Patriots vs. Saints: Chris Hogan must step up against New Orelans defense

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 7: Chris Hogan /

The New England Patriots enter Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints thin at the wide receiver spot.  Expect Chris Hogan to play a major role on Sunday.

Heading into the season, the New England Patriots group of Wide Receivers looked like one of the best in the league with the addition of Brandin Cooks.

After Julian Edelman’s season ending ACL tear and Danny Amendola’s Week 1 concussion, the Patriots must turn to Chris Hogan to help carry this suddenly thin positional group.

Hogan wasn’t a major part of New England’s offense in their opening night loss to the Chiefs, as he caught only 1 ball for 8 yards and added 17 rushing yards on 3 carries. However, you don’t need to think back too far into the past to remember a time when he was a focal point of the high-powered Patriots offense.

Hogan absolutely ripped apart the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary in the 2016 AFC Championship game, catching 9 passes for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns, including this magnificent flea flicker pass:

The Pats hope that he can once again have that kind of impact when they take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

A potential offensive shootout

New England will almost certainly need to put up a ton of points in order to keep up with Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and the explosive Saints offense. While Brees couldn’t power his team to victory with only 291 yards and 1 TD in the Saints 29-19 loss against the Minnesota Vikings last week, New Orleans returns home to the comfort of the Superdome for their showdown with the Patriots, a stadium in which Brees is known to put up massive numbers. That, combined with the fact that New England will also be missing linebacker Dont’a Hightower during this game, could signal bad news for the Patriots.

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Fortunately for Hogan and the Patriots, the Saints have one of the least impressive defensive units in the NFL. After losing quality cornerback Delvin Breaux for the entire season, the Saints defense allowed Sam Bradford (yes, Sam Bradford) to throw for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 1.

FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 22: Chris Hogan
FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 22: Chris Hogan /

Hogan could be the key to exploiting this porous secondary. While Brandin Cooks (in his return to New Orleans) and Rob Gronkowski will most likely be major parts of the offensive game plan, it is Hogan’s ability to catch deep balls that could be this week’s x-factor. Hogan’s big-play ability is underappreciated around the NFL, as he actually tied for the league lead with 17.9 yards per reception last year.

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This mark was equal to that of speedster Desean Jackson and ahead of other big-play receivers like Cooks, Julio Jones, and Dez Bryant. If the Patriots take their chances and throw several deep shots down the field, Hogan could put up monster numbers like he did in 2016 against Cleveland (4 receptions, 114 yards) and Baltimore (5 receptions, 129 yards, 1 TD).

Additionally, while New Orleans has one of the worst group of defensive backs in the league, this group isn’t completely devoid of talent. No. 1 Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was the team’s 2017 first round pick and was a college star at Ohio State, which had one of the best secondaries in the nation last year. Lattimore, as all rookie corners are, is certainly expected to have some significant struggles this season, but he has an immense amount of talent that he can utilize at any given moment. This makes it potentially even more necessary for Hogan to have a big game, as Lattimore is likely to focus on locking down Cooks.

Brady & Co.  shocked the league by falling to the Chiefs last week, but they can get their season back on the right track with a strong showing against New Orleans.

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Brady will need big performances from a few of his offensive weapons in order to take control of this potential shootout, and Hogan can continue to put his name on the radar of fans across the league by having a stellar outing on Sunday.