- The New England Patriots let several key offensive players leave in the offseason, and they haven’t found replacements for them.
- Following the announcement that Josh Gordon is leaving the team and facing indefinite suspension, the Patriots offensive attack looks even weaker.
- It’s one of the first times the Patriots’ roster model hasn’t paid off, and now they’ll have a tougher road than usual in the playoffs.
The New England Patriots had a shaky offseason, and now, with the playoffs just three weeks away, it looks like it could become a problem.
Several teams pillaged the Patriots this offseason. The Tennessee Titans signed running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler, the Miami Dolphins signed wide receiver Danny Amendola, and offensive tackle Nate Solder went to the New York Giants.
The Patriots also traded away wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams (along with a fourth-round pick) for a first-round and sixth-round pick.
The Patriots have a model they follow, and it’s hard to argue with their success. They won’t overpay players, they’ll cut players a year early rather than a year late, and they’ll look for value. When the players above got big deals or were on the verge of big deals (in Cook’s case), the Patriots cut them loose. Instead, they looked for value signings – talented players who could contribute and be had for less money.
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On the offensive side of the ball, several moves didn’t pay off. Before the regular season, the Patriots cycled through skill-position players like Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Corey Coleman, Jeremy Hill, and Malcolm Mitchell. None of them made a significant impact if they even made the team.
Through 14 games, the Patriots offense has lacked its usual punch. They rank sixth in offensive DVOA, but they’ve only scored over 30 points six times, while they’ve scored 20 or less in four of their five losses. Tom Brady hasn’t been quite as sharp as usual. Rob Gronkowski has battled injuries and looked less explosive. Even Julian Edelman is over-burdened when he’s relied on as the No. 1 receiver.
On Thursday, wide receiver Josh Gordon announced he would be stepping away from football to focus on his mental health. The NFL then confirmed reports that Gordon is facing indefinite suspension after violating the terms of his reinstatement over the substance abuse policy.
Gordon’s health is the most important factor in this, but from a football perspective, the news only weakened the Patriots roster. Gordon had tallied 720 yards and 3 touchdowns on 40 catches with the Patriots, acting as a versatile target for Brady who could also open up the field for others.
The Patriots pass attack no longer looks intimidating with Gronkowski, Edelman, James White, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarelle Patterson leading the team in receiving. None of them will crack 1,000 receiving yards this season.
The Patriots could use a deep threat like Cooks, who can stretch the field and has amassed 1,000-yard seasons the last four years. Or Lewis, a great check-down option for Brady who totaled 59 first downs last season. That number would lead the Patriots right now (White has 56 in 14 games).
The Cook trade hurts even more because the Patriots used the first-round pick they got on offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, who tore his Achilles before playing a game.
The decline of the Bill Belichick-Brady era has been a growing topic. They’ve lost two straight and are in danger of not getting a first-round bye.
Few would be surprised if the Patriots made another run to the Super Bowl. They still have an advantage in game-planning, and they have the greatest and most experienced quarterback out there.
But with the current roster, it seems like that mission will be harder than usual.