Julian Edelman most likely will miss the first four games of the season, so the Patriots will need a slot receiver to fill in during that stretch. That player might be a player most haven’t even heard of.

Riley McCarron, the Providence Journal points out, could be another Danny Amendola.

McCarron was released by Houston after the preseason last year, but the Patriots stuck him on their practice squad and have been developing him for a year. So as far as learning the offense, McCarron has a big head start on rookie Braxton Berrios.

And the article points out that McCarron and Berrios are the only true slot receivers on the roster other than Edelman. The Patriots also signed Jordan Matthews, who’s played some in the slot, but he’s a different kind of player – a big body, rather than a small quick receiver (like Edelman, Amendola and Wes Welker).

Like those veteran receivers, McCarron and Berrios both have experience returning punts. And all of these receivers have similar size. McCarron is 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.

McCarron didn’t play much his first three years at Iowa. He caught 42 passes for 517 yards and 4 TDs as a senior, with an additional touchdown on a punt return.

Last summer in Houston, McCarron was working under Welker (who is an assistant coach there). And during his four months with the Patriots, he shadowed Amendola.

“Learning from any of those great receivers is an awesome opportunity for me,” McCarron says.

When the Patriots take the field in the preseason, I will be very interested to see what McCarron and Berrios look like (and where they’re appearing in the batting order). One of these slot receivers could have nice plug-in value in September.

—Ian Allan