New England

How Will Antonio Brown's Arrival Affect the Other Patriots Wide Receivers?

New England's offense is set to soar to 2007 levels with Brown in the fold

So much for the notion the Patriots were transitioning into a power running team offensively.

Tom Brady completed 24 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdown passes in New England's season-opening wiping of the floor of the Steelers, compiling a 124.9 passer rating in the process — higher than all but one of his 19 appearances last season.

Brady welcomed Josh Gordon back to the fold with a 10-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and later dialed up Phillip Dorsett for two scores, the first multi-touchdown game of Dorsett's five-year NFL career. Julian Edelman caught six passes for 83 yards, and we haven't even mentioned the five-catch, working man outings from James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield.

We also haven't mentioned that, despite its 33-point outburst on Sunday, this offense has yet another level or 10 it can theoretically reach.

It doesn't come with the return of Demaryius Thomas. It won't come with the activation of N'Keal Harry off injured reserve after Week 8. It won't even be due to the return of tight end Ben Watson from suspension after Week 4.

It comes with the addition of Antonio Brown, who's redefined what it means to be a diva wide receiver in the NFL. Brown would relegate Terrell Owens to the junior varsity diva squad based on his antics with the Oakland Raiders this summer.

Brown is, arguably, the best wide receiver in the NFL. He's coming off of six straight seasons of at least 101 catches and 1,284 yards with Pittsburgh, the only player across the league to reach such landmarks every year between 2013 and 2018. No other receiver has more than three seasons of the like in the same timeframe.

"I can't wait to work with him," Dorsett said in New England's locker room Sunday night. "[Brown] has always been a guy I look up to when it comes to football. He's a beast, we all know that, and I can't wait to learn from him. We have similar body types. I've always wanted to learn from him and now I get to see him every day."

"We're going to be so much better," rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers said of Brown's signing. "We've got to get [championship No.] 7 this year. We've got all of this receiving talent in one room, if we don't get seven this year... hopefully we just go out here and play our best."

Meyers and Dorsett, as well as Thomas, will most directly feel the effects of Brown's arrival. Even with a tight end room that remains depleted  Ryan Izzo mustered just one catch for three yards in the opener - there's only one ball for Brady to distribute. The Patriots suddenly have a similar conundrum that our local basketball team, the Boston Celtics, faced over the winter when it comes to defining roles.

Beyond the obvious risk of Brown erupting like he did in his two previous stops, his arrival is going to stunt the development of Meyers and eventually, Harry. Gunner Olszewski is almost certainly never to see the field aside from punt returns at this point.

The health of Thomas permitting, it will also move Dorsett further down the depth chart. Since coming to New England at the start of the 2017 season, Dorsett has been nothing but a good soldier for the Patriots, slowly but surely integrating himself into Brady's circle of trust.

With a crowded depth chart in the preseason, Dorsett's value to Brady was apparent in the third exhibition game, when he caught seven passes on seven targets in the first half. Dorsett's career night on Sunday served as another reminder the importance he carries with the Patriots.

"I can't really focus on that," Dorsett said of the ever-crowded room at wide receiver. "I focus on my job, and that's going out there and getting better every day. I can't worry about things I can't control."

Meyers, the darling of the preseason, had only one catch in eight snaps in his regular season debut Sunday.

"For me, I was undrafted. I know my situation," Meyers said. "I knew I was going to have to work from the bottom anyways. At this point, I just want to win and just stay in my lane."

Will it be worth it to hinder opportunities for some of the consummate professional receivers working to become established in Foxboro? The schedule for the Patriots is so soft over the next two months that there will be all kinds of time to tinker and figure out what fits where.

New England's offense is set to soar to 2007 levels with Brown in the fold. Adding a talent of Brown's level is almost always a no-brainer, even if it's more of a luxury than a necessity.

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