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Patriots by position: Wide receiver

01.30.11 at 11:41 am ET
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As the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll continue to present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs, the linebackers, the defensive line, special teams, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends. Now, here’€™s the wide receivers:

On the roster: Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker. (Buddy Farnham ended the season on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts ‘€” Total receptions: Welker, 86; Branch (48 with Patriots, 61 overall). Total receiving yards: Welker, 848; Branch (706 with Patriots, 818 overall). Yards per catch (minimum 20 receptions): Tate, 18.0. Touchdowns: Welker, 7; Branch (5 with Patriots, 6 overall). Best single game: Two favorites for us: The first was Branch against the Lions on Thanksgiving, when he flat-out torched Detroit cornerback Alphonso Smith for three catches (two of them touchdowns) and 113 yards. The second was Welker’€™s eight-catch, 115-yard performance on Dec. 12 in the snow against the Bears in Chicago.

2010, in three sentences: Remade. The October trade of Randy Moss to Minnesota changed the look of the New England receiving corps ‘€” instead of the traditional deep threat, it was more reliant on midrange and intermediate routes. It was a success, as the Patriots’€™ passing game became one of the most difficult to defend over the second half of the season, thanks in large part to the duo of Branch and Welker.
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Read More: Brandon Tate, Buddy Farnham, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman

Observations from the Senior Bowl

01.30.11 at 6:00 am ET
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There’€™s no denying the importance of the Senior Bowl in the pre-draft process, and there is no denying that there’€™s always plenty to read into. After a week of practices, the game was finally played Saturday, with the South coming away with a 24-10 victory.

What does Saturday’€™s game mean for the Patriots, who hold four picks in the first three rounds of April’€™s draft? If recent history suggests anything, it could mean plenty.

In four of the last six years, the Patriots used their top pick on a player who participated in the Senior Bowl (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather, Logan Mankins), so perhaps the next Patriots draftee was on display Saturday in Mobile, Ala.

Here’€™s what we learned after a week of practices and Saturday’€™s game:

Cameron Jordan might not be available when the Patriots pick at No. 17

Throughout the week, the Cal defensive end really showed that he could be gone before the Patriots can nab him at No. 17. Jordan has great speed for a guy who figures to stay on the line in a 3-4, and could cause plenty of matchup problems at the next level. At 6-foot-4 1/8 and 287 pounds, the Patriots would probably prefer he put on a little weight by the combine, but when all is said and done, it might take a move up in the draft for him to even be in the picture.

On Saturday, Jordan made his presence felt by deflecting passes and jamming his way into the backfield, forcing quarterbacks to leave the collapsed pocket. Something that should be a huge plus in the eyes of a team like the Patriots is that he has three years of experience as a 3-4 end, meaning he’€™s no stranger to playing the five-technique.

As a whole, this draft features a fair number of guys capable of stepping in and contributing on the end for 3-4 teams, something that hasn’€™t been the case in recent years. The question is whether Jordan, who boosted his stock throughout the week, is now out of reach for one of the teams that could use him.

Pass-rushers didn’€™t disappoint

Even without the impressive crop of pass-rushing underclassmen, Saturday served as further proof that there are plenty of solid options for teams who need help getting after the quarterback. Texas A&M’€™s Von Miller furthered his case for top 10 consideration by harassing Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick and holding up against the North’€™s running game. Despite the Butkus Award winner’€™s solid performance, he’€™s still tough to see as a Patriot given his tendency to be one-dimensional and lack of size at 6-foot-2 5/8. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron Jordan, Von Miller,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey

01.29.11 at 5:02 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Mike Pouncey

Position: Center/Guard

School: Florida

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 310 pounds

Achievements: 2009 AP Second-Team All-American, 2009 Pro Football Weekly All-America Team, AP First-Team All-SEC selection, 2009 Phil Steele First-Team All-SEC honoree, 2008 Coaches’ second-team All-SEC selection, 2008 AP All-SEC Honorable Mention, 2008 CollegeFootballNews.com All-Sophomore.

What he brings: With Logan Mankins suddenly feeling unwanted in New England, Pouncey could bring another potentially dominant interior offensive lineman into the fold, blending power, size, agility and versatility. He started his Gators career as a defensive tackle before moving to right guard in his sophomore season and eventually replacing his twin – Maurkice Pouncey – as center last season. As a true freshman in 2007, Pouncey saw action in every game at defensive tackle, starting the final four games, with eight tackles and an interception against Chad Henne and Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.

