With the total revamping of the wide receiver portion of the roster, the New England Patriots enter the 2013 season with just one player, Julian Edelman who caught a pass at the position from quarterback Tom Brady last season.
Wes Welker signed as a free agent with Denver, Brandon Lloyd was released, Deion Branch is a free agent and Donte’ Stallworth signed with the Redskins. There are a lot of new faces in Foxboro at WR and those players will be fighting for snaps and to gain the trust of Brady as the team readies itself for training camp in July.
Free agents Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones and Lavelle Hawkins have been brought in to compete for playing time and roster slots. Additionally the team drafted Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in the 2013 NFL Draft as well as inking rookie free agents Kenbrell Thompkins and Mark Harrison to deals.
Both Harrison and Boyce missed OTAs and mini-camp due to foot injuries as well as Edelman who was in a walking boot due to a recurrence of a foot injury from last season. The rest are working to get a understanding of the Patriots system and work on that all important trust with Brady. There remains a lot of work to do to prepare for the season.
Brady Not Worried- What there is not however is a sense of panic inside Foxboro. Many fans and even regular media members are predicting a return of the pedestrian Patriots offense of 2006 at the wide receiver position.
Tom Brady stated a few weeks ago on WEEI that it would take until half way through training camp before the team felt they would have a feeling on who had the inside track on stepping up and being the go-to guy, although Amendola is already entrenched as the new safety valve at the WR position.
Brady added more after Wednesday’s session, “I don’t worry about much these days” he said. Brady, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are preaching patience as it takes a while to come together and gel as a unit. But still many doubters exist.
2006 Stats Vs 2013 Projected Roster- While anything is possible, the 2006 comparisons are way off. Reche Caldwell led the team with 61 receptions. Tight end Ben Watson was second with 49 catches and 3 TDs. The total production from the TE position was 81 catches, after Watson, Daniel Graham had 21 receptions and David Thomas with 11 more.
I think even with the injury concerns with Rob Gronkowski at the present time, the tight ends for the Patriots should far exceed 81 catches and six TDs. The Patriots are stacked at the position with Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie free agent Zach Sudfield who’s been turning heads thus far this off-season.
It would be a shock if Amendola doesn’t get over 75+ receptions in this offense. And the rookie WRs should be able to bring a lot to the table given the offense relies so much on the tight ends to open things up. Jones and Jenkins are veterans that have had decent production from QBs with far less ability than Brady, so while the WR position may not be the best ever, they should be in decent shape.
Right now, before the pads come on and the inevitable injuries occur, this is how I see the WR/TE roster playing out.
*Zach Sudfeld if they choose to carry an extra body if Gronkowski’s back injury forces him to the PUP list.
The team should be in good shape entering the season, an improving running game coupled with plenty of weapons at tight end should open some mismatches in the secondary for the WRs to find room to maneuver.
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