The Patriots first joint practice with the Titans got off to a promising start with N’Keal Harry being present after sustaining an injury against the Lions and missing both practices in Foxboro earlier this week. The rookie first-rounder left shortly after the start of practice but it was still a good sign to see him on the field, even it was just as an observer with Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas for the bulk of the session.
But from there an already complicated receiver position got even murkier as both Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris had to leave and did not return. Both stuck around until the end of the spirited session, always a better sign than if they were riding a cart off the field, but it was two more hits the Pats don’t need as they approach their second preseason game of the season.
Losing two of their top three current receivers would be a tough blow if Dorsett and Harris have to miss time and could hurt the offense’s chance to develop. With only Thursday’s joint session remaining for training camp practices, the regular season is fast approaching and the team is already tapping the bottom of their depth chart.
Dorsett made an acrobatic jump for a pass and came down hard, appearing to wrench his wrist. He’d spend most of the remaining portion of practice riding an exercise bike behind our Patriots Unfiltered broadcast table.
Harris’ issue was less clear, but he exited late and watched the final reps of 11-on-11 work on a knee. The heat seemed to affect many of the team, including Dan Skipper, who was carted off apparently due to overheating. But it didn’t look like heat was the problem for Harris.
The injuries have exposed one of the toughest positions to project and one already rife with injury issues. Wednesday’s joint practice saw the offense rolling every receiver they have left through Tom Brady’s reps.
Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers now stands alone atop the depth chart. That might be exciting for some, but it’s scary to think he’s best guy left right now.
After Meyers, Dontrelle Inman would be the next outside option. Inman got off to a slow start in camp, missing time with an injury, but has put together a solid week-plus of practice and made some good catches against the Titans on Wednesday.
Braxton Berrios has looked the part from the slot and might be the guy who benefits most in terms of game targets without Harris and Dorsett in the fold. Gunner Olszewski has done all you can ask from a division 2 cornerback. Behind them, it’s just Damoun Patterson and Ryan Davis, both who caught passes on Wednesday from Brady and could be asked to do so on Saturday.
All have had their moments but are any of them above replacement-level receivers, including Meyers? We just don’t know, even if they’ve all had their moments in practice. And on Harris, one of the most intriguing newcomers on the roster, we might not know for a while.
Right now, this has to be the least intimidating group of receivers Tom Brady has ever had, but there isn't reason to panic just yet. The walking wounded are practically an all-star team, especially if you want to include Josh Gordon in that group. Edelman will be back soon, while Thomas seems to be progressing.
But that doesn’t help the team prepare for September, when Ben Watson’s suspension will put even more pressure on the pass catchers. We were hoping to get an idea how good this Patriots offense might be with Tom Brady under center on Saturday night, and Dorsett and Harris were going to be a big part of that.
Now, we wait to see if they’re back out there on the practice field against the Titans. If not, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will be forced to take on the Titans with the a group of guys who weren't on the roster last year, and many of whom shouldn't be on the roster this year.