Friday’s NFL: Pats retooled WR unit brings excitement

By Kyle Hightower
Associated Press

Foxborough, Mass. — The Patriots have had more than their share of luck when it comes to getting the most out of their receivers during the Bill Belichick era.

Last season that guy was Chris Hogan, a modestly used player during his first four NFL seasons in Buffalo. Unsure of their long-term plan for him, he went into free agency last offseason in search of a new home.

He found it in New England, where his work ethic and big play ability were rewarded with 14 starts, a career-high 680 receiving yards and the first two playoff touchdowns of his career.

This season, the Patriots are hoping Brandin Cooks can have similar success as he joins a loaded receiving corps that includes Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and second-year wideout Malcolm Mitchell.

“There’s competition everywhere,” Edelman said. “Competition makes the best out of players. We’ve got a room with a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, so it’s going to make us better.”

The addition of 23-year-old Cooks not only brings in a player that is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard receiving seasons with the Saints, but injects more youth to a unit that was beginning to trend older.

Edelman and Amendola have been two of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite and most dependable targets in recent years, but both entered training camp at 31 years old. Hogan is 28 and Mitchell just turned 24.

While both Amendola and Edelman are expected to continue to play big roles in the offense, having a deep ball threat like Hogan and elusive players in the open field like Cooks and Mitchell give the offense more dimension.

Extra points

Former Lions left tackle Riley Reiff has been missing from practice due to an undisclosed injury.

Reiff left the field on a cart during the first full-team practice of training camp Thursday in Mankato, Minn.

He was not present Friday, but coach Mike Zimmer said Reiff remained at the facility at Minnesota State University. Zimmer declined to divulge the injury, but he said he doesn’t believe it’s serious.

Reiff, who signed a five-year contract worth as much as $58.75 million with $26.3 million guaranteed with the Vikings, left the Lions as a free agent.

The Vikings used five different left tackles in 2016.

... All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald hasn't reported to the Rams’ training camp, and general manager Les Snead says the club will continue negotiations on a contract extension.

... The 49ers signed No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas to a four-year deal and now have all 10 of the team’s 2017 draft picks under contract.

... The Titans agreed to a multi-year extension with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

... The Chiefs traded inside linebacker D.J. Alexander to the Seahawks for inside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.

... Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray is out six to eight weeks with a torn ligament in his left wrist.