The NFL trade deadline is just two weeks away, and if the Patriots’ 18-12 Week 6 loss to the Denver Broncos reinforced anything (other than the fact that practice might be important), it’s that New England continues to need help on offense.
The Patriots’ offensive line can be excused. They were down three starters while allowing four sacks and struggling to open holes for Patriots running backs who carried the ball 15 times for just 41 yards.
Quarterback Cam Newton struggled mightily, however, as he returned from a positive COVID-19 test and completed 17-of-25 passes for 157 yards. Both of Newton’s interceptions were batted and picked off by Broncos defenders. And while Newton ran 10 times for 76 yards with a score, he himself admitted he has to play better, and insisted he will.
He’ll need to, because the Patriots’ defense bent a whole bunch Sunday as they let up six field goals, though they never broke and allowed a touchdown. And if the Patriots’ offense can’t keep up with Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, well, they probably won’t get very far this season. The Patriots now are 2-3 and staring up at the 4-1 Buffalo Bills. The 2-3 Miami Dolphins appear on their way to beating the Jets and improving to a .500 record. “The third-place Patriots” sounds odd, yet, that’s the position they’ll likely soon be in.
Newton wasn’t helped much by his receivers. Running back James White caught 8-of-9 targets for 65 yards (including a 22-yard throw by wide receiver Julian Edelman). Tight end Ryan Izzo (3-of-4, 38 yards) and wide receiver Damiere Byrd (3-of-3, 38 yards) were tied for second among Patriots pass-catchers in receiving yards. Edelman hauled in just two passes for 8 yards. Wide receiver Isaiah Zuber (16 yards) and running back Damien Harris (14 yards) caught one pass apiece. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry went catchless on two targets. Edelman also completed a 16-yard pass to Newton.
Newton stood by his receivers Sunday when asked about his confidence level in his pass-catchers.
“Extremely high,” Newton answered.
But should it be? The Patriots’ running back room is still solid, and the depth will improve as Sony Michel returns off of injured reserve and the COVID-19/reserve list. Improved health on the offensive line will help too.
But rookie tight end Devin Asiasi has yet to be targeted through five games, and Dalton Keene has yet to dress for his NFL debut. They can’t pass Izzo, who lost a fumble Sunday, on the tight end depth chart.
Byrd has never been more than a fringe No. 3 receiver elsewhere, but he’s the No. 1 option in New England. Harry has yet to find the consistency and production needed out of a first-round pick. Edelman significantly has slowed down after a career-high performance Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Bill Belichick explained this week why a trade might be complicated during the middle of a pandemic. But the Patriots need help, and it doesn’t appear to be coming from within the organization, despite Newton’s belief in his teammates.
It takes two to tango, but considering it might take a week to even get a player acquired via trade into Gillette Stadium because of the NFL’s COVID-19 restriction, the Patriots might not be able to wait until the Nov. 3 trade deadline. They should be on the hunt for help now.