Here’s something that's tough to hear as we blame everyone but Tom Brady for the Patriots’ struggles in the passing game: Other quarterbacks don’t seem to be having this big a problem with young receivers.
Among potential playoff teams, the Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers, Steelers and Chiefs are all getting immediate contributions from rookie wide receivers. In particular, and D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, both of whom were drafted within eight picks of N’Keal Harry, are having very good rookie campaigns on contending teams.
Here’s a breakdown of rookie receivers on playoff teams. I’ll keep it to guys taken in the first three rounds:
Marquise Brown, Ravens, 25th overall: 36 rec, 520 yards, 6 TD
N’Keal Harry, Patriots, 32nd overall: 4 rec, 28 yards, 1 TD (spent first eight weeks on IR)
Deebo Samuel, 49ers, 36th overall: 42 rec, 564 yards, 3 TD
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs, 56th overall: 23 rec, 450 yards, 5 TD
D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks, 64th overall: 44 rec, 705 yards, 5 TD
Diontae Johnson, Steelers, 66th overall: 36 rec, 423 yards, 3 TD
Jalen Hurd, 49ers, 67th overall: IR
Miles Boykin, Ravens, 93rd overall: 11 rec, 185 yards, 2 TD
Before you play the “Harry’s only been available for three games” card, no he hasn’t. Week 9 in Baltimore could have been his first game back, but the Patriots were in no rush to play him, which further begs the question of why the Patriots haven’t been in much of a rush with him.
Or these questions: Is Deebo Samuel that much better than Harry? Is Mecole Hardman? Is D.K. Metcalf leaps and bounds superior?
Do you think if the Patriots had any of these guys, they’d be putting up the numbers they are with their respective teams? Or would they be the subject of endless “they’re just not on the same page” laments?
Part of it is the offense. The same playbook that’s given opposing defenses fits has been tough to learn for youngsters and veterans alike. That’s fine, but if your receiver group is shallow and banged-up enough that you’re going to need production from Harry and Jakobi Meyers, you’ve got to meet them halfway. The Patriots aren’t.
While it's easy to throw your hands up and say that you just can't count on rookies, consider that these other teams and quarterbacks could have, too. They haven't. Metcalf is second on the 10-2 Seahawks in both catches and receiving yards. Brown and Samuel are their respective teams’ top wide receivers. Hardman is tied for the Chiefs team lead in receiving touchdowns. Same goes for Johnson with the Steelers.
These teams and their quarterbacks are proof that you can rely on young receivers and still be competitive. The Patriots are the exception to the rule right now, and they’re worse off for it.
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