By: Jake Perda
In the wake of the Patriots crushing 42-27 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, it is simply too easy to rant about how bad their defense was. So instead of complaining about how problematic is was/is that the Patriots were forced to rely on players such as Cassius Marsh to get the job done on the defensive side of the ball, I want to talk about something just as troubling.
Coming into the preseason, the wide receiver position appeared to be a major strength for this Patriots team. They had one of the best slot receivers in the league in Julian Edelman, a premier deep threat in Brandin Cooks, an emerging young stud in Malcolm Mitchell, and two reliable, established contributors in Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. Not to mention, they had a supposedly healthy Rob Gronkowski lining up at Tight End. There was no reason to believe that this unit would be anything short of unstoppable.
Now, a little more than a month later, here we are. Julian Edelman is out for the season with a torn ACL, Malcolm Mitchell is out for at least 8 weeks with a knee injury, and Danny Amendola couldn’t even make it a full game without suffering what they are calling a “head injury” (probably a concussion). With 3 of their 5 core receivers potentially set to miss time, what impact does that have on the offense as a whole?
The Patriots have been running essentially the same offense for the last decade, and the key cog in that offense that makes it run smoothly is the slot receiver who can be trusted to catch a bullet pass in tight coverage on a crucial 3rd down. It used to be Wes Welker. Recently, it’s been Julian Edelman. Now, it’s going to have to be someone else. The obvious choice is Danny Amendola on account of the fact that he has an extremely similar skillset to Edelman and has shown the ability to get the job done. However, if Amendola misses time, who’s going to be that guy? They have Chris Hogan, who has a ton of potential, but shouldn’t be trusted as a #1 target and is not as useful in the slot as he is playing on the outside. They have Brandin Cooks, who has the skillset to be a #1 target, but has not yet settled into a major role in the Pats offense. And beyond those two, they have Phillip Dorsett, so that’s pretty much it.
This is going to have to go one of two ways. Either Amendola will come back, stay healthy, and play the role of Julian Edelman in the Patriots offense, or Josh McDaniels is going to have to earn every dollar that he is paid by redesigning the offense to highlight the skillsets of the players that he has available. This may include a more balanced offense in which Mike Gillislee is used to establish the offenses ability to “ground and pound” in order to to set up some deep throws to Cooks or Hogan off of a play-action fake, or perhaps they’ll start using James White and Rex Burkhead in the slot more often than we saw in Week 1.
In the end, only 2 things are certain. 1. Tom Brady is pissed after being embarrassed on his home field and will come out firing in Week 2, and 2. Bill Belichick will utilize every second of the team's 10 days of preparation to concoct a game plan that will lead his team to victory in New Orleans as long as each of every player DOES HIS JOB.
Photo: (Chiefs Digest)