NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The New England Patriots took an aggresive approach this off-season to upgrade and add depth to the Wide Receiver position. The result of those free agent signings is a roster that is incredibly deep with talented and proven receivers.
The competition is going to be fierce and some good players are going to have to be cut eventually. How will the depth chart shake out and who could sneak onto the 53 man roster?
Continue reading to see how we break down the Patriots wide receivers prior to training camp.
Current Roster (11): Deion Branch, Britt Davis, Jeremy Ebert Julian Edelman, Jabar Gaffney, Jesse Holley, Brandon Lloyd, Matt Roark, Matthew Slater, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker
What To Watch For: How will the addition of Brandon Lloyd impact the offensive attack? Can Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth pick up where they left off in 2007? Does Deion Branch have anything left and can Dante Stallworth beat him out? Will Julian Edelman finally make an impact on offense? How good is Jeremy Ebert and can he make the roster? Which receiver can double as a kick or punt returner? What types of personnel groupings is new Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels using?
Who Makes the Final 53: The way that I see it, six receivers will make the roster. There is even an outside possibility they could keep seven depending on Special Teams contributions. Currently four receivers are locks for the roster, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Matthew Slater. Deion Branch and Julian Edelman have the inside track for the final two roster spots. Essentially there are four receivers battling it out for two roster spots.
Bubble Watch: Deion Branch, Dante Stallworth, Julian Edelman and Jeremy Ebert.
Brandon Lloyd was the Patriots “big” free agent signing and has been a star under Josh McDaniels tutelage. The Patriots are counting on him making an impact and adding a dynamic threat to the wide receiver core. The Patriots haven’t had a WR like Brandon Lloyd since Bill Belichick has been coach. Lloyd has great hands, is a great route runner and can impact the passing game in all areas of the field.
Wes Welker is playing out the season on the 9.5 million dollar franchise tag and is the heart and soul of the passing attack. With the return of Lloyd and Gaffney, as well as the two stud tight ends, some of the work load should be lifted off of Welker’s shoulders. As has been the case since 2007 as Wes Welker goes, so does the Patriots offense.
Jabar Gaffney might be the most underrated signing of the off-season. He gives the Patriots a legitimate #3 WR, which is something they have lacked since Gaffney left after the 2008 season. His rapport with Tom Brady has been well documented and he should have no trouble acclimating to the offense.
Matthew Slater, even though he doens’t contribute on offense will be on the roster because he is one of the best special teamers in the entire league. Deion Branch will most likely be on the roster unless he really shows he has lost even more speed over the summer. The sixth wide receiver battle will be between Stallworth, Edelman and Ebert.
Many people are willing to hand the roster spot right over to Edelman, because he can return punts and play defense. But, Jeremy Ebert could easily steal the roster spot from him. Ebert is a polished and productive player who the Patriots would love to stash on the practice squad this year. The problem with that is there is a good chance he wouldn’t make it through waivers and onto the squad. Stallworth may have an uphill battle onto the roster, due to his age and lack of production the past few years. He will have to beat out Deion Branch to get on the roster.
The Patriots have also have Britt Davis, Jesse Holley and Matt Roark on the roster. With the depth and experience on the roster I can’t see any scenario in which one of these three make the roster. Of the three Britt Davis with his size and athleticism has the best shot. The reports from mini-camp and off season work outs were that Britt Davis was really impressive. Davis is a candidate for the practice squad.
How ever the depth chart develops the position is much more talented and much deeper than last year. It will give the Patriots even more weapons for QB Tom Brady to play with and will be even tougher for opposing defenses to scheme against.