Remember back in the spring when reporters were touting the New England Patriots’ deep wide receiver corps?
Boy, were we stupid.
The Patriots released wide receiver Kenny Britt on Wednesday, his agent confirmed. Britt hadn’t practiced in full after injuring his hamstring in June. NESN.com was told the Patriots had high hopes for Britt. That hammy dashed them.
The Patriots have now released Britt, Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell from their receiver corps with injuries this summer. They’re left with Julian Edelman, who’s suspended the first four games of the season, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eric Decker, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Devin Lucien, Matthew Slater and Paul Turner.
So, how does Britt’s release impact that group? If they weren’t before, Edelman, Hogan, Dorsett, Slater and Patterson should be viewed as stone-cold locks to make the 53-man roster. Britt’s release also increases the chances Decker, Berrios, McCarron, Lucien and Turner make the roster. Decker might benefit most from Britt’s release.
Decker has struggled in training camp and preseason, but he has plenty of NFL experience. And he’s played in Josh McDaniels’ offense before. So, even though he signed midway through training camp, the system was a completely foreign concept to him.
The Patriots could choose to keep Berrios or McCarron to handle punt returns until Edelman returns. Britt’s release could open up a spot for one of those players. Lucien and Turner are still longshots to make the roster, but Lucien has flashed at times this summer.
The Patriots still could bring aboard another receiver through free agency or trade, but this would be pretty late in the process to learn the offense. Wide receivers added by the Patriots after training camp begins don’t have a great track record. Dez Bryant and Jeremy Maclin are the best receivers available on the open market.
Even though Britt hadn’t practiced since June, we still had him penciled in as a potential starter in the Patriots’ offense. So, who starts the season now with Edelman suspended? Hogan certainly will be the No. 1 option, and Dorsett might be No. 2 by default. Patterson is more of a gadget player, so he’s not an ideal No. 3. Decker could slide into that role if he starts to progress in camp.
The Patriots also could choose to run more two-receiver and two-tight end sets. Running backs Rex Burkhead and James White are both experienced receivers. Tight end Jacob Hollister could compliment Rob Gronkowski by taking on a bigger role as a flex tight end.
It’s amazing how quickly the Patriots’ receiver depth diminished. The Patriots now must hope Dorsett or Decker emerge or that Patterson is able to finally emerge as a starting-caliber receiver.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images