One of the NFL’s best players will soon join the New England Patriots: after the team and wide receiver Antonio Brown agreed to a one-year contract on Saturday, he will be officially added to the 53-man roster later today. Bringing Brown on board adds an immense talent to an offense that already looked near-unstoppable when it went against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, during its regular season opener on Sunday night.
Despite going 0-for-3 in the red zone, the Patriots hung 33 points on the hapless visitors. New England did it by establishing a presence on the ground, taking advantage of mismatches in coverage and off play-action, and spreading the football around in the passing game. Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon led the wide receiver position, with James White and Rex Burkhead serving as the receiving backs.
The group is one of the most talented in football as it is, but now — at least on paper — it might reach a whole new level. After all, Brown is a really good wide receiver despite the controversy that followed him during his short six-month stint with the Oakland Raiders. Just look at his production in 2018, when he caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a league-high 15 touchdowns. The seven-time Pro Bowler was, by all accounts, outstanding last year.
Now, he joins an offense that is almost ridiculously deep. Just think of it this way: Julian Edelman is a top-five slot receiver in the NFL and fully owns quarterback Tom Brady’s trust; Josh Gordon has the talent to be a top-five X-receiver in the NFL; James White is a top-five receiving back in the NFL. And now a player gets added to the mix who might very well have a case as the best wide receiver in all of football, period.
“It will be fun. He’s an explosive player and we’re happy to have him. The more playmakers you have out there, the better things will go,” said Edelman after Sunday’s game when discussing the addition of Brown. The veteran wide receiver, of course, already had a productive outing even without the ex-Steeler in the lineup: he caught a team-high six passes (for 83 yards) and also had a 32-yard pass completion and an 8-yard run.
Edelman was not the only pass catcher to find success against Pittsburgh in the regular season opener: the aforementioned Dorsett and Gordon also stood out, and proved themselves to be serious deep-threat receivers from the X-position. Dorsett caught four passes for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns; Josh Gordon — in his first regular season game since last December — hauled in three receptions for 73 yards and another score.
“I think everybody’s excited to add great players. It helps everybody when you have great players that are sharing the burden of a tough football season,” said Tom Brady during his postgame press conference. “I think, like anything else, whether it was Josh [Gordon] last year or Phillip [Dorsett] when he got here a few years ago late, and then this year Antonio, how much can you learn and process and get in here?”
“And we’re all going to work hard and try to get up to speed as fast as possible. But, we haven’t had a training camp together or that, so you’ve got to force a lot of information. We’re all excited to have him. All I could say is we’re just going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as quickly as possible,” continued Brady, who completed 24 of his 36 passing attempts against Pittsburgh for 341 yards and three touchdowns.
As crazy as it may sound, Sunday’s game can therefore be seen as a teaser for the things potentially to come — and that is despite the Patriots gaining 465 total yards of offense and winning by 30 points. The unit showed its versatility and depth against the Steelers, and its ability to create and win mismatches on a regular basis. And now, Antonio Brown gets brought in to add another receiving options defensive coordinators will have to keep on their radar on every single down he is on the field.
Embarrassment of riches, anyone?