It’s become an autumn tradition around here, right up there with apple picking and raking leaves.
The Patriots shopping for wide receivers once they realize what they have isn’t enough.
Last year, it was the one-two combo platter of Antonio Brown and Mohamed Sanu. The year before, the team settled on Josh Gordon. In 2017, they started early when they got Phillip Dorsett at the start of September.
No need to revisit how each of those moves worked out except to point out the Patriots are back where they’ve been at wideout.
Why does this happen? It’s like going to the store and coming home without milk four times in a row. You need it. You know what happens when you don’t have it. But for some reason ... they keep doing it.
They spend the offseason adding third and fourth receivers from bad teams like Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman or Bruce Ellington. We dutifully write, “Maybe he’ll tap his potential here in New England…” stories. Then they’re gone by mid-August.
A couple weeks later, the Patriots overspend on a broken toy, basically throwing money and draft picks at the problem.
There was suspicion that some of those summer signees didn’t work out because they weren’t “Tom’s guys,” and Brady didn’t give new guys a chance.
There was hope that once N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were freed from Brady’s high expectations and quick-trigger temper, they’d flourish.
That doesn’t appear to be the case although Cam Newton briefly – BRIEFLY – tapped the wide receiver room in a way Brady hadn’t the past couple of years.
Against Seattle, Newton targeted the wideouts 33 times and everyone – even Julian Edelman – had a career-high in something. I thought they might be on to something. Maybe Cam was buying more time in the pocket. Maybe defenses had to respect his run threat so it changed the math in the secondary.
But since then we’ve realized everyone has a career day against the Seahawks pass defense.
It’s a passing league. Those numbers aren’t going to get it done.
Edelman is clearly battered. He caught 13 of the first 18 passes he saw this year. After getting bounced around the Pacific Northwest during his showcase against the Seahawks – including getting driven head-first into the turf like a tent spike – his effectiveness has waned. He’s on the injury report with a knee. They should just say “Body.”
Byrd is fine. I’d take him over Dorsett.
Harry? It’s not working. He’s forever falling down, doesn’t seem to have great awareness, gives peekaboo flashes of impressive play and – despite the team seemingly holding “N’Keal Harry Appreciation Month” in September – the kinder, gentler approach doesn’t seem to work any better than Brady’s mean-mugging.
After watching Sunday, I’m left wondering if Isaiah Zuber doesn’t warrant a longer look.
But the question is whether this is an offense worth saving. Where are the Patriots going, ultimately? Is it better to stand pat? Is it more sensible to realize they are a running team, embrace that identity fully and hope the guys in-house can heal up/come around?
If adding a wideout is like getting the rear defrost fixed on a car with major transmission problems, why bother spending draft picks and cash for an A.J. Green or Marvin Jones rental?
Same goes for tight end. The Patriots already have three on the roster not performing. Why add a guy like David Njoku?
In years past, the answer was easy. The Patriots were an elite team with the best quarterback in football, a talented experienced defense and playing in the Super Bowl was their birthright. Of course you add a receiver in order to make your best player more potent.
In April, Bill Belichick said, “Over the last two decades, everything we did, every single decision we made in terms of major planning was made with the idea of how to make things best for Tom Brady.”
Belichick said the same thing almost word-for-word last month as well.
The Patriots have a tough decision leading into the trade deadline in next two weeks. Have they seen enough to conclude a move needs to be made? Do they need more reps, more intel, more time?
Can they afford to add a wideout to a team that probably isn’t championship-level this year? Can they afford not to?