At this moment, the Patriots have 12, yes count them, 12 wide receivers on their roster. That’s more than both the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. The Buffalo Bills also have 12 wideouts, but that’s a team that will likely have Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and rookie EJ Manuel competing for the starting QB role. It’s a little different than having a future hall of famer at the helm.
Among these 12 Patriots receivers are some new faces to the franchise. Former St. Louis Ram Danny Amendola, former Tennessee Titan Lavelle Hawkins and former Minnesota Viking Michael Jenkins are just a few of the veteran players who will take their chances with the ever complicated Patriots playbook this preseason. In addition to the veterans, the Patriots also drafted a couple rookies to throw into the mix. Aaron Dobson out of Marshall University was drafted in the second round and Josh Boyce was drafted in the fourth round from Texas Christian University. The Patriots also signed two rookie free agents, T.J. Moe and Kenbrell Thompkins at the beginning of May.
Julian Edelman is one of the few wideout holdovers from last season and this year he’s got plenty of company. (FILE:USPresswire)
And we can’t forget about the wideouts we’ve come to know over the past few seasons. Julian Edelman remains with the team and should create some competition with Amendola for that slot receiver job. There’s also Matthew Slater, who is more of a special teams guy, but you never know what 2013 could bring. He’s got a big fan in Bill Belichick and will likely be given an opportunity to become a key guy for Tom Brady to link up with.
With the way the Patriots offseason has gone so far, the question still remains as to what we can expect from this offense. Rob Gronkowsi’s immediate future holds a fourth surgery on his broken forearm and who knows what’s going on with the running game. Josh McDaniels will have his hands full figuring out what’s going to work and what won’t with his current personnel.
The biggest thing we’ve learned as Patriots fans is that no matter who you put on the field, it’s all about the Brady connection. It doesn’t take much for Brady to lose confidence in a receiver. Take the Ochocinco experiment for example. He did not succeed in Foxboro because he couldn’t gain Brady’s trust. He simply couldn’t pick up the plays and it ended very quickly. The same can be said for Brandon Lloyd. There was plenty of hype surrounding him leading up to the season, but in the end there was nothing to show for it. What the Patriots did have was Wes Welker. Brady trusted him with just about every crucial pass in every key moment. There were some drops but Brady knew and had that connection with Welker that you just don’t see very often. In the past there were the glory days with Deion Branch (circa Super Bowl XXXIX), Troy Brown and even Randy Moss, but its been a while since the Patriots had that downfield threat.
The introduction of veteran players will probably be the most interesting part of this wide receiver conundrum to watch. The Patriots cannot and will not keep all 12 on the roster. We’ve seen veterans struggle with the Patriots way of doing things before and we’ll likely see it again. It can be difficult to forget what you’ve learned and start fresh, especially when you’ve got Brady throwing the ball and Belichick in your ear.
The rookies on the other hand, could stand a chance, especially Dobson. Now this is based purely off of where he comes from…Marshall University. The Patriots have had just a little bit of luck with players out Marshall, the key names being Brown and Moss. Dobson has good hands and a tall frame. The Patriots need a guy who can get up above the defense and make those endzone grabs. With a clean mind and no other NFL plays to confuse him, he could very well have a respectable first year. We saw what happened when Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski were rookies, it changed the way we thought about an offense. Hopefully this year Dobson can change the way we think about rookie receivers.
No matter what happens, there will be plenty of passes to go around this preseason as the Patriots prepare for a new look on offense. Brady and McDaniels will have their work cut out for them as they search for the perfect blend of veteran presence and rookie talent to lead them through a brand new season.