When the New England Patriots traded third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts for Phillip Dorsett, they were giving up a valuable trade chip and the expectation was that Dorsett would give them a boost.
The Patriots had lost Julian Edelman for the year and also had to place Malcolm Mitchell on injured reserve. So they needed Dorsett to step up as a No. 4 receiver who could give their offense the variety it’s leaned on when it’s at its best.
Flashback to 2016 and you’ll see that the Patriots’ No. 4 wide receiver was Danny Amendola. Playing in 12 games, he contributed 23 catches for 243 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Those aren’t exceptional numbers by any stretch, but in any given week Amendola was capable of exploiting a mismatch and giving the Patriots a decided advantage because of the sheer number of options they had available. That was on display in the Super Bowl when he broke out for 8 catches, 78 yards and a score.
However, in 2017, Dorsett hasn’t been able to replicate that impact. With Amendola stepping into a more prominent role in the slot, Dorsett is the new No. 4 wide receiver behind Amendola, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks but he’s having a hard time even finding the field.
Yes, the Patriots have a trio of tight ends they like and roster five running backs, four of which they use in prominent roles, but the ability to do damage out of a four-receiver set is a staple of their ability to overwhelm. They can spread you out, they can overpower you or they can do some combination of the two.
Dorsett might not be the most important piece of the equation, but if he’s giving them some sort of production as the fourth wide receiver he’s making life easier on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And they certainly need more than 4 catches for 84 yards in through Week 6.
He’s a different sort of player than Amendola, so maybe he’s not coming out of nowhere to catch 6, 8 or 10 passes in any given game. However, his speed should at least give them the ability to test secondaries down the field and keep safety attention away from Cooks.
Brissett has been decent in a difficult situation for the Colts, showing exactly how much value he could have had down the road for the Patriots as either a trade chip or a potential heir to the Tom Brady throne in the event that things don’t work out with Jimmy Garoppolo. So you’d like to think they got more for him than a guy who catches 10 balls this season.
There’s no need to be unrealistic. Dorsett isn’t going to be a star in this offense anytime soon and he doesn’t need to be, but he’s got to give them a little bit more than he is currently.
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