Posted on September 7, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New England Patriots had high hopes for wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell in his second NFL season. But those hopes have been put on hold. Hours before kicking off the 2017 season against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots placed Mitchell on injured reserve because of continuing knee problems. The move ensures Mitchell won’t return until at least Week 9. It also creates doubt about whether Mitchell will be able to play at all this season.
Mitchell came on strong the second half of his rookie season. He scored all four of his touchdowns between weeks 11 and 14. He then came up big with six catches for 70 yards in New England’s Super Bowl win over the Falcons. Five of those six catches came in the 4th quarter when the Patriots were still trying to erase a large deficit, showing the trust Tom Brady placed in Mitchell.
Unfortunately, the former Georgia Bulldog has been hampered by a knee injury since the spring. He was limited throughout training camp and only able to play in one preseason game. Apparently, his undisclosed knee injury hasn’t shown enough improvement for the Patriots to believe he’ll be back anytime soon.
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After Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason game, Mitchell was poised for a more prominent role in New England’s offense this season. After starting six games as a rookie last season, Mitchell looked ready to compete for a full-time starting job this year. He would have been New England’s tallest wide outs, making him an important target on the outside and a potential deep threat.
With both Edelman and Mitchell ruled out, Brady and the Patriots will lean on the trio of Brandon Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Danny Amendola. Sensing that Mitchell may not be returning anytime soon, the Patriots traded with the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett last weekend. That group should be solid, especially with Rob Gronkowski a receiving option at tight end. But there could be some potential problems.
For starters, Brady hasn’t played with Cooks or Dorsett prior to this season. He’s also had just one season with Hogan. Brady would seem to be most comfortable with Amendola and Gronkowski. But Amendola is coming off a disappointing season, accumulating just 243 receiving yards in 2016. Gronkowski is also injury prone, playing in just eight games last year.
Of course, New England’s receivers also possess great upside, even without Mitchell and Edelman. The sky is the limit for Cooks if he gets on the same page as Brady, as he put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in New Orleans the past two seasons. Dorsett also possesses great speed and potential after struggling to become a consistent threat with the Colts.
With Brady at quarterback, you have to believe that the Patriots will find a way to adjust to whatever personnel they have. But with Malcolm joining Edelman on IR and Dorsett and Cooks new to the team, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see the Patriots struggle to move the ball through the air just a little bit early in the season.