The New England Patriots just kept on adding to their already deep receiving corps this offseason. They now look fortunate to have done so.
Starting wide receiver Julian Edelman reportedly is facing a four-game suspension to start the season after violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. Starting quarterback Tom Brady already was entering next season without two of his top targets from 2017 in Brandin Cooks, who was traded, and Danny Amendola, who was signed away by the Miami Dolphins. It could be tough sledding for the Patriots’ offense in the first four weeks of the season if Edelman’s suspension holds.
Chris Hogan is an assumed starter in the Patriots’ offense. New England also has Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Matthew Slater and Cody Hollister on its 90-man roster.
The Patriots can’t count on Mitchell until he actually takes the field. He hasn’t practiced in the four sessions open to the media after missing all of 2017 with a knee injury. It would be great if he was a Week 1 starter, but we won’t believe until we see it.
Britt was looking strong in spring practices until he tweaked his hamstring on the first day of minicamp. Assuming that’s not a long-term injury, Britt could be looking at a potential starting role with a solid training camp. His size provides a different look in the Patriots’ offense.
Dorsett spent a year in the Patriots’ offense, and his chances of making the initial 53-man roster now go up with Edelman likely out. Dorsett hasn’t shined in spring practices, but he has deep speed that adds another element. He’s not Cooks, but he can stretch the field.
Matthews is an intriguing player to replace Edelman, because he has a history of playing in the slot. Matthews doesn’t have the same body type as an Edelman or Amendola, but he could be a big weapon for Brady in the middle of the field. Matthews worked after practice with Brady on Wednesday. He’s had up-and-down moments this spring. On Thursday, he dropped a deep pass but caught a shoe-stringer out of Brian Hoyer’s hand.
Patterson is likely a gadget offensive player and special teamer. Slater will mostly contribute on special teams, and Hollister is a longshot to make the roster.
One of Berrios or McCarron could have a path to a roster spot and potential role in the wake of Edelman’s suspension report, however. Both are undersized, speedy, quick slot receivers. Berrios was a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and McCarron spent most of the 2017 season on the Patriots’ practice squad after being cut by the Houston Texans.
Berrios and McCarron were viewed as potential future slot receivers for the Patriots. The future could the first four weeks of the season now. They’ll have to catch up quickly to contribute early, however.
Berrios has been limited in practice, while McCarron has mostly worked with second-teamers. Both are handling punt return reps in practice.
The Patriots’ wide receiver competition already was wide open. It somehow opened up even more with Edelman likely out the first four weeks of the season. There should be at least one more roster spot open early in the season as the battle wages on.