Hannable: Patriots’ trade deadline needs highlighted in win over Bills

Cover Image
Photo credit Rich Barnes/USA Today Sports

In case you weren’t aware, the NFL’s trade deadline is set for Tuesday afternoon.

The Patriots have made deals during the season leading up to the deadline in a number of recent years beginning with Aqib Talib in 2012, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga in 2013, linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas in 2014, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and linebacker Jonathan Bostic in 2015, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy in 2016.

This doesn’t even include the Patriots sending Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last year, so the Patriots have swung a deal during the year in six straight seasons.

So, what’s in store this year?

Based on the reports over the last couple of days, expect the Patriots to be active and speak to teams on a number of different players, and in the end it seems likely they will swing a deal at some point Tuesday.

But for who, though?

Obviously that’s the million dollar question which Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio are the only two that know the answer to, but watching Monday night’s 25-6 win over the Bills, two areas of need were on full display.

New England needs another piece at wide receiver.

No, it doesn’t need to be a “premium wide receiver,” like was reported on Sunday by FOX's Jay Glazer, it just needs to be someone who can come in, pick up the playbook quickly and be dependable on the field.

Against the Bills, Julian Edelman carried the position by finishing with nine catches for 104 yards and besides him there wasn’t much. Josh Gordon had four catches for 42 yards, Chris Hogan had two catches for 49 yards, while Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett didn’t have a single reception.

That group of five is solid, but can they be counted on for the remainder of the season? Because if not, there isn’t any depth behind them. 

As of now, the answer is no.

There were reports of Gordon being late to the facility before departing for Buffalo on Sunday and also being late to a meeting earlier in the week. This was his first reported slip-up since joining the organization over a month ago, but given his past, it’s really hard to depend on him for the remainder of the season and postseason. The last thing the Patriots want is to depend on him and then have him disappear when they need him most.

On the other hand, Patterson still seems to be struggling with picking up the offense and on several plays Monday he needed to be told where to lineup. While the veteran is an athletic freak, he still seems to be working to picking up things on the mental side and that cannot happen once the postseason rolls around.

Also, Rob Gronkowski isn't the dominant player he once was, so he cannot be counted on to pick up some of the slack either.

There are several receivers being thrown around as being available such as Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate and Pierre Garcon.

All of those players would be able to give the Patriots the depth they desperately need, so keep an eye on them Tuesday. It also should be noted how difficult the Patriots offense is to pick up, but these players are all veterans who seem like players who have been around long enough and have the desire to put in as much time as it takes to learn things quickly.

The other area of need is on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker.

New England needs to get faster at the position, which has been an issue ever since the Super Bowl last season and it still hasn’t been addressed.

Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who worked in New England for 11 years, was able to scheme up a few plays to get his running backs matched up with Patriots linebackers in space. That is a nightmare scenario for New England, as its linebackers just don’t have the speed to catch up with them.

One play that comes to mind is LeSean McCoy beating Kyle Van Noy for a 12-yard reception in the first half.

Acknowledging this is an issue basically across the entire league with running backs being able to beat linebackers in coverage, for the Patriots it just seems a lot worse and the unit needs to get a little more athletic.

Whether it’s a linebacker or even a hybrid safety, the Patriots could use another athletic body who can play all over the field.

New England will be off Tuesday following the Monday night game, but the players will be monitoring how things are going from afar.

“It’s always like a weird moment because you know at any time you can get a new teammate, which can cause somebody to get cut, or somebody can get traded,” safety Duron Harmon said to reporters. “So it’s a tough moment, but it’s part of the business. I just know, being here for as long as I’ve been here and other guys have been here, you just understand it. It’s the business part of the NFL. Everything is not always good, but you learn to roll with it and continue to move on.”

While the Patriots have won five straight games, the team could look different Wednesday morning than it will to start Tuesday morning.

As Bill Belichick always says, we’ll see how it goes.