Despite consisting of two former first-round draft picks and an established veteran, the New England Patriots’ wide receiver group has disappointed over the first three games of the season. Overall, the group caught just 24 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns. For comparison, ex-Patriots Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola combined for 30 receptions worth 436 yards (but no scores).
The issues go beyond the stat sheet, though: the group struggled to consistently gain separation against man-coverage, which in turn allowed pass defenses to focus on stopping tight end Rob Gronkowski – the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions have succeeded by taking this approach. Safe to say, therefore, that the Patriots need help when it comes to their receiving corps.
Some of the problems should get at least partially fixed once Julian Edelman returns from suspension and Josh Gordon gets integrated into the mix. However, neither should be counted on to single-handedly turn around New England’s offensive fortunes. As a result, it would not be a surprise if the team opted to add more talent at one point in the future.
Enter Jeremy Kerley. According to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots brought the veteran in for a free agency workout yesterday. And while no follow-up move was announced, the workout is still a noteworthy one. After all, New England has a long history with Kerley, having played against him a combined eleven times. And there is no team against which the former New York Jets fifth-round draft pick was as successful as he was against the Patriots.
Over the course of his seven-year career, the TCU product caught 39 passes when playing the team, for 588 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 15 punt returns for 98 yards as well as four kickoff runbacks for an additional 24 yards. In short: New England saw plenty of Kerley throughout the years, but has not always been able to stop it. Quarterback play, on the other hand, oftentimes has – at least during his first stint with the Jets.
Since getting released by the team during the 2016 offseason, the 29-year old’s career has taken a bad turn: he spent time with four different teams (one of which the Jets again) and failed to carve out a role no matter the squad he was on. To make matters even worse, he also was suspended for four games last season because of a violation against the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy.
Before his disastrous last two seasons, however, Kerley showed plenty of promise as a pass catcher. Playing predominately from the slot, the 5’9, 190 lbs wideout regularly displayed crisp route running and fluid hip movement. Furthermore, was able to quickly beat coverage and get open, something that New England’s current corps of wide receivers are struggling with so far in 2018.
With financial ramifications likely minimal, Kerley could therefore be a potentially intriguing addition to the team. As things stand right now, however, it would not be a surprise if New England opted to wait for how the aforementioned Edelman and Gordon will (re-)integrate themselves into the team’s offense before making another transaction at a position that has plenty of bodies as is – even though they have not yet lived up to their offseason performances.