We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
After all, until the late-August's roster cuts, players need to have secured their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with the team’s top outside receiver of 2016.
Name: Chris Hogan
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 15
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6’1, 210 lbs.
2016 review: Last March, the Patriots signed restricted free agent Chris Hogan to a three-year, $12.0 million offer sheet. Since his previous team, the Buffalo Bills, elected not to match the offer, the former undrafted rookie joined New England – and went on to produce the finest and most successful season of his six-year professional career.
After establishing himself as the Patriots’ top X receiver over the summer, Hogan immediately made his presence felt during his regular season debut: In first game donning the red, white and blue, he caught three passes for 60 yards; among them Jimmy Garoppolo’s first NFL touchdown pass. It was a sign of things to come.
When Tom Brady returned from suspension four weeks later, Hogan – registering four receptions for 114 yards – showed that he was a valuable threat on the perimeter, able to stretch the field vertically. Despite some inconsistencies, he displayed good chemistry with Brady while appearing in 15 games and playing 830 of a possible 1,120 offensive snaps (74.1%) as the Patriots’ number two wide receiver.
Hogan finished the regular season with 38 catches for a career-high 680 yards and four touchdowns. He also was tied for the league-lead in yards per catch (17.9). And while he already proved to be a very good addition at that point, Hogan elevated his game during the first three playoff games of his career.
Playing 81.2% of snaps (198 of 242), he registered 17 catches for 332 yards and a pair of scores, playing an integral role in the Patriots’ championship run. None of Hogan’s performances was bigger than the AFC Championship Game, when he caught nine passes for a franchise playoff record 180 yards as well as two touchdowns. In short: He proved to be a great addition to New England’s offense.
2017 preview: Given his promising 2016 campaign, chemistry with Tom Brady and a modest salary cap hit of $2.97 million (18th highest on the team), Hogan is a lock to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster. He will once again serve as the team’s primary outside threat, offering a combination of speed and size the team otherwise lacks on the perimeter.
Despite all those facts, though, his role as the Patriots’ number two wide receiver could be in jeopardy due to the team acquiring Brandin Cooks in March. As the best pure athlete New England has at the wide receiver position, Cooks will take snaps away from the returning wide receivers on the team – including Hogan. However, that does not mean that the 28-year old will see a drastically reduced role.
After all, the Patriots will still run multiple formations and personnel packages depending on opponent as well as down and distance. Therefore, Hogan and his unique skill set will continue to see a fair amount of targets in New England’s "pick your poison"-offense. And with one year of experience under his belt, it would not be a surprise to see him build on his 2016 season to become a more consistent receiving weapon.