Pouncey moved back to the offensive side of the ball in 2008, starting the next 28 games at right guard and earning postseason All-SEC accolades from conference coaches following each season. Pouncey once again made a position change in 2010, sliding left to take over his brother’s former spot at center. Like his brother, Maurkice, the No. 18 overall pick of the 2010 draft, Mike is a good fit at any of the three interior positions, though the conversion didn’t come without problems.

Pouncey struggled with inaccurate shotgun snaps the first few games of the season and had one in the Capital One Bowl against Penn State on Jan. 1. But he also showed the very valuable ability to get 15 yards downfield quickly and wipe out a would-be tackler, freeing up his QB for a TD run. NFL teams value a versatile interior OL and he rates as the top center available.

Where the Patriots could get him: With the 28th or 33rd pick.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Florida Gators football, Logan Mankins, Maurkice Pouncey

Patriots by position: Tight end

01.29.11 at 2:37 pm ET
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As the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll continue to present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs, the linebackers, the defensive line, special teams, quarterbacks and running backs. Now, here’€™s the tight end position:

On the roster: Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez. (Carson Butler ended the season on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts ‘€” Total receptions: Hernandez, 45; Gronkowski, 42. Total receiving yards: Hernandez, 563 yards; Gronkowski, 546 yards. Touchdowns: Gronkowski, 10; Hernandez, 6. Best single game: For Hernandez, he announced his presence at the NFL level in Week 2 when he proved to be a matchup nightmare for the Jets, catching six balls for 101 yards. As for Gronkowski, he had several big games, but our favorite was against the Steelers ‘€” a week after he committed a few big errors in a loss to Cleveland, he had five catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Pittsburgh.

2010, in three sentences: Amazing. After an offseason where the Patriots performed an extreme makeover on the tight end spot, the rookies ‘€” and Crumpler, who was an invaluable mentor for both of them ‘€” became an important part of the New England passing game. The two youngsters had an occasional problem disappearing in big games, but after years of shuffling tight ends through Foxboro, the position appears to be set nicely for the next several seasons.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler, Carson Butler, Rob Gronkowski

Senior Bowl live chat starting at 4 p.m.

01.29.11 at 12:48 pm ET
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Join D.J. Bean and Brandon Lawrence in chatting in our virtual press box during this year’s Senior Bowl. All week long WEEI.com has brought you ‘Potential Patriots,’ looking at draftees-to-be who could potentially be in a Pats’ uniform next season. Now is your opportunity to see many of them in action as they participate in the All-Star Game in Mobile, Ala. To join, click below …

Senior Bowl Live Chat

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft,

Wes Welker to Peyton Manning: ‘Your arm is not the same’

01.29.11 at 11:54 am ET
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Patriots receiver Wes Welker wore a video camera on his helmet during the AFC’s Pro Bowl practice in Honolulu, resulting in some entertaining footage of the four-time Pro Bowler on NFL.com, including some footage of Welker working with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. At one point, the two appear to be discussing a ball on which Manning underthrew Welker, with the wide receiver joking, “I know — your arm is not the same. I understand.”

Presumably, Welker was referring to Manning’s arm strength as compared to that of Patriots QB Tom Brady.

To see the clip, click here.

Read More: Peyton Manning, pro bowl, Tom Brady, Wes Welker

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama WR Julio Jones

01.29.11 at 10:06 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

JULIO JONES

Position: Wide Receiver

School: Alabama

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 211 pounds

Achievements: Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award (2010), Ray Perkins Outstanding Receiver Award (2009), SEC Freshman of the Year (2008), First team Freshman All-American (2008), Second team All-SEC (2008), SEC Freshman of the Year (2008).

What he brings: Jones has the body and the speed, but he is by no means the complete package ‘€“ yet. After a successful and consistent college career in which he proved he could be depended on by a pro style offense, Jones must now prove that his route-running, and most importantly, hands, are where they need to be for him to be a true No. 1 receiver on an NFL squad. He had seven touchdowns last season at Alabama and 1,133 receiving yards.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17

Notes: The choice to leave Alabama a year early probably wasn’€™t a hard one for Jones, as he made the most of his three years of college ball. A starter since his freshman year, Jones led the Crimson Tide in receptions every year he was there. There’€™s also the Nick Saban connection, which can’€™t be overlooked.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Potential Patriots,
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