By: Russ Goldman
Jabar Gaffney is not a wide receiver that got huge numbers with the Patriots. However, he picked up the slack from other wide-outs in his time here in New England. With the addition of Chad Johnson, who will be that fourth wide receiver that can be counted on to be productive? Which Patriots wide receiver will be this season’s Jabar Gaffney?
Gaffney in his time with the Patriots was pretty productive. In 2007, there is no question that he became a third option for Brady over Dante Stallworth as the season went on. He only caught 36 receptions in that regular season, but many of those catches were important. Whether it was a touchdown reception against the Steelers or the Chargers in the playoffs, he made more of a contribution to the Patriots than most give him credit for.
In 2009, he left for the Broncos, and I think the Patriots actually missed him. The passing game became centered around Moss and Welker with no real third or fourth option.
This season, the Patriots will have Welker, Branch and Johnson. But, they will probably need someone else to contribute. So I ask the question today, which Patriots wide-out will be another option for Tom Brady in the passing game?
Will Brandon Tate step up this year, or will it be someone else? (FILE:Icon/SMI)
There are 3 players who have the opportunity to be that key contributor for the Patriots this season. The candidates are Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price. Which one will step up in the coming months?
Julian Edelman has already shown flashes that he has the ability to be a wide receiver to be counted upon. His first season in 2009, he caught 37 passes in the regular season. In the playoff game against the Ravens, he stepped up huge filling in for Welker. He caught 6 passes, and had 2 touchdowns.
However, Edelman took a step backwards last season. He was injured for a chunk of the year, and only had 7 receptions. As he heads into his third season, now that he’s healthy again it makes you wonder which Edelman will be on display this season for the New England Patriots?
Brandon Tate has the potential to be a #2 wide receiver in the NFL. He is a 3rd round draft pick. However, at some point, he is going to need to raise his game. Last year was a perfect opportunity to show his promise. Unfortunately, other than in the kick return game, the third year receiver was inconsistent for the majority of the season. He had 24 receptions for 432 yards. He averaged 18 yards per reception. Tate has blazing speed, but he is going to have to really learn how to separate himself from his defender on a consistent basis. This season could be a make or break for him with the Patriots.
Taylor Price is a 2nd year receiver who also has potential to be a quality player in this league. He is another 3rd round draft pick. However, in his first season, he mostly did not make the active roster on gameday. He showed some ability in the pre-season, and in the regular season finale against Miami where he caught 3 passes.
He is 6 feet tall, weighs 205 pounds, and has decent size for a receiver. The Patriots have had their share of small receivers. Price doesn’t fit in that category, and that is probably to his advantage. The Patriots could use more taller and physical receivers. It is time for Price to show if he can be that player.
So with everyone focused on the three main wide-outs for the Patriots, do not sleep on the battle for the 4th receiver spot. Just remember Gaffney, and the contributions he made in this offense a few years ago.
These three young receivers have an excellent opportunity to make a difference this season. I would recommend focusing on these players throughout pre-season. It could be an interesting battle to win that position.