Patriots

Patriots

With Danny Amendola in the concussion protocol, Malcolm Mitchell on IR and Matthew Slater dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him off the field for Week 1, the Patriots could use some help at receiver. 

And that's not even accounting for the fact that one of the three healthy receivers on the roster right now, Phillip Dorsett, has been with the team for about a week. 

While it's unclear how long Amendola's concussion will keep him off the field, the Patriots could be forced to get creative if he's unavailable for Week 2 against the Saints. That means more two-tight end sets -- perhaps rookie Jacob Hollister finds his way onto the field -- and potentially more multi-running back sets. 

The Patriots deployed their "pony" set with both Dion Lewis and James White on Thursday night, and between White and Rex Burkhead they were targeted on eight of Tom Brady's 36 attempts. 

If the Patriots want to continue to rely on the 11-personnel looks that they turned to so frequently in 2016, looks that they used often against the Chiefs before Amendola left the game, maybe Burkhead could potentially help them achieve those looks -- as a receiver. 

Now on the one hand, the Patriots will be able to get Dorsett up to speed to some extent before their second regular-season game, meaning there should be packages with Dorsett, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan all on the field together. The Patriots could have any of their backs in a traditional running-back role, one tight end, and those three wideouts to achieve what they're looking for. 

 

But Burkhead has some experience as a slot receiver in Cincinnati, and the Bengals toyed with the idea of moving him there more regularly. He actually spent most of Cinci's 2014 Divisional Round game against the Colts at wideout, catching three passes that day for 34 yards. He also ran a reverse for a gain of 23. 

"He has tremendous short-area quickness," said former Bengals offensive coordinaotr Hue Jackson during training camp two years ago. "His 10-yard times were off the charts; his three-cone was off the charts. He's very talented [as a receiver]."

Could Burkhead be used more as a receiver in New Orleans with Hogan and Cooks on the outside for Brady? Perhaps. Or maybe Josh McDaniels likes the package of Cooks and Dorsett on the outside with Hogan in the slot. Or maybe the field will be flooded with tight ends. Or maybe a practice squad receiver -- Cody Hollister or Demarcus Ayers -- will be called up to chip in . . . 

We won't know exactly what they'll do until the Patriots take the field next weekend. 

But one of the advantages of investing in versatile players at the running back position this offseason is that it allows the Patriots utilize their best athletes wherever they're needed. And right now it looks like there's a need at receiver.