New England Patriots wide receivers might not just be competing for a spot on the 53-man roster Saturday in their preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, they could be fighting to still have a job Sunday.
The Patriots likely will receive a roster exemption for wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was conditionally reinstated from a suspension Saturday. But if they don’t, they’ll need to cut a player to add Gordon to their preseason roster.
And regardless of roster cuts and exemptions, the wide receiver room becomes significantly more crowded with Gordon involved. Perhaps complicating matters even further, we saw Demaryius Thomas, who currently is on the physically unable to perform list, doing wind sprints in practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a surgically repaired Achilles.
With Thomas, Cameron Meredith and Julian Edelman still on PUP and non-football injury lists, and Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris and N’Keal Harry not expected to play Saturday, the Patriots’ receiving corps against the Titans will almost certainly be just Braxton Berrios, Ryan Davis, Dontrelle Inman, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and Damoun Patterson. Likely just one, but maybe two, of those players will be included on the Patriots’ initial 53-man roster joining Edelman, Gordon, Harry and maybe Dorsett and/or Thomas. Meyers is a near-lock at this point based on what he’s done through three weeks of training camp and one preseason game.
For the rest of those players, this game against the Titans will bring plenty of opportunities, but they very well could be make-or-break.
Berrios has the edge over Davis, Olszewski, Inman and Patterson because of his return ability on punts and kickoffs. He’s a slot receiver who has worked extensively with the first-team this summer while Edelman has nursed his thumb injury. He’s run hot and cold even sometimes within the same practice.
Davis also is a slot receiver, and his best bet at a job with the Patriots would be on the practice squad. He might be last on the receiver depth chart at this point.
Inman is a journeyman veteran receiver who hasn’t really set himself apart from this pack of otherwise young receivers. We expected the summer to go much better for Inman.
Meyers is the best of the bunch, and we expect him to be on the roster come September. Crazier things have happened, however, and if a few things break right for the Patriots, he could find himself fighting for just one spot with Dorsett.
Olszewski is a converted Division-II cornerback who has impressed this summer. He has some Edelman in his game, but we don’t think it will be overly difficult to slip him onto the Patriots’ practice squad.
Patterson was on the practice squad last season and had a nice session Wednesday against the Titans after Dorsett and Harris went down. He didn’t repeat it Thursday. It will be interesting to see if a Patriots quarterback can hit Patterson on a deep or jump ball Saturday. He has some physical tools.