Did the Patriots make a mistake trading for this receiver?

Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

The Patriots’ offense has faced its fair share of scrutiny over the last couple of months despite looking like the more reliable part of the team.

Throughout preseason practices and games, Mac Jones and the offense struggled to get on the same page, especially as a new offensive scheme and playbook were introduced. Regardless of those challenges, one of the newest members of the team consistently stood out at practices.

From his reliability in the red zone to his impressive contested catch skills, DeVante Parker looked like one of Bill Belichick’s best trade pickups in recent years.

Excitement grew for Parker’s potential in the offense after shining in his first summer with the team. His dimensional playstyle and natural abilities in winning 50/50 balls were exactly what the Patriots’ offense was hoping for, but through two weeks of the regular season, that production is yet to be seen.

As one of Jones’ favorite targets at practice, the impression was that Parker would likely become WR1, taking that role from last season’s top target in Jakobi Meyers. But the connection between the quarterback and receiver has been off to a rough start, creating more concern than optimism as the season progresses.

Through the first two games, Parker has been on the field for a majority of offensive snaps. Mac Jones has tried to stretch the field when looking to involve him, but the connection between the two has not been reminiscent of that seen this preseason.

Heading into week three, Parker has made only one catch on four targets for nine yards. On top of his underwhelming start, two of the passes intended for him resulted in interceptions (one of which should’ve been called for DPI.)

Not all blame can be placed on Parker, though, as Jones has been working through second-year quarterback struggles which have taken a toll on the offense’s success as well. But something needs to change to make Parker’s presence valuable and make him a contributor to the game every week.

How did the Patriots and Parker get to this point?

For the last few seasons, the Patriots have struggled in building an impressive and productive wide receiver room. Although they addressed much of that issue through free agency last year, Bill Belichick continued to add players this offseason in hopes to help his young quarterback and developing offense.

During the offseason, the Patriots made a rare in division trade when they acquired Parker along with a 2022 fifth-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick. Because the Dolphins had recently made the blockbuster trade with the Chiefs for top receiver, Tyreek Hill, New England was able to pick up Parker fairly easily, with the approval of the receiver himself.

The trade was well received and many felt Parker was exactly the type of receiver the Patriots were missing. Despite the need to upgrade their pass-catchers, the former Dolphin was set to join a crowded receiver room. But that changed in July when former first-round pick, N’Keal Harry was traded to the Chicago Bears.

Harry’s time with the Patriots was unfavorable, to say the least. Neither side appeared to mesh well, leading Harry to request a trade before the 2021 season. That inevitably did not happen and it was reported the receiver and team had smoothed things over.

However, finishing another season with an unimpressive performance, the Patriots decided it was time to move on. This appeared as an opening for Parker to take over the role that Harry left and what the team had hoped their former draft selection would’ve been.

What does the future hold for Parker with the Patriots?

The current NFL season is still in its very early stages and several players/teams are not yet playing to their full potential. Belichick has always said the first month of the year is like an extension of the preseason; you continue to learn what works and what doesn’t and start playing “real football” in December.

With that in mind, in regards to Parker, it would be unjust to assume we won’t see an improvement from him as the season progresses. It’s been reiterated through the years that the Patriots are not an easy team to learn and play for, allowing for some leniency to be given to newer players. And with that leniency is the need for adjustments to be made.

Clearly what Matt Patricia, the offensive play-caller, has drawn up for Parker has not worked so far. There needs to be an increased emphasis on putting Parker in a position to be successful and not making him a one-dimensional player by just relying on his ability to make contested catches. He may not be a WR1, but what he can bring to the team needs to be better utilized.

Patricia needs to formulate a plan that simply gets Parker the ball. Whether that’s with short-crossers or quick slants, he needs to have opportunities to make plays. If that ends up not working, then other changes will need to be made to better accommodate the team.

As it currently stands, the Patriots need a big offensive boost, especially with several tough opponents ahead. There’s plenty of time left in the season to try things out and determine what works best as they continue revamping the offense. Getting Parker in sync with Jones and the offense as a whole is a key piece in making that happen. And hopefully, we do see that happen this season, sooner rather than later.