When the benching of a rookie receiver drafted in the sixth round draws as much attention and scorn as the Patriots’ benching of Pop Douglas did in Week 2, it is probably worthwhile to look at the bigger picture.
That is to say, the importance of Douglas to the Patriots offense is indicative of how badly the team has bungled its wide receiver corps as much as it is indicative of Douglas’ ability.
If the Patriots are to bounce back from a slow start in which the defense has excelled and the offense has sputtered because of a lack of weapons, they’re probably going to need a change. And Bleacher Report, as always, has an idea to bring about that change: Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow.
There’s no indication that the Raiders are, at this point, shopping Renfrow. But he appears to be the odd man out in a Las Vegas offense that seems to have abandoned the slot altogether, and former Patriots Place employees Josh McDaniels (the coach) and GM Dave Ziegler, who are both tight with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, are in position to do New England a solid.
“McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have added several former Patriots since taking over the front office last offseason,” B/R wrote. “Perhaps they would be willing to send one of their players over to their old home.”
Renfrow Has Not Complained About Usage
Barring a change in approach, Renfrow ought to be available. Give him credit, he has not been a problem in the locker room, and players who are dealt this far ahead of the October 31 deadline usually are causing an issue within the team.
Renfrow has handled his exile with grace, saying (per ESPN), “I’m just trying to do my job, to be honest. Yeah. And then just trying to have a good week of practice, and then, hopefully, the ball finds me on Sundays. That’s all I can do.”
But Renfrow’s poor start to 2023 echoes what happened to him in 2022 when McDaniels arrived last year.
In 2021, with Derek Carr at quarterback and Jon Gruden coaching, Renfrow was a Pro Bowl selection, with 103 catches for 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns. With McDaniels changing the offense last season (and with a concussion and an oblique injury causing him to miss seven games), Renfrow’s production plummeted to 36 catches and 330 yards.
Renfrow Not ‘A Great Fit’ for McDaniels
It has not recovered. Out of 50 Raiders pass attempts, only one has gone to Renfrow, a catch he made for 23 yards. That’s why Renfrow’s name has remained on the rumor mill—where it lived in the offseason, too—throughout the early season.
“It seems that Renfrow simply isn’t a great fit for Josh McDaniels’ offense or can’t earn the trust of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo,” B/R wrote. “Either way, the 27-year-old should be available because the Raiders aren’t using him.
“Another team could.”
The Patriots could. The team would have to create more cap space to fit Renfrow, but if it could do that, he would be worth giving up a draft pick to give quarterback Mac Jones another surehanded weapon in the receivers room.
“The New England Patriots have just $4.8 million in cap space but lack pass-catching playmakers,” B/R noted. “JuJu Smith-Schuster has failed to make an impact, and Kendrick Bourne is the only wideout with more than 90 receiving yards through two weeks.”
The addition of Smith-Schuster has not worked out through two weeks. DeVante Parker is still the team’s best wideout, and Kendrick Bourne has been solid. Tyquan Thornton, last year’s second-round draft pick, has not played because of injury. Douglas and Kayshon Boutte are rookies.
The Pats need help in the passing game. Even if it comes from the Raiders.