Hannable: Patriots know they need more playmakers on offense, now it’s time to act

Ryan Hannable
April 10, 2019 - 9:49 pm
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While the Patriots haven’t signed any real big names on the offensive side of the ball so far this offseason, it doesn’t mean they haven’t shown any interest.

Recall the report from NFL Media’s Mike Giardi a few weeks ago that said the Patriots inquired about just about every available wide receiver — and some not available — including Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. And this was on top of supposedly being in on Adam Humphries, Golden Tate and Cole Beasley.

Then came Wednesday when it was reported the team hosted wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and running back T.J. Yeldon on free-agent visits on top of signing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Through their actions, it’s clear the Patriots know they need to upgrade their pass-catching situation. Just look at the depth charts, it doesn’t take a football genius to figure it out.

At wide receiver there’s Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Matthew Slater and Damoun Patterson. Then at tight end there’s Seferian-Jenkins, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo.

Many thought last year’s crop of pass-catchers was among the worst Tom Brady has ever had to work with but, right now this isn’t even close to that. 

Clearly, work needs to be done, but where and how?

Speaking at his pre-draft press conference Wednesday, Bill Belichick acknowledged how hard to is to project how rookies will fit into an offense just because of how different the games are in college compared to the NFL.

“I’d say the issue in college football is there just is not the same passing game in college football that there is in the NFL, period,” he said. “So, it’s hard to evaluate the receivers, it’s hard to evaluate the quarterback, it’s hard to evaluate the offensive linemen, it’s hard to evaluate the pass rushers and it’s hard to evaluate the coverage players. You know, we’re all looking at the same film, so all the teams in the league, we all see the same games. 

“But, the college passing game is very different from the professional passing game. When you’re looking at it, you’re looking at a lot of it’s really projecting all those positions a little bit differently. To a certain degree, it’s different in the running game, too, but probably less difference in the running game than in the passing game, in my opinion.”

Belichick went onto say how much easier it is to evaluate NFL players than college players, which as it relates to the pass-catching situation says the team would rather bring in proven NFL talent instead of counting on rookies. This goes along with what he’s done in the past.

Under Belichick, the Patriots haven't drafted a receiver higher than No. 36 (Chad Jackson in 2006) and they haven't picked one in the top 100 since Aaron Dobson (No. 59 in 2012).

Although, the Patriots may not have much of a choice considering not only what is left on the free agent market, but also they need to get younger at the position. Do not be surprised to see Belichick break the trend and select a wide out high in the draft. 

There’s also still time to get creative and add a receiver via trade. Some speculated Sterling Shepherd of the Giants since he was going to be entering the final year of his contract, but he’s now likely not available after signing a multi-year extension on Wednesday. Other possibilities could include: A.J. Green, Travis Benjamin and Emmanuel Sanders.

Then based off Thomas' visit, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the team sign a few wide outs on buy-low deals and hope one of/multiple work out. Thomas is coming off an Achilles injury and it's unclear how he will be once healthy again.

Yeldon’s visit is also semi-interesting. The four-year veteran is more known for his pass-catching ability, so maybe the Patriots would look to have their running backs more involved in the passing game. Yeldon would be a lesser version of James White out of the backfield, but a better runner in between the tackles.

For the last month the Patriots have indicated they know they need to address their pass-catching situation, now it’s getting time to act.

Related: What Austin Seferian-Jenkins signing means for Patriots as it relates to tight end position

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