Hannable: Trade for WR Phillip Dorsett indicates 2017 Patriots offense will have different look than in years past

Ryan Hannable
September 04, 2017 - 11:16 pm

Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

The Patriots offense will have a much different look this season.

No, this doesn’t mean it won’t be scoring as many points, it might just look a little different than in recent years.

The offense of late has been dependent upon short and quick strikes over the middle of the field led by Julian Edelman out of the slot, but also running backs out of the backfield. Following Edelman being lost for the season with a torn ACL, the team needs to adjust its offense and after acquiring speedster Phillip Dorsett in a trade with the Colts over the weekend, it appears it will be much more vertical than we’ve been used to seeing.

There was a thought there could a more vertical look even before the Edelman injury with the addition of Brandin Cooks and all the deep routes he was running in the spring OTAs and minicamp, but now with Dorsett around, almost exclusively known for his speed, it seems like it is actually a thing.

While no one player could replace Edelman, it wasn’t like the team went out and got a player who does some of the same things as he does, it went out and got a player that does almost the opposite — run past cornerbacks to stretch the defense.

This could also be a little bit of a reaction to what happened in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons were much quicker than the Patriots on both sides of the ball and were able to shut down the Patriots offense early on in the contest when they took away the middle of the field. It wasn’t until the Patriots started exclusively throwing passes outside the numbers in the second half where they actually moved the ball offensively. Although it was just one game, perhaps it was a bit a wakeup call that things needed to change.

So, what does all this mean for the Patriots offense this season?

First off, Dorsett won’t be a huge contributor to the offense. He’s just a fifth receiver, but when he’s in the game his job will be to stretch the defense. Imagine a four receiver formation with Cooks and Dorsett on either side and then Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola in both slots with Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Defenses will need to respect the speed on the outside, which could open up the middle of the field for Amendola, Hogan and Gronkowski.

Also, look for the come back route to be a staple in the offense as well, particularly to Cooks and Hogan (when he does line up on the outside). Opposing cornerbacks will need to respect both players’ speed and they have shown the ability to stop on a dime and catch a pass thrown to their back shoulder. If both can get on same page as Tom Brady, the ball can be in the air before they even turn around, making it nearly impossible to defend.

Brady throwing the ball down the field more actually started last year. Just look at Hogan leading the league in yards per catch with 18.4. It should be noted a lot of this came after the catch, but still, the offense did have some vertical elements last season. Overall, Brady averaged 12.2 yards per completion, the second-highest average of his career. He may have close to or just above that this year, but with fewer yards coming after the catch. It could be more of an exciting year with a lot more throws down the field and big plays from the offense.

When the team loses Edelman, the player Brady targeted on 31 percent (132-of-432) of his attempts last season, the offense is going to change. And after the trade for Dorsett, it’s clear the change will be from more of a horizontal offense to a vertical offense.

New faces, new system, likely the same results.