People have been freaking out about the shape of the New England Patriots’ receiving corps right now — saying that the Patriots are making it more difficult on Tom Brady, and that they aren’t doing enough to make their passing attack any more dangerous. But everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. After all, the receivers look incredibly close to what they were last year.
So far, the Patriots have lost Cordarrelle Patterson and Dwayne Allen, and will possibly also lose Chris Hogan. Those three had only 59 combined receptions last season. Now, Patterson was more of a gadget player than an actual receiver, so he contributed more than just receptions, and Allen was a very good run blocker, but we’re focusing purely on the passing situation right now.
The Patriots have added Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris so far in free agency. The two combined for, you guessed it, 59 receptions last season. The fact that the numbers are literally the same really illustrates my point. I know we liked Patterson, and he was a valuable piece for the Patriots last year on offense and special teams, but let’s not try to pretend that he was some great receiving option for Brady.
Then there’s Chris Hogan. He was busy doing his best H.G. Wells impersonation, as he was practically invisible all year long. Just like Patterson, he is a fine player but completely replaceable as an offensive threat, as you can see, since the two low-budget receivers the Patriots have brought in eclipsed their combined receptions from last year. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Patriots are done, or that they should be done addressing the position — they are currently linked to Jordy Nelson, who could be a good fit here — but they’re not in as bad a shape as people are trying to portray.
This is the time of the year that fans can tend to get restless: you see big names moving around, and teams giving up insane amounts of money and assets for those players, and it’s only natural to wish the Patriots were making more of those “splash” moves. It’s the same story almost every year. Important guys leave, big name, expensive guys go somewhere else, and the team brings in a bunch of guys that you’ve never heard of that end up being just fine. Trust that the Patriots have a plan in place, and will figure things out.
I also understand that some people are worried about the situation with Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon. There’s nothing that anyone can do about that right now. It seems like Gronk will be back, and the Patriots definitely want Gordon back, but neither of those decisions are up to them. There’s no sense in replacing players who haven’t left yet, though. For now, the best course of action is to stand pat and hope they both come back. If they don’t, then they can address those holes, but that’s a bridge we can cross if we get to it.
The moral of the story is this: the Patriots know what they’re doing, and you should trust that their receiving corps is going to be solid this season. They didn’t overpay for a free agent, and they’re not going to trade for A.J. Green (unless he takes a huge pay cut), but that doesn’t mean they won’t still be good this year. They scored the fourth most points in the NFL last year, and, frankly, I’d be shocked if they weren’t in the top 10 again this season, no matter what moves they make this offseason.
Pat is a co-host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats