New England Patriots

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. of the New England Patriots warms up prior to their game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

By Matt McCarthy,

For the first time this season, the thought has crept into my mind that the Patriots might not turn it around offensively.

They just might not have the personnel, and they only have themselves to blame for that.

Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans was eye-opening. It marked one of the only games this season where the Patriots had their full complement of offensive weapons and offensive linemen healthy. They were playing indoors against a statistically mediocre defense and a team they historically have had little trouble moving the ball against. It seemed like the perfect formula for a get-right game.

It wasn’t.

The offense was as stagnant as it’s been all year, and for the first time in 2019, the offensive line wasn’t to blame. The Patriots protected Tom Brady better than they have all season, but the skill position players couldn’t make plays.

I’ve believed all year long that while the Patriots weapons might not be elite, they’re good enough to get the job done. Their performance against the Texans makes me reevaluate that stance.

There’s little doubt that Brady himself needs to be better, but it’s also clear the Patriots have failed to put an offense around him. The mismanagement of the skill positions is coming back to haunt them.

At tight end and receiver, the Pats have made a long list of mistakes.

Few teams in the NFL are getting less out of their tight ends than the Patriots this season. Replacing Rob Gronkowski was always going to be an impossible task, but it’s almost as if the Pats decided not to even try at all. The tight ends on this team are just plain bad.

Ben Watson was a good player for a long time in this league, but it’s clear he has little left in the tank. Matt Lacosse is a nothing and Ryan Izzo is invisible in the passing game and a negative in the running game.

The Pats were said to be interested in Jared Cook this past offseason, but saw him sign with the Saints as they waited on word of Gronk’s plans. Cook has been impactful in New Orleans, hauling in 32 catches and four touchdowns.

It’s safe to say the Patriots could use a player like Cook.

Frankly, they could’ve just used any investment in the position. The Pats had 10 picks in the draft and didn’t take a single tight end.

The Pats did, however, take N’Keal Harry in the first round. They have almost nothing to show for that pick so far.

They traded a second round pick for Mohamed Sanu, who appears to be regressing and not progressing every week.

They counted on Phillip Dorsett to be a reliable option for Tom Brady, but he is becoming more invisible by the game.

They brought in the likes of Dontrelle Inman, Maurice Harris, and Bruce Ellington last offseason. None of them stuck around.

They got rid of Josh Gordon for reasons that are still unknown.

They signed Antonio Brown, fully knowing he was a problem. It took them only 11 days to cut him when, shockingly, he was a massive problem.

They gave Brown $5 million guaranteed for this season, taking away their cap flexibility and preventing them from acquiring another piece at the trading deadline.

And now, 13 weeks into the season, the Patriots look like a team that couldn’t figure it out in the roster construction part of the calendar. Whether that hurts them in January and February remains to be seen, but for the first time this season, I’m willing to consider that possibility.

It’s hard to find much that the Patriots did right with building this offense, but it is sure easy to find what they did wrong.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.

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