FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A suddenly dwindling wide receiver depth chart has sparked an early-season question for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots: Will they need to add another receiver to the 53-man roster?
The ranks were depleted by two on Thursday, with Malcolm Mitchell placed on injured reserve (he's eligible to return later in 2017) and Danny Amendola leaving the Patriots' loss to the Chiefs in the second half with a head injury. Amendola did not return to the game; it is assumed he will be in the concussion protocol, which creates uncertainty over his immediate availability.
That leaves Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett as the only three healthy receivers on the depth chart, and Dorsett hasn't even been with the team for a full week after being acquired in a trade from the Colts on Saturday.
Belichick was asked about his level of concern with not having enough personnel to run what the Patriots need to offensively, and he said flatly, "I'd say the biggest concern is doing a better job."
Asked the same question, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, "We can't really control those things. We like our group. It's an opportunity for us to continue to work on our continuity and consistency, our trust and dependability with one another, with those guys."
While McDaniels isn't charged with making personnel decisions, it sounds as if he'd be content to stick with what the Patriots currently have on the roster, at least in the short term, until Amendola is cleared for a return.
The issue, of course, is that they are limited with the plays they can call because Dorsett is still learning the system. And almost any receiver they deem worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster would still come with the same scheme-based limitations as Dorsett.
Dorsett would slide into Amendola's role as the No. 3 option if he is sidelined for an extended period. Belichick praised Dorsett's initial progress, but there's still a huge gap for him to close.
"He's a smart kid. He's worked really hard to pick up the offense. He's put in a lot of extra time. He seems to pick things up well," Belichick said in his pregame interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub. "Of course, you wouldn't expect him to do everything, but I think he can handle what he can handle, which is a decent chunk, and we'll see how it goes."
The Patriots will likely have to tap other areas on offense to compensate until Amendola returns (assuming he will be out at all). In Thursday's season opener, for example, they ran a handful of snaps with two running backs on the field. Perhaps that number now grows, specifically in two-minute or hurry-up situations.
The challenging part for Belichick, McDaniels & Co. is balancing the short-term and long-term pictures.
While an easy answer to bolster receiver depth could be promoting practice-squad receiver Cody Hollister, doing so would come with the risk of possibly losing another promising developmental prospect on waivers to make room for him.
Avoiding that type of situation would be ideal.
So while it's possible the Patriots could still add a wide receiver, the more likely scenario is that the team will tweak its plan to play to the strengths of its available offensive personnel. For a short while at least, the shortage at receiver is more likely to mean an increase in running back and tight-end usage than the addition of another receiver to the roster.