Patriots

Wide receiver as competitive as any spot on Patriots roster

Wide receiver as competitive as any spot on Patriots roster

We continue our series of Patriots' post-mini-camp, pre-training camp position-by-position assessments: Current situation, spots available, who’s vying for those spots. Today, wide receiver:

THE SITUATION
Boy, there's a lot to get to here. The receiver spot has seen almost as much turnover as any other position on the roster. Offensive line, running back and corner all have new faces, but at wideout, the Patriots lost two of their top three producers from 2017. The departures of Brandin Cooks (traded to the Rams) and Danny Amendola (signed by the Dolphins) meant the departure of more than 1,600 snaps, more than 1,700 yards and more than 120 catches from last season. The Patriots have tried to address those losses by adding in bulk: Jordan Matthews was signed as a free agent; Cordarrelle Patterson was acquired in a swap of Day 3 picks; Kenny Britt had an option picked up in March; and Braxton Berrios, a slot receiver from Miami, was drafted in the sixth round. Phillip Dorsett is back for his second season (and his first full offseason with the team), while 2017 practice-squadders Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister return as well. Malcolm Mitchell is back on the roster, though he's been limited in OTAs after missing all of last season due to a knee injury, and status for 2018 is unclear. Of course, Chris Hogan (439 yards, five touchdowns in nine games last year) will be back, as will Julian Edelman -- though Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy and could miss the first four games of the regular season if he loses his appeal. Matthew Slater is listed as a receiver, but he's a special-teamer who will rarely chip in offensively. 

SPOTS CLAIMED
The Patriots have generally held onto six receivers in recent years -- five plus Slater. Depending on the outlook at other positions, they could potentially carry one more when the roster is trimmed to 53 for Week 1 of the regular season. But they may not need to find space for an additional receiver. Edelman's suspension, if it holds, would mean that he would not count against the roster for the first four weeks of the season. That could open up a spot for one of his teammates at the end of camp. Additionally, if someone ends up on the physically unable to perform list - both Mitchell and Britt have dealt with injuries this spring - that's another way to keep a pass-catcher in-house without having him count against the roster. When it comes to true locks to be in the building for 2018, there are three by my count: Edelman, Hogan and Slater.

WHO'S DOING WHAT
By that math, that leaves eight players vying for three spots if the Patriots roll with six receivers. (Again, the Patriots will have an additional open spot if Edelman is suspended, but let's assume we're talking about Week 5 on.) How the Patriots determine who fills those openings could depend on the types of receivers they want. They have all shapes, sizes and experience levels represented in Chad O'Shea's room at the moment. Dorsett is an outside-the-numbers burner, who can stretch the field and effectively downfield block when asked. If it's height and catch radius the Patriots are looking for, Britt would be the choice. His athleticism packaged in a 6-foot-3, 223-pound frame as an "X" receiver is enticing - and has been since he was taken in the first round in 2009 - but he suffered an injury during mini-camp. We'll have to track his progress into the summer. Mitchell, if healthy, could also serve as that classic "X," as he demonstrated a strong connection with Brady along the boundary in his productive rookie season in 2016. Patterson provides some measure of Britt and Dorsett's two greatest strengths: size and speed. However, the former Viking and Raider has a reputation as someone who has had difficulty adjusting to offenses thrown at him in Minnesota in Oakland so he'll have to prove he's with the program before he earns a role. Matthews - coming off of a down season in Buffalo - could be the beneficiary of an Edelman ban because of his track record of production from the slot. Berrios, Hollister and McCarron have outside shots at the roster, and all have practice-squad eligibility. Among the questions that need answering: How do the Patriots view Patterson? If he's strictly a special-teamer, like Slater, Nate Ebner or Brandon King, then that could open a spot for the team to keep an additional wideout. Between Edelman's suspension, Mitchell's health, and Patterson's role. . . it's anyone's guess as to which players are filling particular roles come September. All that means is this should be as competitive as any position on the roster in training camp.

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Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

The puzzle pieces of the New England Patriots' coaching staff and front office have fallen into place.

The Patriots saw turnover in both departments this offseason, as longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort joined the Houston Texans as their director of player personnel.

The club also welcomed some new faces, including former Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch (the team's new quarterbacks coach) and ex-Cleveland Browns executive Eliot Wolf.

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So, how have the coaching staff and front office changed since last season? The Patriots have unveiled their 2020 media guide, which confirmed the new roles of several staffers.

Here's a rundown of the notable changes:

- Troy Brown officially is on staff as a running backs and kick returners coach. The former Patriots wide receiver will work with head running backs coach Ivan Fears and special teams assistant Joe Houston.

- Director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler has been promoted to assistant director of player personnel, reporting to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He'll essentially fill Ossenfort's former role.

- Tyler Hughes, who reportedly joined the team in June, is listed as an "offensive assistant." Hughes most recently was the head coach at Bountiful (Utah) High School.

- Vinnie Sunseri joins the Patriots as a defensive assistant after spending the 2019 season as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama. Sunseri had a brief stint in New England as a player during 2016 training camp.

- Wolf's official title is "scouting consultant." He served as Cleveland's assistant general manager in 2018 and 2019 after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots go through personnel changes every year, but 2020 presents a unique challenge: Not only has COVID-19 prevented staff members from meeting in-person, but the club has lost a lengthy list of core veterans to free agency (Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) and opt-outs (Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, etc.) this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to make excuses, though, so expect his staff to be hard at work this week as the Patriots begin on-field training camp work at Gillette Stadium.

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NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)