Chris Hogan had a strong season for the New England Patriots in 2016 and was on his way to a career year in 2017 before a shoulder injury sidelined him for seven of the final eight games of the regular season.
Through five games this season, however, the veteran wide receiver has brought surprisingly little to the Patriots’ offense.
Despite No. 1 wideout Julian Edelman missing the first four weeks due to suspension, Hogan has been targeted just 19 times — a distant fourth on the team behind running back James White (44), tight end Rob Gronkowski (31) and fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett (29). Hogan has caught just 11 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came during the second half of New England’s Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In the first five games last season — when the Patriots also did not have Edelman but did have wideouts Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola — Hogan caught 23 passes on 37 targets for 288 yards and five touchdowns. In 2016, he had 12 catches on 20 targets for 236 yards and one score through five games, but third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett started two of those, limiting the Patriots’ passing game.
What’s been the problem this year?
“I’m not sure in particular,” quarterback Tom Brady said Friday at Gillette Stadium. “I haven’t really studied that as much. We’re trying to really get everybody involved. When guys’ numbers are called, you’re trying to incorporate everyone. (Hogan) is a great player. There’s no doubt. All those guys … everyone’s got to make plays when their number’s called, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Hogan’s issues seem to stem from an inability to create separation and beat man coverage. He excelled as a complementary option in previous years but couldn’t produce after being elevated to the No. 1 role this season in Edelman’s absence.
The question now is how Hogan’s role will transform with Edelman back in the mix and newcomer Josh Gordon looking like a legitimate weapon.
On one hand, the attention defenses will need to pay to Edelman, Gordon and Gronkowski should free up some additional space for other wideouts. On the other, there are only so many touches to go around, and Dorsett (19 catches, 190 yards, two touchdowns) has been more deserving of targets than Hogan has thus far.
If Gordon becomes a starter, who gets the nod alongside him and Edelman in three-receiver sets? That will be an interesting situation to monitor in the coming weeks.
Hogan certainly has a proven track record of success in the Patriots’ offense, highlighted by his monster playoff performances in the 2016 AFC Championship Game (nine catches, 180 yards, two touchdowns) and Super Bowl LII (six catches, 128 yards, one touchdown). He missed Thursday’s practice with a thigh injury but returned the following day and reportedly is expected to play Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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