pt. 2: the season
We now arrive at the 2018 regular season, where the New England Patriots would open up shop against the Houston Texans to open the season. Questions remained about who would step up within the Patriots receiving room to fill in the absence of Julian Edelman and Brandon Cooks. Rob Gronkowski was the obvious candidate, but fans wondered if the team could produce with just one consistently reliable target for Brady to throw to.
These worries were quickly put to sleep in the opener. Tom Brady threw for 277 yards, 3 touchdowns and a single interception En route to a 27-20 win over the Houston Texans. Brady’s third touchdown was a game winner, and Rob Gronkowski handled the excessive workload with excellence.
When it was all said and done, Rob Gronkowski hauled in 7 receptions for a total of 123 receiving yards coupled with a single touchdown. This led the team in all 3 of those statistics. Phillip Dorsett, a relatively overlooked receiver, took on the top receiver role and hauled in 7 receptions for 66 yards and a single touchdown. The next two leaders in the reception column were halfback James White and fullback James Develin, both with 4 receptions. Not exactly ideal.
This game painted a pretty clear picture for upcoming NFL defenses facing Tom Brady and the Patriots; eliminate Rob Gronkowski, and you’ve effectively rendered Brady helpless.
The Patriots played the Jaguars in week two.
The Jaguars followed the formula built around eliminating the threat of Rob Gronkowski without question, allowing the all-time tight end to haul in just 2 receptions.
Due to this low production from Gronkowski, Brady was forced to look towards halfback James White on the dump-off option on a plethora of plays, leading James White to being the teams top reception leader with 7 for 78 yards. Next on that list was Dorsett with 5, and former Lacrosse star Chris Hogan with 3.
This was not a recipe for success, as the Patriots fell 31-20 in game where their offense simply couldn’t keep up.
In the following week against the Detroit Lions, the Patriots offense fell flat. Sony Michel, the Patriots lead back, ran for just 50 yards on 14 carries, marking the 2nd of 3 games in which the Patriots top back rushed for 50 yards or less. On top of this, Rob Gronkowski was the lead receiver – with just 4 receptions.
Brady sent the ball all over the field to teammates such as Chris Hogan, 3rd string back Rex Burkhead and second string back James White, the next 3 receiving leaders on the day for New England.
The Patriots fell once again in a game where Brady threw for less than 150 total yards 26-10 to the Lions.
The recipe was failing for New England, and they were in desperate need of a boost to the receiving core. Thankfully for them, Julian Edelman was slated to return from a 4-game suspension in just two weeks, meaning the Patriots simply had to avoid falling to 1-3 against a 3-0 Dolphins team led by Ryan Tannehill.