The Antonio Brown era in New England lasted exactly 12 days.
And one 37-word statement announcing the Patriots officially were releasing him.
Where does Brown’s departure leave New England’s offense? Right back where it was before the baggage-laden wideout arrived last Monday.
In all likelihood, the Patriots will enter Sunday’s matchup with the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium with the same five receivers they fielded in Week 1: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski.
Of that group, Dorsett should see the most significant uptick in playing time and targets with Brown gone. Though he’s posted modest numbers since joining the Patriots in 2017, Dorsett has emerged as an uber-reliable option for quarterback Tom Brady, catching each of his last 23 regular-season targets.
Despite seeing his usage dip from 59 snaps in Week 1 to 35 in Week 2, Dorsett was one of the quiet standouts of last Sunday’s 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins, hauling in a diving 18-yard catch on third-and-17 to set up the Patriots’ second touchdown and catching another 18-yarder in heavy traffic on the first play of the second half. Expect a heavier workload for him moving forward.
“Phil’s just dependable,” Patriots receivers coach Joe Judge said Friday before Brown’s release. “He’s a guy that you know what you’re going to get every day he comes to work. He’s a very intelligent guy. He’s a very team-first guy. He gives us flexibility to move him to (different) positions around the field by scheme, by need, however we have to.
“And he’s a guy that just — the ball finds him. He’s always in the right place at the right time because he’s doing his job and he’s executing it the way we need him to. Like I said, the ball finds him because he’s there.”
Meyers also should return to the lineup after Brown’s presence bumped him off the 46-man gameday roster in Miami. The undrafted rookie played eight offensive snaps in the Patriots’ season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, catching one pass for 22 yards.
It’ll likely take an injury for Olszewski to see meaningful playing time outside of the kicking game.
Though the Patriots likely would not have traded Demaryius Thomas to the New York Jets had Brown not signed, but they do have reinforcements waiting in the wings. Veteran Cameron Meredith is eligible to be activated off the reserve/physically unable to perform list in Week 7, and first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can return from injured reserve in Week 9 if he is healthy enough to do so.
Running backs James White and Rex Burkhead also have been heavily involved in the passing game this season, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels frequently using both as pseudo-wideouts against Pittsburgh. White (eight catches, 75 yards) and Burkhead (seven catches, 88 yards) both rank in the top 15 among running backs in receptions and receiving yards entering Week 3.
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