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The Lateral

NFL Week 2 Thoughts | The Lateral #57

LuZo Sep 9

Boy things are about to get interesting for the Patriots. As if they weren’t already.

They avenged their week 1 loss to the Chiefs with a 36-20 drubbing of the New Orleans Saints. In typical Patriots fashion, they answered critics and questions alike with aplomb.

It was a great win. Not without holes or issues here and there, but overall, a superb showing for the Patriots.

There’s just one teeny tiny concern.

At one point during this game, New England literally had one wide receiver they could trot out. Julien Edelman’s already out for the year. Danny Amendola missed the game with a concussion. Malcolm Mitchell’s on IR but can hopefully return sometime this season. That leaves Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. And both Hogan and Dorsett came up a little gimpy during the game. Oh and so did Tight End Rob Gronkowski.

The knocks to Hogan and Dorsett seem minor so hopefully they’re good to go for next week. And the injury to Gronk was a groin tweak and he says it’s “nothing serious.”

But this has to be slightly alarming. At least it is to me. It’s only week 2 and they had one receiver able to take the field.

But before I sit in a corner and hug my knees to my chest and rock back and forth while staring off into space hoping for Troy Brown to come save us, I remind myself that Belichick and company have overcome roster deficits before. Remember that time Troy Brown suited up at corner? And more than held his own?

But it won’t even come to anything like that. At least I hope it doesn’t.

I thought to myself before the season started that this running back group was, in a quiet, under-the-radar kinda way, really really talented. The four guys they have, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee all averaged at least 4.3 yards last year in albeit, limited samplings for each guy. No one in that group is a 20+ carry-a-game back. Those days are gone anyway for most teams in the NFL.

When you look at this group, you think versatility. They all do slightly different things. Gillislee is a smaller, faster version of LeGarette Blount. Dion Lewis is the tiny jitterbug, the playmaker. James White is a bigger, stronger Kevin Faulk. And Rex Burkhead seems to be a jack-of-all-trades kinda guy.

And while the wide receiver group nurses its wounds, the offense is going to have to rely on this RB group a lot. They already have.

In the first two games, Brady has attempted 75 passes. The team has attempted 66 rushes. That’s pretty good balance if you ask me. I know of more than a few times the Pats were perfectly content throwing three times more than they ran it in years past.

And who’s been Brady’s top guy so far in terms of receptions? James White with 11 catches. He’s second on the team in targets with 13, two behind Gronk.

Honestly, it may only be a matter of time before the Patriots, and then the rest of the NFL, do away with distinctions between backs and receivers. Kind of like how basketball is moving toward this positionless style where you essentially can have five wings on the court who can all pass, shoot, and play defense. Because think of this, of the 66 rushing attempts by the Pats so far this season, six of them have been by receivers.

So your top receiver is a running back. And almost 10% of your rushes have been attempted by receivers. And even the fullback, James Develin, lined up at wideout a couple of times in that last game.

So before we hit the imaginary panic button, let us see what creative ways the Pats utilize their other playmakers while we wait for the receivers to get back into game shape.

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