New England Patriots wide receivers have plenty of bulletin board material to motivate them entering the 2020 NFL season.
The Patriots' offensive weapons have received a lot of criticism over the offseason. Many experts aren't confident in this group's ability to play at a high level next season, especially with Tom Brady leaving the Patriots in free agency and second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham likely to take over the offense as a result.
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Pro Football Focus recently unveiled its ranking of the league's 32 receiving corps. The Patriots came in at No. 30, or third-worst.
Here's what PFF's Ben Linsey wrote about the Patriots' receiving corps:
While many will point to Tom Brady’s numbers last season, the big problem with the Patriots’ offense was that they just didn’t have receivers who could separate downfield. Julian Edelman remains one of the more reliable slot options in the short and intermediate range, but Mohamed Sanu added very little after he was acquired by the Patriots midseason (57.1 overall grade post-trade) and N’Keal Harry’s rookie campaign was a disappointment headlined by an injury that sidelined him for a large portion of the season. The two tight ends New England picked up in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft should see playing time, given the lack of options in front of them on the depth chart, but neither is likely to really solve the issue as a rookie. The Patriots’ biggest hope for the year will be that Harry takes a big step forward in a healthy sophomore campaign.
The main issue with the Patriots wide receivers in 2019 was injuries. Edelman, Sanu and Harry all dealt with injuries and it negatively impacted their performances.
Edelman reportedly dealt with multiple injuries, and the veteran wideout clearly didn't look like his normal self over the last four games of the season (including the playoffs) when he tallied just 13 receptions during that span. Sanu played pretty well after initially joining the Patriots, and in his second game with the team, he tallied 10 receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown versus the Baltimore Ravens. He suffered an ankle injury in New England's next game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the injury required him to have offseason surgery. Harry, as noted above, battled through injury as a rookie. He did, however, show flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick in 2019.
If healthy, the Patriots receiving corps actually could surprise in 2020. Edelman is as dependable as they come, and Sanu has enjoyed a long, productive career. The young wideouts, most notably Harry and Jakobi Meyers, are talented as well. We also can't forget James White, who's one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. White has tallied 159 receptions and 12 receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons.
This receiving corps faces plenty of challenges entering the new season, and having to develop chemistry with a new starting quarterback ranks high on that list. Luckily for the Patriots, they have a talented coaching staff, including one of the league's top offensive coordinators in Josh McDaniels.