Every Friday during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate the upcoming NFL Trade Deadline.
THE PATRIOTS' PRIMARY NEED AT THE TRADE DEADLINE IS...
A wide receiver with inside-outside, three-level ability who can run after the catch. So Antonio Brown? No.
Let's go with someone a smidge less self-destructive, narcissistic and a tad more dependable/predictable. Say, Emmanuel Sanders. Or Danny Amendola. Neither being in quite the same stratosphere as Brown — and Amendola not having the outside ability either — but someone like that. Why that kind of wideout? Or a wideout and not a tight end?
Because of the ripple effect the offense will realize. Someone who plays inside means the Patriots can rely a little less on Julian Edelman, whom they are going to grind down to sawdust at the rate they are throwing to him.
What about Phillip Dorsett? Not an inside guy. Definitely not a run-after-catch guy. What about N'Keal Harry? He's going to have a lot flying at him in the coming weeks. Keep it simple with him by not putting him in the interior maelstrom.
What about Jakobi Meyers? Don't hate the idea. Josh Gordon? Just doesn't get that interior separation that stubby-legged guys with great quickness get.
The Patriots knew they needed an interior guy. That's why they tried Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries in free agency. That's why they made the panic move to sign Brown. They get one more chance at the brass ring at the trade deadline. It's gotta be a wideout.
I hear you, my friend. I do. But what if I told you the Patriots could get their interior receiving presence checked off their wish list AND fix another position entirely?
For me, their primary need at the deadline is a tight end. Someone who can catch. Someone who can make yards after the catch. Someone who puts defenses in a legitimate we-gotta-make-sure-we-got-this-guy-covered sort of bind on third downs. Say, Austin Hooper. Or maybe O.J. Howard, if you think he can be that guy. (I'm starting to wonder if he can be that guy; he has just 13 receptions this year and has been targeted just four more times than the immortal Cameron Brate.)
But Hooper makes a world of sense. He might not move mountains as a blocker, but that's why guys like Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson are on the roster. Hooper could block against lighter fronts while serving as a true matchup weapon against linebackers or safeties. He leads all NFL tight ends in receptions and he's on pace for about 1,300 yards receiving.
Taking a crowbar to the Falcons and muscling him out of there might be an issue — maybe they'll decide to franchise him next year if they can't ink him to a long-term contract — but the idea of Hooper in this offense is intriguing. A pass-catching tight end (not named Ben Watson) would seemingly settle things down in the offensive huddle, make that side of the ball a little more unpredictable, and give Tom Brady another viable weapon in the passing game.
Check, check and check.
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