By: Denny Hackett
On Thursday, Josh Gordon announced he is leaving the Patriots to address his mental health and is facing a potential indefinite suspension for violating the terms of his reinstatement. Where do the Patriots go from here after suffering two straight losses?
Gordon is making the best decision for himself to try and deal with whatever mental health issues he is facing and I respect him for that. Regardless of occupation, he is making the right decision by putting his mental health first and bettering himself. However, his football career is in jeopardy if he is suspended again for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
His absence puts the Patriots in a tough situation that they probably saw the potential for when then they acquired him in a trade with the Cleveland Browns back in September. However, they have done little to minimize the impact that losing him now has on the team. It was reported that the Patriots were in the market for Demariyus Thomas back at the trade deadline before he was traded to the Houston Texans, but other than that the Patriots have done nothing to soften the impact of losing Gordon.
In eleven games with the Pats, Gordon caught 40 balls for 720 yards and three touchdowns and was one of the most dynamic players on an offense that has struggled mightily at times this year. While he looked great on the stat sheet, he looked better on the field by beating defenders on one on one or even two on one matchups for receptions. Before he left, he was third on the team in targets and their leader in receiving yards, so it will be a group effort in trying to replace his production.
If the Patriots want to make up for losing Gordon, Brady has to start throwing the ball to the forgotten receiver, Chris Hogan. He proved on Sunday against the Steelers that he can still play after his 63 yard touchdown reception on the first quarter. On Sunday, he passed his receiving total of 67 yards over the five previous weeks, during two games of which he did not catch a ball.
I also think the Patriots will look to get more out of Philip Dorsett in the coming weeks as well. Julian Edelman will also continue to see his role expand who, despite coming off of a torn ACL last year and a suspension to start this season, has played well in just about every game he has played this season.
The biggest concern in losing Gordon is that the Patriots lose one of the only players that has been able to stretch the field for them on offense this season. In a year that saw Gronk slow at times when it came to going down the field, Gordon is going to be a huge loss unless Gronk can find a way to consistently play like his old self. On Sunday against the Steelers, Gronk was held to just two catches for 21 yards and needs to improve if the Patriots have any hope of replacing Gordon’s production.
If the Patriots want to make up for Gordon’s absence, they have to get back to running the football. After putting up 215 and 160 yards on the ground as a team against the Jets and Vikings respectively, the Patriots haven’t even been able to muster 100 yards in each game of their current losing streak. One of the largest parts of the Patriots’ six game winning streak earlier this season was their ability to run the ball and finding a way to get Sony Michel going again could benefit the Patriots down the stretch.
While the past two weeks have been a nightmare for the Patriots, they should still be able close out the season with two home wins against the Bills and Jets. With any luck, they could still end up with a first round bye if the Texans lose over the next two weeks.
But this has been a weird season in New England, so anything is possible.