Now that Josh Gordon has been placed on injured reserve, the New England Patriots will have to find a suitable replacement at outside receiver.
Trading for Mohamed Sanu adds quality depth and dependability, but he’s not the answer. Rookie N’Keal Harry is still injured, and even when he’s back healthy he won’t be a primary solution either. Instead, it’s Phillip Dorsett who will benefit from the Patriots’ decision to place Gordon on IR.
Dorsett is enjoying one of his best professional seasons and certainly his best year since being traded to the Patriots in 2017. Dorsett has been one of Tom Brady’s most reliable targets in his time with the Patriots, boasting a catch percentage of 71.3 percent.
When it comes to steady hands, Dorsett is the Patriots’ best downfield weapon.
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Phillip Dorsett Matchup vs Cleveland
When the Browns last saw the field two weeks ago against Seattle, it was a big day for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his cast of receivers. While slot receiver Tyler Lockett led the way with five catches, it was deep threat D.K. Metcalf who reeled in four catches for 69 yards, wreaking havoc downfield for the banged-up Browns secondary.
Cleveland defensive backs Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams have been ailing as of late but are full participants in practice so far in Week 8, meaning they should return to the field. Both had been dealing with hamstring injuries and have been inactive since Week 3.
Both will be welcomed back to a secondary that has struggled at times without the two budding stars. But with Mohamed Sanu, Julian Edelman, and Jakobi Meyers among others, the Browns will have to spread the corners out to limit whichever receiver is getting the best looks.
That means at some point, Dorsett could find himself open against soft coverage from a third or fourth coverage corner. It would be with these matchups Dorsett gets the upper hand and makes the Browns pay, but it’s more of a matter of how frequently he faces this coverage that dictates his success.
Should You Start Dorsett vs Cleveland?
This will be Dorsett’s first time facing Cleveland in his career, though it’s not like you could compare past statistics at this point given the amount of turnover in Browns’ country.
But Cleveland is pretty good at defending against the pass with their two primary defensive backs in the game. It might be tough for Dorsett to earn separation downfield in tight coverage.
Fortunately for Dorsett, he doesn’t need much room to make a catch. He has shown that repeatedly in his Patriots career, but most recently on Monday against the Jets. His touchdown reception came against tight coverage where he held onto the ball by pinning it against his body, using every inch of available space to make the grab.
What’s stopping him from doing that against Cleveland? It might be a slight risk but starting Dorsett at WR2 can’t hurt.