Yesterday, the New England Patriots' offseason was kicked into the next gear with the opening of mandatory minicamp. While most of the eyes were on returning superstars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the two-hour session saw noticeable performances by players all across the board. Among them was wide receiver Kenny Britt, who at one point before leaving the session due to a hamstring injury caught a long scoring pass by Brady.
Britt, who joined the Patriots as a free agent midway through the 2017 season, is a member of arguably the deepest position group on New England's current squad. As such, he finds himself in a competition with seven other players for what likely is a maximum of just four open spots on the team's 53-man roster. One of the three wideouts under contract who do not appear to be part of this battle is Chris Hogan.
After yesterday's practice, the veteran receiver spoke to patriots.com's Meredith Gorman about the first minicamp session of the year and a wide receiver group that saw some turnover this offseason. “The new additions, the guys that were brought in – everyone fits that mold,” Hogan said about free agency signings Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson as well as sixth-round rookie Braxton Berrios.
“[They] came in ready to work, really working hard, studying hard, trying to learn the playbook, and coming out here and playing fast and making plays,” Hogan continued. “That's what we ask of all of our guys and everyone in that room is doing a really good job.” Yesterday, the on-field portion of that job saw Matthews and Patterson catch two passes each from Brady.
For Hogan, seeing the duo quickly adapt to its new environment does not come as a surprise. “Their overall work ethic, that's something I definitely take notice of,” the 30-year old said when asked about what stood out about Matthews and Patterson. “Guys that are new to a team, new playbook but have been around for a little bit, they have really taken it up on themselves to study really hard so they come out here and can play fast and don't ask odd questions.”
Of course, the two former high-round draft choices are not the only wide receivers battling for a job. The Patriots, as Hogan noted, have a rather deep group top to bottom and outside of quasi-roster locks Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater and himself: “All in all, we have a really good group; a lot of vets in that room with Matthew and Julian. Everyone asks questions, very open. It's a good group, we're working really hard right now.”
Over the next three months, the group will be asked to replace New England's top two wideouts from a year ago: With Edelman out due to an ACL tear and Hogan nursing injuries all season long, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola established themselves as the Patriots' top two targets at wide receiver. Both are no longer with the team – Cooks was traded, Amendola left via free agency – and the rest of the group will therefore have to step up.
Hogan, who is projected to play a core role at the position in 2018, does not seem worried, though. “I think we're heading in the right direction,” he said after yesterday's practice. “We've been working really hard during OTAs and during the offseason, so just to get out here again and have a little bit of a longer practice and some more team periods – it was good.”
For the Patriots to continue their offensive success, building on this “good” first minicamp practice is imperative – no matter who ultimately emerges victoriously from the wide receiver competition.