New England Patriots: Wide Receiver- Who makes the team?

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ...

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker on the field prior to an away game against the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots won 49-26. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wes Welker This is a given that he will make the team, it is just about when he arrives. His contract dispute will no doubt hold things up and draw some attention that the Patriots do not want.

Brandon Lloyd Although I am not a fan of this signing just because everyone is treating it like this guy is Randy Moss V.2 but he’s not people, and neither was Chad “Ocho” Johnson and we shouldn’t expect those kind of results. Lloyd has talent, and he knows McDaniels’ offense so for those reasons I see him landing a spot.

Deion Branch He will make it but his role will be heavily reduced but he will be competing for time playing the second WR. Even if he does not make the team, I do not see Branch going to another team but might pull a Tedy Bruschi and retire.

Jabar Gaffney Still has some in the tank and will beat out Stallworth for a spot on the team. Gaffney seems to have Stallworth’s number because he beat him out back in 2007 here with the Patriots and again with the Redskins last season.

Chad Ochocinco This might be an unpopular decision to say that Chad will make the team over Donte. Why? Well, because if Chad actually gets the playbook and plays well then he has more talent left than Donte ever had to begin with. I think that we put too much into knowing the playbook and sometimes forget talent. Chad may have diminished skills compared to two years ago but that is still more than Donte ever had.

On the outside looking in

Donte Stallworth Donte was beat out for time by Gaffney so we know that will most likely happen again so it will come down to Chad versus Donte and like I mentioned Chad I believe will win. Donte, while he does know the playbook, never had as much talent or was a top talent like Chad was. Now, of course, Chad has to get the playbook down but I am going on a limb to say that he will. Maybe I am basing too much of my decision on the past but that is okay with me.

Anthony Gonzalez While Gonzalez was a decent signing because of the talent he does actually have, he has some injury issues and I believe he will somehow end up being injured and either be cut just like Torry Holt a few years ago. Most likely he’ll get hurt stepping out of his car or mowing the lawn. (joking on the last part) If he does make it and doesn’t get injured then he could help this team, I’m just not holding my breath.

Julian Edelman I don’t think he will make the team as a Wide Receiver but will definitely make it in some other form. Whether that be on special teams or defense or trick plays, he will find his place. That’s not to say that he does not have some sort of future as a Wide Receiver but as of right now the depth chart changes his position.

Jeremy Ebert– He will most likely be a practice squad guy for the first year or so and will have to prove himself in order to stay on this team. He has a good chance to make the team in the future as an Edelman or Slater kind of player but with the failures of Taylor Price, Chad Jackson, Brandon Tate and the millions (and millions) of the other players I am being cautious.

Overall Chad will have to prove himself to make this team but that is obvious. You can call it a “mark” move of me to choose him over Donte but I just have a feeling that Chad will have it together and if he does not then we’ll be just fine. We are loaded at Wide Receiver and if Chad does not have it again then he will not make it and someone else will step up. This is a win-win situation for Bill and the Patriots.

So what is my quick analysis of the running back and fullback positions? Well I believe that Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Tony Fiammetta will make the team. Spencer Larsen and Eric Kettani I think will make the team in some other position whether it be special teams or practice squad member. As for Joseph Addai I am not sure what kind of role he will play on this team. I just hope that it doesn’t hinder the development of Ridley and Vereen because honestly they can’t progress and get better if they aren’t playing on the field during games that matter. With that being said I thought the signing was decent because they need someone who can come in and help Ridley, Vereen and even Woodhead develop but hopefully not hurt them. I think that Ridley and Vereen are talented and have the potential to be great running backs but not as practice squad guys.

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NFL Free Agency Frenzy and the Patriots options

New England Patriots logo

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Free Agency is going to begin today and so let’s look at some of the options for the Patriots, in my eyes.

Wide Receiver: Brandon Lloyd is not your savior New England Patriots fans. Can he be productive in the Josh McDaniels offensive system? Yes, because of what he did in Denver during McDaniels’ time there as a Head Coach but do not forget that before that year he was a journeyman. No that doesn’t mean he followed Journey around, he was a fill-in, a role player and not an impact player by any means. He is almost 31 years old and had his career year just a few years ago and I ask 31 is when skills start to decline right? So what happens when your declining skills were limited anyway? Is he a good player? Yeah, he is a great role player and can fit into this system most likely but he is not going to be your savior in my opinion. I do still think that he could end up being a bust signing, much like Ocho. However, I do believe that Chad has a chance of having a good year to rebound his career.

Who’d I’d rather have?: Danny Amendola, has a 2nd round tender on him by the Rams but could be a Wes Welker type of WR. Mike Wallace, Eddie Royal, Donte Stallworth. I also hope that they bring back Deion Branch.

Running Back: The Law Firm needs a new client. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a good player for the Patriots and considering he was an undrafted rookie when Belichick signed him, it was a steal. He out played the Patriots 1st round pick Laurence Maroney and most likely his play gave Bill the green light to cut ties with Maroney. He has not even fumbled yet, which makes you sit and think… how did every team miss this person in the draft? However, he is not a home run running back and not going to break any records or even really be a running back that will be the premier back.  The Patriots drafted last season Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the second and third round and played little last season but showed signs that they are both good running backs and deserve time with the ball. So, right now, you committed two picks to those two, you have Danny Woodhead, and all three of these players will make an impact on the offense so it makes Green-Ellis expendable. Maybe if you can get him cheap but honestly I think that signing him will just impact negatively on the development of Vereen and Ridley, who with consistent time on the field could be better than Green-Ellis. That is the last thing you want, to hinder any development, because I believe that is what happened with Taylor Price. They want Vereen and Ridley to get better? They need to actually see the field, and not just during practice.

