By Nick Shook
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Jimmy Garoppolo‘s first training camp as the starter — for the first four games — will start with a bit of an uphill battle.
The Patriots have placed Garoppolo’s top two receivers, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start training camp. This leaves the third-year passer with Chris Hogan, fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson and Nate Washington to develop relationships and timing during the beginning of camp.
While the Patriots have made a tradition of getting the most out of otherwise marginal receivers, they typically anchored their receiving corps with one stellar wideout. But those teams were also quarterbacked by Tom Brady, who won’t be available in the first four weeks of the season.
Garoppolo has appeared in 11 games with exactly zero starts. The receiving corps is deep, but there isn’t a bonafide leader of the group who is currently healthy. With Amendola and Edelman sidelined, a bigger role could be ahead for Hogan, who showed signs of promise in his last two seasons in Buffalo.
Then again, while we’ve discovered Edelman couldn’t return rented video games on time (seriously, who could?), we know he can at least go yard at Fenway, which should be encouraging for both Garoppolo and the Patriots staff. Edelman’s procedure, a minor foot operation to reinsert a screw from a previous surgery, seemed to hold up fine during that BP session in Boston, and he was expected to be ready in time for camp, so this could just be a minor precaution.
Amendola’s issue — knee and ankle injuries and subsequent offseason procedures — could take longer to overcome, opening the door for a guy like Hogan, or Mitchell, who is physically similar to Amendola but unproven. A quick look at Mitchell’s college highlights show traits the Patriots (and most teams) love: the ability to catch the ball in traffic, good hand-eye coordination and high-pointing ability (despite being 5-foot-11), explosive speed in a smaller-bodied player and a knack for finding the end zone.
Garoppolo won’t be without talented options. But his receiving corps — excluding his well-known targets at tight end and the nomadic Washington — could lack experience that an unproven quarterback would like to rely on during trying times.