With just over 24 hours until their divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots are limping into the postseason. Despite having a bye this past week, the team has lost Brandon Spikes for the year with a nagging knee injury and have officially ruled out Aaron Dobson for at least this week. Additionally, Kenbrell Thompkins is far from 100 percent and is listed as questionable for tomorrow night with a bad hip.
With the injuries at wide receiver the team is currently dealing with, they would be wise to promote Greg Orton from the practice squad to help pick up some of the slack. The average NFL fan may not even know who Orton is, but those that do know of him know he has the tools to succeed in the league.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue in 2009 by the Cincinnati Bengals, Orton has drifted from practice squad to practice squad and has never been given a chance to show what he can do at the pro level. That is not to say however, that he has had poor production while involved with football. Far from it.
Take for example his track record in college for the Boilermakers. Despite only starting 27 games in his four-year college career there, Orton caught 203 passes for 2,356 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is fifth all-time in school history in receptions and sixth all-time in yardage. Despite the college numbers he put up, he did not hear his name called on draft weekend in 2009, likely because of his lack of college starts and straight-line speed.
Although he was not employed by a pro football team, he never gave up on a career in the league. He decided to play for the Arena Football League to prove what he could do. He played a little more than a year there from 2010 to 2011, catching 120 passes for 1,588 yards and a whopping 37 touchdowns. In August of 2011, he signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but never played because the Denver Broncos signed him to their practice squad. After being released shortly thereafter, he played the 2012 season for the Arizona Rattlers.
As far as physical attributes are concerned, he is very impressive in that department as well. At 6-foot-3, 199 pounds, he is a big-bodied receiver with phenomenal hands that has the ability to go up and get the football. He registered a 38-inch vertical leap which is better than established receivers like Marques Colston, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall just to name a few.
The only real knock against him athletically is his speed. Orton ran a 4.75 40-yard dash time at the 2009 combine, which for a receiver is well below average. What he lacks in speed though, he makes up for in size and catching ability. Coming out of the draft he was known as a “possession receiver” which basically means he catches everything that is thrown his way.
While it is quite possible that he may never suit up in a game this year for the Patriots, it would be smart of them to give him a shot. Julian Edelman is a very good receiver, but in the postseason teams will know to take away the middle of the field against the Pats.
Promoting Orton would give Tom Brady a big new toy to work with on the outside and in the process, take some pressure off the slot guys. Perhaps most importantly, it would allow Dobson and Thompkins to get healthy for a potential deep playoff run.