With Julian Edelman placed on the season-ending injury reserve with a broken foot, the once multi-faceted passing game of the New England Patriots now has far fewer options than they did early in the season.
Not only will Edelman be out of service, but another one of Tom Brady’s top targets Rob Gronkowski will remain out of service with a broken forearm for the next few weeks.
With the rash of injuries to the offense of late, the Patriots have brought back Donte’ Stallworth to add to their receiver depth. Stallworth brings speed and the ability to stretch the field vertically; but after not playing since the preseason, what can New England expect of him over the season’s final games; two of which are against NFL powers Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers?
The lingering question should be; where the heck has Brandon Lloyd been? Here is a receiver who was brought in for his play-making abilities, along with his knack of making the difficult, acrobatic catches. Of late, Lloyd has been on the field but relatively missing in action.
On Sunday, the receiver was targeted by Tom Brady only once; but to his credit did make the catch for a total of ten meaningless yards. This is a far cry from the type of output that most fans should have expected.
For the Patriots to sustain success the remainder of the regular season but also in the playoffs, Lloyd and Brady need to get back on the same page. For whatever reason, it appears hat the future hall of famer has lost confidence in the veteran receiver. In the Miami game, it appeared that Brady was not even looking in Lloyd’s direction
The fact that the Patriots’ offensive coordinator was also a coach of Lloyd in Denver and St. Louis makes his lack of utilization even more perplexing. For the next few weeks, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense will need to expand their receiving options until Gronkowski returns. Even upon his return, the need for a receiver who can spread the offense horizontally is essential and still absent from the Patriots’ passing attack.
The sight of number 85 running routes and not making catches brings back the bad memories of last season’s failed experiment of Chad Ochocinco (Johnson). One can only hope that this season will not be a carbon copy of the season-long contributions of this season’s number 85.
If the passing versatility does not improve either as a result of injuries or lack of utilization, New England will be hard pressed to have a different outcome than they did last season. In either case, the performance of the receiving corps in providing ample targets for Brady to utilize, the ultimate fate of the Patriots may rest in the balance.
Scott Duhaime is a fan and follower of the New England Patriots for over 30 years, witnessing the team’s ascent from league irrelevance to among the league’s elite franchises.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @Scott_Duhaime
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Patriots put WR Edelman on IR, sign WR Stallworth