One of the more important positions on this particular NFL team, the receiving corps for the 2016 Patriots is looking promising so far this offseason. A handful of things are important to keep in mind when thinking about the wide receivers for next season. Primarily, the importance of the receiver position on this team must be emphasized.
The Importance of the New England Receiver
The Patriots have transformed over the years to a more one-dimensional offense, meaning that the team passes much more frequently than they run the ball. Last season, New England passed the ball 65% of the time, the 3rd highest percentage in the league. This naturally causes the wide receiver position to be weighted higher in importance to the team.
The run game has been seemingly replaced by the short pass, utilizing typically smaller, quick, and agile receivers with good hands than can handle low and fast bullet passes from Tom Brady. During the 2014-2015 championship season, the likes of Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen were the two primary receivers when short yardage was needed.
To further demonstrate this point, acknowledge the fact that the team ran for 1404 yards on 383 attempts while averaging 3.7 yards per attempt and 87.8 yards per game. This caused the Patriots to be 30th in the league in terms of rushing, quite the opposite of a healthily balanced offense.
Despite this huge disparage between the passing and rushing game, the Patriots averaged 28.3 points per game last season, which was 3rd in the league. Even if you are a proponent of the run game, you can’t be too upset with the results, although you may have some very valid arguments in favor of a more balanced offensive plan.
Health of the Two Receiving Leaders
Now that we understand the importance of the receivers on this team, we should be incredibly thankful for the relative health of Julien Edelman and Danny Amendola, who fit the description of the ideal Patriot receiver mentioned earlier. Even though they are technically healthy, they both are worrisome in terms of injuries.
Last season, Edelman suffered a broken foot in week 9 against the New York Giants and missed the last 7 games of the season. Thankfully, he returned for the playoffs and performed rather well.
Amendola has a troublesome injury history, including two concussions, torn triceps, several foot sprains, fractured collar bone, groin sprain, and a knee sprain. It would be fair to say that he may be slightly injury prone, causing his health to be important. Particularly when he is one of the two more experienced veteran receivers on this team now. Let’s hope he can stay healthy this season, however, if he doesn’t, the team has landed some promising back up receivers.
Behind Edelman and Amendola are Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, and Chris Hogan. Martin actually performed rather well after being traded to the Patriots by the Texans during last season and seems to have a spot on the team as he continues to learn the playbook. Nate Washington, coming into the league in 2005, has the most years of experience out of the receivers and adds a positive veteran presence during mini-camp and training camp.
Offseason Acquisitions and Draft Selections
Chris Hogan signed with the team early this May and seems to be another perfect Patriot that Bill Belichick has sought out over the years. He is a multi-sport athlete, special-teams standout, played multiple positions in college, and took a lower paycheck than other receivers the Patriots were considering signing in the offseason. The only other thing that could make him more perfect in Coach Bill’s eyes is if he went to Rutgers or the Naval Academy.
Hogan has already made a positive impression in mini-camp so far, catching nearly everything thrown his way while showing off his 6.75-second-3-cone-drill speed and precision. His 6-foot-1 and 210 pound frame adds some size to the relatively short group of receivers the team currently has. He was used as a deep threat in Buffalo and hopefully can help the offense spread the field this coming season.
The Patriots selected two receivers in this year’s draft, somewhat unlike the team, however Patriots Nation is hopeful despite the organization’s spotty history in terms of drafting receivers. Malcolm Mitchell was the 113th overall pick in the 4th round out of Georgia and is 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. Boasting a 4.45 second 40 yard dash and having some experience as a deep threat in college, he could potentially help spread the field in the future.
The other receiver selected in the draft was David Lucien out of Arizona State, which he transferred to as a graduate from UCLA. Lucien is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, slightly taller than most of the receivers on the team, he adds some much needed height, that is, if he makes the team after training camp. He has been known to have dangerous speed while running down the field while creating separation with his footwork.
David Lucien, Malcolm Mitchell, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, and DeAndre Carter will all be competing for roster spots during training camp. As this situation progresses, it will be rather interesting to watch.