things like that so I can be moved around so so Tom, Jimmy and Jacoby can trust me.”

Hogan isn’t the only veteran who could see a second-year leap. Mitchell, guard Joe Thuney, linebackers Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy and cornerback Eric Rowe also are entering their second seasons in New England.

Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images

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