Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks should have been a heartbreaker. Being stopped on the goal line after a great drive is one of the worst ways to lose in the National Football League. It’s the kind of thing that leaves a fan staring at their screen, hoping for some kind of do-over. When the clock still shows zeroes and the players walk off the field, your mind replays everything that went wrong. And I definitely replayed that game many times in my mind and on film. But this time, it didn’t feel so bad. It actually had a positive feeling, something Patriots football was missing since halfway through last season.
That positive feeling came from this week’s Game Ball winners, the New England Patriots wide receivers. That may seem strange since the receiving corps has been a weak point for the Patriots recently. But this isn’t your grandpa (Brady’s) group of pass-catchers. Over the past three seasons, the Patriots have signed, cut, traded for, and traded away an incredible amount of receivers. This carousel of receivers includes Brandin Cooks, Demaryius Thomas, Philip Dorsett, Danny Amendola, and Mohamed Sanu. Josh Gordon played in a few games for the Patriots in 2018 and 2019, but injuries and substance abuse ended his time in New England. Antonio Brown may have set a record for shortest time with a team after being a Patriot for 11 days before being released.
This season, the Patriots receivers are off to a great start. There are no hints of off-the-field issues and the receivers drafted last year appear to have made a significant leap heading into their second season. N’Keal Harry started the 2018 season on the IR after injuring his ankle in training camp. He played in 7 games towards the end of the season but did not make a positive impact. Jakobi Meyers contributed to the offense but was limited by the lack of a passable offensive line and other targets for Tom Brady. But in just two games, Harry has already exceeded his 2019 stats and is a valuable part of this offense. Meyers has not had the same impact yet but looks promising despite just one target so far.
The addition of veteran wide receiver Damiere Byrd has been potentially the biggest upgrade to the receiver room. After a career-high 359 yards on 32 receptions with the Arizona Cardinals, Byrd has 6 receptions, including several difficult catches. Last but not least, Julian Edelman has been his usual reliable self. Although he is dealing with a knee injury, he gained a career-high 179 yards. Despite multiple drops, Edelman made some incredible grabs including a diving catch against Jamal Adams for 49 yards.
Possibly the best part of this group is that they seem to have developed great chemistry with quarterback Cam Newton very quickly. When asked why he targeted Edelman so often against Seattle, Newton responded, “Because he’s Jules”. Newton trusts his receivers to make plays and so far, they have rewarded that trust. With a quarterback as explosive as Newton and a young receiving corps with high upside, the future is very bright for the New England Patriots offense.
–Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes