Rule number one about asking Bill Belichick a press conference question is don’t talk about prior years. Rule number two about asking Bill Belichick a press conference question is don’t talk about prior years.
I guess there are caveats if you ask about field goal kicking in the 1940s, the development of punting in the 1960s, or the 1980s and 1990s New York Giants. He also apparently makes a snarky exception when talking about the Patriots 2015 wide receivers.
“We’re probably better than we were last year,” Belichick said about the Patriots wide receivers, “but that wouldn’t take much.”
The 2016 Patriots receivers consist of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, and Michael Floyd. Amendola is dealing with an ankle injury, while Mitchell is taking care of a knee injury. As a whole, the Patriots receivers are in pretty great shape.
Compare that with the 2015 receivers at this stage of the season? Edelman (foot) and Amendola (knee) needed surgery, while Brandon LaFell (foot) was never healthy all year. Keshawn Martin was released this offseason, despite signing a 2-year extension in January, and landed with the 49ers- where he was promptly released for Chris Harper, the last player of the Patriots receiver depth chart in 2015. Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, and Brandon Gibson finished the season on the injured reserve.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Belichick wasn’t a fan of the positional depth chart in 2015 and he clearly set out to improve the roster for 2016. The Patriots added Hogan in free agency and drafted Mitchell, and made sure to put in a claim on Floyd in the final weeks of the regular season.
Edelman is playing better than ever, Hogan is the deep threat that Patriots fans have clamored for, Mitchell is the best rookie receiver the Patriots have had since Deion Branch in 2002, and Floyd is trying to be the consistent, big-bodied presence on the outside that Aaron Dobson was unable to be, and the team’s first since Randy Moss.
“They work hard every day,” Belichick said about the receivers. “They don’t take plays off, run scout team plays. Those guys work hard.”
The Patriots will monitor the health of Amendola and Mitchell over the next week, but whether or not they’re able to play, the Patriots wide receiver depth chart is vastly superior to the players available at the end of the 2015 season.