August 04, 2010
Torry Holt the Odd Man Out?
BY: Mike Saver
The offense once named "The Greatest Show on Turf" has only one active member left, Torry Holt. While some of his old Rams teammates are enjoying the summer, relaxing with their families, Holt is grinding it out in the hot sun catching passes from Tom Brady and lining up opposite Randy Moss.
The Patriots signed Holt this off season in hopes to bolster a receiver corps that - after the Galloway disappointment and Welker's injury - was looking dangerously thin. While the tenured vet doesn't have quite the same physical tools that made him part of that offensive powerhouse in St. Louis 10 years ago, he's got the knowledge and experience that make all veterans valuable.
"I don't have the 4.3 speed I had when I came out 12 years ago", Holt told the media. "But I have more patience and poise and I can dissect film of what defenses are trying to do."
First, there's quarterback turned receiver, Julian Edelman, who pleasantly surprised New England fans last year. He debuted in the pre-season by returning a kickoff for a touchdown and then filled in nicely while Welker sat injured on the sidelines during the playoff game to finish the season.
Edelman also showed some toughness that resonated with Pats fans who've gotten used to rooting for players like Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison. After missing a couple games due to a broken arm, Edelman grinded it out and took the field donning a cast, reeling in a touchdown catch against the Indianapolis Colts.
Even in the horrific and infamous playoff loss to Baltimore, Edelman was one of the few bright spots for the Patriots - catching both of the team's only touchdowns. His impressive performance earned him the nickname, "Mini-Welker", despite the fact that Edelman is listed as a full inch taller than the 5-9 Welker. With a full year at his new position under his belt, there are high hopes for the receiver in 2010.
Compared to the other two young receivers on the Pats' depth chart, Edelman is the proven one. However, Brandon Tate and Taylor Price have been impressive thus far in training camp. Spectators and media-members have been very high on this year's third round pick, Price, who has been likened to a young David Givens. Last year's third rounder, Tate, is expected to be a strong contributor this season and the man most likely to wrestle the spot across from Randy Moss away from Holt. He was originally expected to not even be available to the Patriots in the draft. He had first round talent but fell to New England in the third round because of an injury that held him out of most of his final season with the Tar Heels.
"I think this young man Tate could surprise some people" said Robert Kraft back in March of this year. Tate missed all of training camp last season, finally coming on the roster in October against the Buccaneers but was injured the next game against Miami without yet reeling in a single catch. After watching the whole season from the sideline, Tate is much better prepared to take the field this year. "His individual techniques and route running and receiving skills have improved and his understanding of offensive concepts, that's way ahead of where it was last year", praised Coach Belichick.
Tate's impressed not only his coach but the fans attending training camp as well. The Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport writes, "One example: He sent the fans at Gillette Stadium into delirium last night with a miraculous diving catch in the end zone while being tightly covered by Devin McCourty, the rookie corner taken in the first round of this year's draft."
As ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss points out, the true test for these young receivers will come when they face a jam at the line of scrimmage. However, if they continue to impress, Torry Holt could find himself the odd man out when it comes time for final cuts.
Typically, the Patriots have kept 4-5 wide receivers on roster and an additional 1 or 2 for special teams. For example: The dominant 2007 offense had 4 receiver targets, Donte' Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Wes Welker and Randy Moss. Troy Brown and Chad Jackson were on roster but saw little playing time and 0 catches. Kelley Washington was never a part of the offense but a integral part of the special teams squad.
For Holt to have a chance, he's going to have to hope that either the Patriots choose to keep 6 receivers on roster (not including Aiken or Slater who will likely be kept on for special teams) or that one of the younger guys starts to deteriorate. With the added excitement around the new tight end squad and receiver like, Aaron Hernandez, it's not likely the the team would use valuable roster spots on so many receivers - especially with a thin group at outside linebacker and guard.
Overall the future doesn't look too bright for Holt, but the Pats may just want to keep him around for the experience he brings to the table. Despite the challenges ahead, Holt remains confident.
"I could get real ego-ish and say, 'Forget about it. I've done my thing. Check the record books.' Or I can take the approach I've always taken. I've always been humble and came in with the approach I've got to make the squad every year. I don't see it any different being here. I'm in a new organization. They don't know anything about me."
This is all bad news for Holt, but the fact that a player with over 900 catches and 13,000 yards could be squeezed out of the roster is a good sign for Patriots fans. The passing offense should be as exciting as ever in 2010.
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