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Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Wide receivers

01.28.14 at 8:53 am ET
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Julian Edelman had a career-year in 2013. (AP)

Julian Edelman had a career year in 2013. (AP)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’€™ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams. Now, it’€™s the wide receivers.

Depth chart: Julian Edelman (105 catches, 1,056 yards, 6 TDs), Danny Amendola (54 catches, 633 yards, 2 TDs), Kenbrell Thompkins (32 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs), Josh Boyce (9 catches, 121 yards), Aaron Dobson (37 catches, 519 yards, 4 TDs), Austin Collie (6 catches, 63 yards)

Overview: With New England searching for an offensive identity at the start of the season, it was Edelman who filled the void, immediately picking up where Wes Welker left off. The former college quarterback had one of the best starts of any receiver of the Tom Brady era, and was the first receiver in a New England uniform other than Welker to finish a season with 100-plus catches since Troy Brown turned the trick in 2001. He was sturdy and dependable — and, for the first time in his career, he stayed healthy for all 16 games. As a result, he’€™ll hit the open market as a free agent as one of the more intriguing prospects out there. (He should get more interest than he did last year, when he received lukewarm attention from the Giants before returning to New England to sign a one-year deal with the Patriots.)

The rest of the receiving corps was intermittent with its contributions: Amendola had two colossal games (at Buffalo and at Miami) where he hit double-digits in receptions, but appeared to struggle to maintain consistency with the quarterback in his first year in New England. The rookies progressed relatively well over the course of the 2013 — shaking free of the drops that dogged them early in the year — but were up-and-down at times as Brady worked to ease them into life in the NFL. (Sometimes it was quiet and done behind the scenes. Sometimes, it wasn’€™t — although, to be fair, Brady was occasionally barking in frustration over his own mistakes.) And Collie was on and off the roster throughout the season, but appeared to win the trust of Brady down the stretch and into the postseason, so much so that it shouldn’€™t be a surprise if he’€™s back in 2014.

While they got an (mostly) unexpected jolt from Edelman in 2013, there are plenty of questions about this group going forward: Will Edelman return? Can Brady and Amendola get on the same page? Can the rookies continue to progress in the right direction? And will they add depth to this group going forward with a veteran like Anquan Boldin? It won’€™t be as seismic as it was last spring — Welker signing elsewhere, the release of Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch — but this offseason certainly figures to be another interesting one as it relates to the New England receiving corps.

Best moment: Hard to pick a singular moment here, so we’€™ll go with three, in no particular order: Thompkins catching the game-winner in the final seconds to lift the Patriots to a dramatic win over the Saints; Edelman’€™s beastly 13-catch, 169-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Dolphins in Miami; and Amendola’€™s effort in the regular-season opener against the Bills which (in large part) allowed the Patriots to escape upstate New York with the win. (Honorable mention goes to this move Boyce put on Browns cornerback Buster Skrine in the New England-Cleveland game)

Worst moment: Two: Dobson had three bad drops in the home win over the Jets in September; and the stretch drive output from Amendola, who dropped off the radar screen late in the regular season and in the playoffs. (After a really impressive 10-catch outing in a December loss to the Dolphins in South Florida, he had six catches over the final four games of the season — three in the last two regular-season games and three in the postseason.)

By the numbers: Dobson’€™s 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns were the most receiving yards and touchdowns for a rookie receiver in the Brady era.

Money quote: “I think I’ve always tried to do just whatever I thought we needed to do to try to fill the spots that the coaches can’€™t always do. I’ve been around here long enough so I have an understanding of what our coaches ask. I’ve been coached really hard over the years, and I try to convey a lot of those messages as well.”€ — Brady, when asked about working as a mentor to the young receivers

Read More: Aaron Dobson, austin collie, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman
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