The New England Patriots’ offensive skill positions saw some high-profile departures over the course of the offseason. Rob Gronkowski, the league’s quintessential tight end of his era, decided to retire. His backups, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister were let go. At wide receiver, Chris Hogan — the second most productive wideout on the team over the last three years — and Cordarrelle Patterson left via free agency.
When all was said and done, the Patriots had lost more than half of their passing game production from their 2018 championship season. And yet, they are still among the better teams in the league when it comes to the quality of their offensive arsenal — at least according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who compared the skill position talent across the league. The Patriots came in at spot number nine.
“As good as Gronk was, does anyone really think the Patriots will be a mess on offense this season? We know they’ll adjust,” wrote Barnwell. “They used a first-round pick on N’Keal Harry and signed Dontrelle Inman and Demaryius Thomas, though the latter might not be healthy enough to play as he recovers from a torn Achilles. No team in the league is deeper at running back, where the Patriots can run out some combination of Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and third-round pick Damien Harris from snap to snap.”
The Patriots were active during the offseason to keep their positional depth intact, by drafting the aforementioned Harry high and investing in comparatively cheap veteran talent at wide receiver — minicamp standout Maurice Harris also needs to be mentioned here — and tight end. This approach reminds of last year, when the team had to replace its top two wide receivers from a year before, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.
While it took the Patriots’ offensive attack some time to adjust, the unit around quarterback Tom Brady ultimately began to grow together after the return of Julian Edelman and the trade acquisition of currently suspended Josh Gordon (another player to be kept in mind heading into 2019). Will this season be more of the same? Considering the talent elsewhere — quarterback, offensive line, coaching — it would not be a surprise.
The team’s skill position ranking — one that has to be called ‘fair’ given the current state of its wide receiver and tight end positions — will therefore likely not be indicative of New England’s overall offensive potential. Barnwell apparently also feels confident about that: “It won’t look the same without Gronk, but let’s be honest: This offense is going to work just fine.” Business as usual, it seems.
The offensive arsenals ranked ahead of the Patriots’ are as follows:
Five of those teams — the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Browns and Chiefs — are on New England’s schedule this year.