We’re keeping both eyeballs on the Patriots wide receiver situation this week.
The main focus? How the team gets up-and-ready for the Steelers while trying to figure out which wideouts can take the field and how up-to-speed they will be.
Currently, the wide receiver group is Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Harry, Meyers and Olszewski are rookies.
Harry has been dealing with a leg injury for a month and has barely practiced.
Olszewski is an undrafted converted corner from Bemidji State and – while he could perhaps do a little damage from the slot kinda like a raw Edelman did back in 2009 – he’s not an ideal option to throw to.
Meyers, also undrafted, was the Patriots most consistent participant in preseason.
Edelman is Edelman even with a sore thumb that, I’m told, was not terribly aggravated last Thursday in the preseason finale.
Dorsett is fine in that he’ll be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there and will catch the ball if open.
Gordon is far from being in good enough football shape to go for four quarters.
Looming on the outskirts is Demaryius Thomas. The Patriots released him Saturday but intend to bring him back (although Denver is also reportedly interested in him). The move there may be to put Harry on IR to clear a spot for Thomas.
Harry would be down for six weeks and could play after Week 8. Former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi tweeted an all-caps “YES” when asked Sunday if Harry was an IR candidate.
“The whole receiver situation was challenging all through camp with the limited availability of certain players, I’d say most of the players at that position at one point or another,” Bill Belichick acknowledged on a Sunday morning conference call. “We just have to use the information that we have and do the best we can with it. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
Asked whether Harry’s lagging behind after missing a month, Belichick confirmed that he is with a general statement.
“I feel all players benefit from practicing, otherwise there’d be no point in us doing it,” he said. "So those are opportunities. Every player’s missed time at one point or another for whatever the reasons are. It’s something we deal with all the time. It’s very rare in the National Football League that every player on your team is 100 percent healthy. It’s life in the NFL.”
How soon before Harry’s life improves enough to contribute?
“He’s definitely getting better,” Belichick said. “All of our injured players are getting better. Where exactly they are … some of them didn’t play in the game (Thursday), we didn’t practice Friday, we didn’t practice (Saturday) so we’ll see where we’re at.”
Wideout isn’t the only complicated spot for the Patriots to suss out on offense. At tight end, Ryan Izzo is the only healthy player who’ll be available Week 1 against the Steelers unless Matt Lacosse makes a very speedy recovery from the player who was moving at a trot in pregame warmups last Thursday.
The other tight ends on the roster, Lance Kendricks and Benjamin Watson, will be unavailable because of PED suspensions.
In other words, if you have Tom Brady on your fantasy team, the bench is probably a good spot for him. But if you have James White and Edelman? They are must-starts. They are about the only proven options Brady will have to open 2019.
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