Sunday 7: Josh Gordon returning to Patriots helps, but all is not right at wide receiver

Ryan Hannable
August 18, 2019 - 6:00 am
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1. There is a bit of myth as it relates to Josh Gordon being reinstated by the NFL and returning to the Patriots: the wide receiver position has not become a strength. Even with Gordon around, there are still some questions that need to be answered, and everyone knows what happened with Gordon last year. It really is hard to 100 percent count on him being part of the group all year. Besides Julian Edelman, what is definite at the position? And even he has some questions returning from a thumb injury. Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith are all battling injuries at the current moment, and then of players to be on the field, only really undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has stood out. If Gordon is able to play Week 1, the Patriots likely have a wide receiver depth chart of Edelman, Gordon, Dorsett, Harry, Meyers and whoever wins the battle for the last spot. It’s hard to say what Gordon will be, and the same goes for Edelman, Dorsett and Harry returning from injuries. While there’s certainly talent at the position, it is far from being a strength given all the uncertainty when it comes to players getting, and staying on the field, as well as just not knowing what they will be in the case of Harry. Gordon being reinstated certainly helps the Patriots, but his return does not for a second mean the wide receiver position can be viewed as a strength. There’s a lot still unknown, and it’s not relating only to Gordon.

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2. Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham didn’t have as good of a game as he did in the preseason opener against the Lions, but he may have shown more from a development standpoint. His first snap of the game resulted in a safety on a holding penalty in the end zone, but that didn’t waver his confidence, nor did a few near interceptions after that. Stidham actually completed his final eight passes he threw, which was a tremendous sign that showed his ability to put negative plays quickly behind him.

3. This was a really impressive week for second-year tackle Isaiah Wynn, who got on the field for his first real 11-on-11 live contact drills ahead of Saturday’s game. While his reps were managed in the joint practices and he sometimes didn’t get a split of the reps, but he made them count. In the game, Wynn got three series, which indicates he will be ready for Week 1. The thing that was learned was the Georgia product has some nastiness in his game, which is always a good thing for a lineman.

4. Saturday was a big night for the rookies. Stidham, Joejuan Williams, Chase Winovich, Damien Harris and even Bryon Coward made strong impacts. This has the potential to be one of the most impactful rookie classes in the Bill Belichick era. A year like this was much needed after some down years via the draft recently.

5. Keep an eye on Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick over the next two games. In preseason game No. 1, it looked like Mayo was calling the defensive plays, but in Nashville Saturday night it seemed like the younger Belichick was helping out as well. Bill Belichick has made a point not to address anything on who will be calling the defensive plays, so this may be something that will just need to be monitored in the final two preseason contests.

6. One final note on the joint practices in Nashville this week: they were extremely well run. This is a credit to Belichick and Mike Vrabel for mapping out concise practice plans that were stuck to both days. There was very little standing around besides the occasional planned water breaks given the heat and humidity. The players seemed to enjoy themselves, especially after the sessions when the number of players who have switched teams were able to connect with former teammates.

7. It will be a short week for the Patriots with the next preseason game being Thursday at home against the Panthers. With it being the third game, the starters typically see their most extended time of the preseason. The team will practice Monday and Tuesday, but they are closed to the public as all open practices have come to an end.

Related: Damien Harris reacts to getting first real NFL action following not playing vs. Lions