PITTSBURGH — The New England Patriots are pretty fortunate Kenny Britt flamed out with the Cleveland Browns. With Chris Hogan reportedly expected to be inactive Sunday, the Patriots might have to throw their newly signed wide receiver into the fire against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots will be left with just Britt, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett on their wide receiver depth chart if Hogan is inactive Sunday afternoon. Cooks, Amendola and Dorsett all are under 6 feet tall, while Britt is 6-foot-3, 223 pounds. New England clearly missed a big outside target while Hogan was out earlier in the season with a shoulder injury.
Hogan was rushed back in Week 14 and clearly didn’t look like himself either as a blocker or pass-catcher in the Patriots’ 27-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. It’s a tough ask for Britt to get acclimated into the offense in just four days without ever playing in a similar-style offense, but it’s not as if Dorsett has been a game-breaker in his extended opportunities since coming over from the Indianapolis Colts.
Dorsett has managed just seven catches for 140 yards since joining the Patriots via trade for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. It’s at least worth seeing what Britt, a 1,000-yards receiver in 2016, can do with quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady praised Britt’s effort in trying to learn the Patriots’ offense quickly Thursday. Britt wasn’t permitted to speak to the media this week with the reason given that he still was trying to catch up with his new team.
The Patriots also are getting tight end Rob Gronkowski back from a suspension Sunday in their must-win game against the Steelers. New England’s offense sorely missed Gronkowski against the Miami Dolphins last week when it didn’t manage a single third-down conversion on 11 attempts.
The Patriots have to beat the Steelers on Sunday to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If they lose and the Jacksonville Jaguars win out, then they could fall all the way to the No. 3 seed in the AFC.
So, Gronkowski, Britt and Brady will need to come up big against a Steelers defense that struggled Sunday without star linebacker Ryan Shazier.
New England has asked unknown defenders to step up in recent weeks due to injuries. Now it’s the offense’s turn to throw a player who might not know exactly what he’s doing onto the field and hope for the best.
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