The Patriots’ receivers are as big of a problem as you thought they were.
Cam Newton said all the answers for the New England Patriots to succeed are in the locker room. Josh McDaniels said he needs to do a better job of involving Julian Edelman. Fans swear that N’Keal Harry is going to break out at any moment. Everyone thought one of the two tight ends taken in the third round would be seamlessly transitioning into the offense.
Though the Patriots have been arguably the most disadvantaged team in the NFL due to their COVID-19 issues, even before that when they were looking like a formidable threat, the passing game was clearly an issue.
Not Newton — he’s been tremendous, both through the air and on the ground. And New England’s rushing attack has been among the best in the league too. It’s the team’s receivers. They are … not very good. And some advanced metrics further support that notion.
Here’s what the stats show, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss:
"“And their wide receivers rate near the bottom of the NFL when it comes to creating open windows for quarterbacks to throw. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, which uses player-tracking devices to assess separation, 29.5% of the targets to Patriots receivers have been thrown into a tight window (one yard or less). That’s the highest rate of any wide receiver unit in the NFL.“Overall, per NFL Next Gen Stats, Patriots receivers have had 29.5% of their targets deemed open (three-plus yards of separation), which is sixth lowest in the NFL.”"
That explains why every time you see Newton drop back to pass he doesn’t have the option to get rid of the ball quickly … or every time that you do see him throw a pass, he has to thread the needle.
Edelman thinks the offense needs to get back to the basics, but it seems it’s much more than that, especially for this group of receivers. Edelman is 34 years old and his age is showing — his decreasing snap count is proof of that. Harry’s one big game against Seattle doesn’t do much to instill confidence in the team spending a first-round pick on him. And we don’t think we have to expand upon Izzo and how he’s just not a starting-caliber tight end.
If not for Edelman’s 179-yard performance against Seattle or James White being forced to miss time because of his father’s death, Damiere Byrd and White would be the team’s leading receivers without question. Here’s the breakdown:
- Edelman: 302 yards
- Byrd: 217 yards
- Harry: 166 yards
- White: 133 yards
- Burkhead: 101 yards
- Izzo: 82 yards
This was a problem in the making last season when Tom Brady’s performance was suffering due to a lack of weapons. If not for Newton’s legs and playmaking abilities, this conversation would be even more magnified.