The regular season is finally upon us and it's time to stop trying to figure out what's going to happen instead of just watching for ourselves. One thing that will be interesting starting Sunday and for the entire first month will be the passing game – specifically the receivers.
Julian Edelman won't be part of the equation as he serves his four-game suspension, so an opportunity exists for another wideout to perhaps take on a larger role. We know Rob Gronkowski will be among Tom Brady's top targets, but who else could be in the mix?
The receiving corps is thin with just Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, but Brady still has plenty of other options. The backs are gifted receivers, especially James White and Rex Burkhead. Second-year tight end Jacob Hollister also has shown the ability to catch the ball.
So this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Other than Rob Gronkowski, who will be the Patriots leading receiver in September?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
The Patriots love to get the running backs involved in the passing game and James White is one of the best in the business. With Julian Edelman out of the lineup, Tom Brady doesn't have a lot of options to turn to in terms of wide receivers. That will lead to some extra attention on Gronk and Chris Hogan, but White will still be available to make plays.
Brady will lean heavily on his backs to keep the chains moving, and White will take advantage of the linebackers being asked to keep him in check. He does a great job running his routes and making tacklers miss in space. If the Patriots offense expects to be productive it will need to be efficient with the short passing game, which is exactly where White thrives.
He's made huge strides over the last couple of seasons and the first month of the year will be an opportunity for him to show the rest of the league that his huge postseason games are no fluke.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
I'm not going to lie - I have no idea who the Patriots leading receiver will be in the month of September. I could make an argument for at least three or four players, but I'm going with Chris Hogan.
Unlike James White, Hogan is a wide receiver who has the ability to run all pass routes rather than just those normally done by running backs. That will give him more opportunities to make plays, and Hogan has proven that he's capable of doing so when healthy.
Last season was off to a strong start before a shoulder injury pretty much ended his season. He also had a productive night in Super Bowl LII against the Eagles, which showed that he's still capable of being a big part of the offense. Brady is comfortable with Hogan, and he'll lean on him to get drives started and perhaps even in the red zone assuming teams will devote a lot of manpower toward stopping Gronk.
Hogan will lead the way in September.