With Josh Gordon back in the fold, one of the immediate questions that springs to mind -- from a pure football perspective -- is how does his return impact the receiver depth chart in Foxboro?
The assumption is that Gordon will be in shape when he returns to Patriots practices next week. The assumption is that he'll sit at or near the top of the depth chart, as he did last season, along with Julian Edelman.
But what about everyone else?
It'll be fascinating to see how Gordon's return impacts the development of N'Keal Harry. It could go one of two ways, one would think. Either he has less on his plate, transitions more smoothly, and thrives on the outside opposite Gordon with Edelman roaming the middle of the field. What I think would be a less likely scenario is that he loses reps based on Gordon's presence, and the progress we've seen Harry make over the course of the summer is somewhat stalled. Harry is injured at the moment so whether Gordon is with the team or not, he'll need to get healthy and find his way back into receiving valuable practice snaps.
Jakobi Meyers, meanwhile, may suddenly find himself getting less work with Tom Brady as the receiver depth chart all of a sudden has become more competitive. Meyers has been one of the stars of camp for the Patriots, and he's been their most consistent receiver. He's gained Brady's trust, it seems, thriving in game-like practice scenarios with his savvy route-running and sure hands. He may have just gone from a No. 3 or No. 4, though, to a No. 4 or No. 5. I still believe he's earned a spot on the 53-man roster.
THE BUBBLE BOYS
Gordon's arrival could most significantly impact Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris and Braxton Berrios. Injuries notwithstanding -- and Dorsett and Harris are both currently dealing with ailments -- there may have been room for two of those three wideouts. Now there may be room for only one.
Would the team go with Harris, who was an early standout in camp and has shown he has a grasp of the Patriots offense after only arriving a few months ago? Would they go with Dorsett, who has come through for Brady in clutch situations in the past despite having a relatively niche role in the offense? Or would they go with Berrios, whose skill set sets him apart from the other two?
Berrios is an interesting study in that he's a true slot. Not like Harris or Dorsett, and certainly unlike Gordon. His presence inside (and as a punt returner) might save Julian Edelman from punishment in the middle of the field. Would the Patriots part ways with someone in that role in order to make room for another outside option?
After pursuing the likes of Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley this offseason, I think the Patriots might opt to keep Berrios if he continues to progress in camp. The other two seem less safe now with Gordon's reinstatement.
THE UPHILL CLIMBERS
Others whose odds at a roster spot seem significantly diminished now with Gordon's return include veteran Dontrelle Inman, despite some nice moments against the Lions in preseason game No. 1 and a solid week of practice in Tennessee this week.
Damoun Patterson (practice-squadder in 2018), Gunner Olszewski (corner-turned-receiver who has impressed at times and received all kinds of work in the return game) and Ryan Davis (Jarrett Stidham's teammate at Auburn who looks like a classic slot) were always longshots to make the roster but could end up as solid practice-squad additions should they clear waivers before the start of the regular season.
Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith remain on the physically unable to perform list and could come off at any time, but with Gordon now an option, there is no pressure on either to come back and try to chip in for a receiving corps before they're fully ready to go.
Here's how I see the Patriots depth chart shaking out at receiver at this point. If I had to pick a 53-man roster, it'd include Edelman, Gordon, Harry, Meyers and Berrios as well as special teams ace Matthew Slater . . .
Julian Edelman (NFI)
Demaryius Thomas (PUP)
Cam Meredith (PUP)
Matthew Slater (special-teams)
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