When spring practices started earlier this year, the New England Patriots fielded a deep wide receiver group. Even after moving on from last year’s top two, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, the team had plenty of high-upside talent, versatility, and experience at its disposal. Things change quickly in the NFL, however, and a lot of this depth will no longer be available when the Patriots kick off their regular season on September 9.
The latest domino to fall is veteran Kenny Britt, who was released by New England earlier today after missing virtually all of training camp because of a nagging hamstring injury. With Britt now gone, let’s reset New England’s wide receivers to find out what offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady currently have at their disposal.
Sure-fire roster locks
Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman*
Despite being suspended for the first four weeks of the season, Julian Edelman is a lock to return to the lineup in week five and join Chris Hogan as one of the top options at the wide receiver position. Hogan, meanwhile, will likely serve as the Patriots’ number one wideout at least early on during the season. A member of Tom Brady’s select circle of trust, the veteran is projected to see plenty of playing time during Edelman’s absence and beyond. Matthew Slater, he of one career reception, is also a lock to make the team. However, he will have no impact in the passing game and again serve as a special teams captain.
Very much safe
Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson
Given Britt’s release, both Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson will highly likely make the team. While Dorsett has seen more time in the slot compared to last season and could be a candidate to fill Edelman’s shoes the first four weeks, Patterson has stood out because of his athleticism: a former first-round draft pick like Dorsett, the 27-year old has an intriguing skill set that appears to fit well into the Patriots’ offense.
Fighting for the remaining spot(s?)
Eric Decker, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner
Unless the Patriots bring in an outside receiver to compete for a roster spot, at least one of the five players listed above will find himself on the 53-man roster on opening day. While Turner has been relatively quiet so far, the other four players have all had their moments over the past few weeks and/or offer an interesting set of skills to work inside New England’s offense or special teams units. Friday’s preseason game should give more insight into who is the front-runner of the group.