|Patriots by position: Wide receiver||01.22.10 at 12:14 am ET|
Over the next couple of weeks, as the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’ll present a snapshot of the team by position. Earlier in the week, we started with the running backs and tight ends. Today, the wide receivers are in the spotlight.
On the roster: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Sam Aiken, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Isaiah Stanback, Brandon Tate. (Darnell Jenkins is on the practice squad.)
Stat standouts: Leading receivers: Welker, 123 catches for 1,348 yards and 4 TDs; Moss, 83 catches for 1,264 yards and 13 TDs. Yards Per Catch: Aiken, 16.3 yards per catch. Best games: Moss, nine catches, 179 yards, 2 TDs vs. Indianapolis on Nov. 15; Welker, 15 catches, 192 yards vs. New York Jets on Nov. 22.
2009, in three sentences: Schizophrenic. There were absolutely electric moments from many receivers (Moss against Indianapolis and Miami, Welker against the Jets and Jacksonville). There also were some subpar performances (Moss against Carolina) that may have been exacerbated by injury, and left some questioning No. 81′s effort.
By the numbers: Welker has 346 receptions since the start of the 2007 season, the best in the NFL in that time. His average of 7.5 catches per game in that same span is best in the league over the last three years.
Money quotes (tie): “I feel like we’ve had distractions almost every year. This (year was) probably the least amount of distractions we’ve had between … I don’t know … all the stuff: Spygate, Tom getting hurt. All sorts of deals that have gone on in the past. This is a … I don’t know — maybe we need more drama or something. I don’t know.” — Welker, speaking with radio station WAAF shortly after the end of the season.
“Wes, he’s got a lot of heart. He’s a heck of a football player. He shows up every day to work. I know he’s been banged up, but he fights through it, returns punts, catches the ball, blocks. He goes into the corner after the puck, too. He’s not just scoring goals; he’s going in there and digging it out in the corner. He’s a tough football player. He reminds me a lot of another slot receiver that we had here for a long time, kind of the same way.” — Patriots coach Bill Belichick after a 10-catch, 105-yard performance for Welker against Carolina on Dec. 13.
The skinny: It was an interesting year for the New England receivers: Who would have thought that in hindsight, the Patriots’ worst offseason decision would involve not re-signing Jabar Gaffney? New England spent most of the regular season trying to find a suitable replacement. It started with Greg Lewis, Joey Galloway, etc., and ended with Aiken, Stanback and Edelman being forced into the breach at key moments. All played as well as could be expected, but they were in over their heads. As a result of a missing dependable third option at receiver, Welker and Moss had to carry more of the load. Barring a free agent pickup or an impact draftee, the search will likely continue into 2010.
In addition, the New England receiving corps faces other questions going forward, including the overall health of Welker, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the regular-season finale against the Texans (a reported tear of the ACL and MCL in his left knee). With Welker’s status for 2010 a question mark, Tate and Edelman likely will be counted on to contribute heavily in 2010. Welker’s status also casts a shadow over Moss — can he execute at the same high level without Welker on the field with him? The answers will likely come next season, the final year of Moss’ current contract.
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