As the old saying goes “you can’t make the club from the tub”.
With the news of Kenny Britt’s release yesterday, it begs the question, where do the Patriots look to now to fill the void? Britt was entering his second season with the team after arriving towards the end of the 2017 season. He had been nursing a hamstring injury for a couple weeks and had been unable to see the field.
Britt joined a growing list of former Patriot wide receivers this offseason. The list includes, but is not limited to, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell, and Jordan Matthews. With Julian Edelman set to miss the first four games, the Patriots, at this moment, have Philip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eric Decker, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, and Devin Lucien on the roster at the receiver spot.
It remains to be seen if another move is made to replace Britt on the roster. Just a few weeks ago, shortly after the release of Matthews, the Patriots swooped in to grab Decker to replace him. Naturally, once news broke of Britt’s release, Dez Bryant’s name popped up as a potential replacement. Especially considering the similar position both he and Britt would play in this offense. Another name that may pop up is former Patriot, Brandon LaFell. LaFell was released by the Bengals earlier in the offseason.
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This is just another example of how the Patriots juggle receivers each and every year. Having Tom Brady directing the group certainly softens the blow when multiple players come and go every single season. This year is no different as the group appears to be in flux. However, as we have seen on many occasions, it really doesn’t matter who you throw out there with Brady, he and the Patriots offense will make it work. Especially since Edelman will return and they still have Rob Gronkowski who is the biggest mismatch in the NFL and the best tight end in the game.
— Full Press Patriots (@FPC_Patriots) August 23, 2018
Assuming rookie Sony Michel is ready to go for the start of the season, the Patriots and Brady will have a bevy of weapons to choose from coming out of the backfield. Again, this is assuming health. So far, James White has been the most consistent back in camp in terms of performance and availability. Add in a healthy Michel and Rex Burkhead and the loss of Britt becomes an afterthought.
Another player that could seize the opportunity is tight end, Jacob Hollister. Hollister went undrafted last year out of Wyoming and was quickly signed by the Patriots. His seven receptions for 116 yards in week one of the preseason last year put him on the map. He eventually won the third tight end job. However, he was used sparingly in the regular season, hauling in just four passes for 42 yards.
“I think he’s got a great future,” said Bill Belichick earlier in the offseason. “He works hard, he’s a tough kid, he plays hard, practices hard and has become much better at his fundamentals and techniques at his position.”
With that said, Hollister has showed steadied improvement thus far in the offseason. His quickness and athleticism have stuck out and he continues to earn the confidence of his quarterback, which, in this offense, is paramount for success.
“Jake’s put a lot of hard work in,” Brady said earlier in training camp. “I mean, I’m really proud of him to come in undrafted, free agent and create a role for himself like he did last year and then have the ups and downs of a rookie year. He played some, he was not playing some and he’s kind of taken advantage of that role…You can only do that one way, by getting out and doing it, earning the trust of your fellow teammates and your coaches and I think Jake’s done that.”
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Ultimately, when everyone is healthy and not suspended, the Patriots top targets are going to consist of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and James White. Cordarrelle Pattersons’ role remains to be seen and the team really hopes to see Dorsett and Michel carve out huge roles with the team. Nonetheless, many believed Britt had an opportunity to carve out a nice role with the team. Now, that opportunity rests at the feet of the next man up.