We’re almost through the calm in the sports world before the storm, but for Patriots fans what a beautiful and glorious storm it should be.
Football is around the corner and that means the New England Patriots are set to defend their title once again, fresh off their 34-28 Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons. And believe it or not, the Patriots are considered to be a better team going into this season than they were last season. That’s why you’re already hearing about the 19-0 talk around these parts (though not from within the Gillette Stadium walls).
Training Camp begins this week and that’s when everyone will get their first real look at what the team is working with. We’ll break it all down position by position, starting first with a locked and loaded receiver corps for Tom Brady.
Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater
One of the big offseason acquisitions for the Patriots was former Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks is a dynamic player who can break out for that big gain at any moment. Last year, he averaged 15.0 yards per catch, good for 14th in the NFL – but he had the third-most receptions (78) of those players ahead of him. His 15 receptions of 20-plus yards tied him for 16th in the NFL, while his 73.3 yards per game ranked him 9th. Cooks also had the longest reception of last season, a 98-yard touchdown. Picture Cooks as a hybrid version of two other Patriots receivers, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan.
Edelman returns for his ninth season with the Patriots, having become an integral part of their success throughout the years. Just go back to Super Bowl LI for the latest example, with Edelman making a miraculous, all-time great catch off Falcons cornerback Robert Alford’s cleat late in the game. His 2016 season also saw him reach career highs with 1,106 reception yards and 55 receptions for first downs. Could Edelman’s receptions dip with Cooks on board? Maybe, but he’s still Brady’s most trusted receiver.
The Malcolm Mitchell hype train has left the station after his Super Bowl LI performance – six catches for 70 yards. Mitchell showed flashes throughout his rookie season that gave fans a reason to be excited. The Patriots have whiffed on many wide receivers in the NFL Draft, but it feels as though they hit with Mitchell, who will have an increased role from the start.
Believe it or not, Hogan was one of the best deep ball receivers in the NFL last year. His 17.8 yards per catch ranked him tied for first with Washington’s DeSean Jackson. Despite just 38 receptions and 57 targets last season, Hogan is a physical mismatch, combining size and speed.
After another contract restructure, Danny Amendola returns to the Patriots. Amendola, though not always featured in the offense, has come up in many big situations when called upon and is willing to do what it takes to win.
Matthew Slater is listed as a wide receiver but is used as the team’s special teams ace.
Fighting for a spot
Andrew Hawkins, Austin Carr, Devin Lucien, Cody Hollister