The 4-1 New England Patriots only rank 14th in the NFL in total receiving yards through Week 5, although New England exploded for 406 yards through the air on Sunday in its 33-13 rout of the Cleveland Browns. Tom Brady’s return from a season-opening, 4-game suspension, of course, had a lot to do with the Patriots’ aerial success, but New England head coach Bill Belichick praised his speedy wide receiving corps on a Tuesday conference call.
"Nobody works harder than Chris, nobody works harder than Slater, nobody works harder than Danny. Nobody works harder than Julian." BB
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 11, 2016
Chris Hogan burst down the sideline for 114 yards on only 4 catches in the first half Sunday, shattering his previous single-game career-high of 95 yards. Julian Edelman corralled 5 catches for 63 yards, Danny Amendola added 11 yards on 2 catches and Malcolm Mitchell caught 2 balls of his own for 11 yards. Matthew Slater only saw 11 non-targeted snaps.
After Hogan’s team-high 114 yards, tight end Rob Gronkowski totaled 109 yards on 5 catches and tight end Martellus Bennett caught 6 balls for 67 yards and all 3 of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes. The Patriots have rightly received a plethora of acclaim for rejuvenating their vaunted two tight end success from 2011.
However, it’s key to properly value the importance of speedy wideouts to take the tops off opposing defenses and allow New England’s dynamic tight end duo to work the middle of the field. Wes Welker’s team-high 1,569 yards were extraordinarily important in creating space for Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez’s pass-catching brilliance in 2011. As this year’s Patriots feature Hogan, Edelman, Amendola and company whirring around the hashmarks, New England’s offense seems primed for another explosive season similar to five years ago.