Patriots WR Corps In Trouble
With the Patriots mandatory mini-camp now over and the all-important training camp over a month away, now is what many consider the slow time in the NFL. It gives a chance for everyone to reflect what’s gone on since the end of the league year to now and put everything into context.
For the Patriots, a lot has changed over the last four months, but no position has seen more change than the wide receiving corps. Tom Brady, one of the most prolific passers of all time, will be sporting a new group of starting receivers since the 2007 season when the team acquired Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
This time around, however, the Patriots receiving corps is made up of castoffs, journeymen and injury-prone players. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston reported at the conclusion of mini-camp that it was, “Danny Amendola, and then a noticeable drop-off.”
With Welker, Brady’s security blanket, over in Denver, Brady has never seen extensive snaps with any of the WRs on the roster except Julian Edelman, who is nursing an injury. The two rookie receivers, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, have yet to make an impact on the practice field.
It’s not all bad news as Amendola has looked very good and seems to be building a rapport with Brady, according to many reports. The biggest concern with him is the fact he’s missed 20 games over the last two seasons.
The tight ends and running backs also serve as receivers in the Patriots offense. However, with the five surgeries Gronkowski has endured and the recent troubles with the law for Hernandez, there are some doubts either will be available for the Patriots.
Brady’s favorite pass-catching running back, Danny Woodhead, also left the team this offseason, bolting for the San Diego Chargers. That leaves third-year player Shane Vereen and free-agent signing Leon Washington in the pass-catching role. Washington is an older back who doesn’t have a lot left, while Vereen has showed potential but has yet to put it all together.
There is a lot of uncertainty with the Patriots pass catchers. Brian Billick recently said on the NFL Network that Brady should be elevated to “Sainthood” if he can put up the same numbers as last year. In fact, if the passing game doesn’t start clicking it could become a weakness for the team early on.
For that reason, it’s time for the Patriots to bring back some familiar faces that Brady is comfortable with. Randy Moss, Deion Branch, and Jabar Gaffney all remain free agents, and all three have a good rapport with Brady and understand the complex Patriots offense.
The Patriots need some type of continuity at the WR position with so many players not breaking through so far. They shouldn’t give up on all of them so quickly, but if the problems continue to linger into training camp, at least one of these veterans needs to be signed. If that is not done, then the Patriots passing attack could be one of the worst in the Belichick era.