Whom would I rather have? Lousaka Polite or pretty much a FB who can help block and in short yardage situations. The Patriots offense can be a little predictable so making a real commitment to run the ball at least more than you have can make some real waves in your offense and open up that playbook.

Offense overall is a low priority to me with really just one position that needs one or two players and that’s Wide Receiver. All of the others are in pretty good condition.

What about on the defensive side of the ball? This is an area that is more important than any other in my opinion. Defensive End: Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, John Abraham, Jonathan Fanene, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren, Aaron Maybin (yes I did mean to type that name) Shaun Rogers, Aaron Smith. Why Maybin? Well, the Jets used him well as a pass rush role player and he did well; he was never going to be an every down guy but can do well if utilized correctly. Rogers, Fanene, Maybin and Warren could be some cheap talent who could make an impact. Abraham could be a little expensive but not Mario Williams money.

Safety: Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders, OJ Atogwe, Jim Leonhard, James Sanders. The Patriots could benefit from some guys who were just cut from other teams like Bullitt and Atogwe and should consider looking there way. LaRon Landry could also be a name to add to the interest list here but I don’t like how injury prone he has been. Sanders might never be the same guy he was with the Colts but if he can stay healthy he might be able to make an impact and will be cheap. Leonhard played well in Jets and Ravens defensive systems and will be an upgrade over who we have now.

Corner: Gibril Wilson, Eric Wright, Marcus Trufant, Sean Considine, Sterling Moore. Some of these guys are hybrids, sort of, between safety and corner, that can only help the Patriots since McCourty, and maybe even Dowling could play some snaps at safety. Versatility is a good thing in this system and if a guy can also sub in as a corner can really increase his value, at least in Belichick’s mind.

Linebacker: Manny Lawson, Jarret Johnson, Sergio Kindle, Ernie Sims, Mario Williams, James Farrior, Keith Brooking, Mike Peterson. I know that Farrior and Brooking are Inside Linebackers and that the Patriots have there starters with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes but Brooking or Farrior can be subbed in and make an impact and can make an impact on a young defense by teaching them off the field. Mario will be too expensive but you have to look his way. I think that the fact that Adalius Thomas burned Belichick doesn’t mean that he won’t spend on defense because in the case of Mario Williams, he is not Thomas. Kindle is still young and might develop into something, Sims is a tackler but has started to disappear since leaving Detriot but might be able to resurrect his career.

The wild card for linebackers? Kamerion Wimbley, who could be cut by the Oakland Radiers because of his big contract even though he was a producer for them.

Whom do the Patriots bring back? Deion Branch, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, Dan Connolly, Matthew Slater, James Ihedigbo, and Kyle Love.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the big signing by the Patriots because they are most likely going to look for talented players but cheap(ish). They will spend but wisely just like only the Patriots can. I will also say this, I know that Tom Brady is a sure first ballot Hall of Famer and we’re lucky to have him playing for us but he needs to be more patient with new players. The Patriots have a complicated system and to expect everyone to be on board with it 100% right away is crazy. You can’t shut someone down and not look at them just because they made a mistake. Tom… don’t be Dan Marino or Peyton Manning because Marino never won a Super Bowl and Peyton only won because he was going up against the Chicago Bears. You’re better than they are and we all believe in you.

Chad Ochocinco doesn’t know the playbook still? I don’t buy it!!

English: Chad Ochocinco praticed in 2011 New E...

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Yes a bold statement from a guy who watches sports and maybe a little too much and has a blog who no one reads but still… I would like to think I have at least minimal knowledge. At least more knowledge gained from listening to the radio, reading about it, watching it, and etc. than some have who actually play football claiming that they learned what they know from Madden the video game. Madden, really? You learned about a team’s defense or offense by playing MADDEN and that’s how you see the NFL in real life? So if you let a corner beat you and coach asks you what happened you reply… what? That guy is an 86 overall, I’m only a 79 of course he beat me? You realize the coach is going to test you for drugs every hour after that right?

Anyway, sorry for the rant but I found that funny but annoying when I read that, back to the point. Chad Johnson has been less than productive this season for the New England Patriots and you hear a lot of chatter about him not knowing the playbook. You also hear that he doesn’t know where he is supposed to be on the field at a particular time and his 15 catches for 276 and a TD certainly does draw those conclusions but I do not agree, maybe it was that at first but I’m just not sure. I mean we are missing something, he is still on the team, still getting praised by his teammates and Bill, so I have to say… what are we missing? They didn’t defend Joey Galloway, Torry Holt, or any of the other epic failures that have worn a Patriots uniform, usually when asked they give a typical “Patriots answer” and move on but not with Chad. Is it because Bill, Tom and teammates respect Chad and genuinely like him as a person so they defend him more? Or is it because we are not seeing everything? Or is it both? It’s not like we are in the locker room all the time, or in Bill’s meetings with his players and coaches so we diagnose what we are seeing on the field quickly and assume and lean on this one idea until proven otherwise… and so do I.

I believe Chad knows the playbook, knows where he is supposed to be and even knows what Brady and Bill expects out of him but what holds him back? Could it be as simple as him trying too hard, being nervous and afraid to screw up? I think so. When you go from driving a 1980 P.O.S. that you’ve been driving since you got your license to years later owning your dream car, or a new car you don’t drive it the same way right? No, you drive paranoid, nervous and might make some stupid mistakes that you normally wouldn’t make because you’re thinking too much and 9 times out of 10 you think “crap, why did I just do that?”. So why is he still nervous, or thinking too much you ask? Well it’s because he is trying to prove himself, no not to us, but to Bill and Tom and is just making mistakes he wouldn’t normally make and when he does he gets pulled or not looked at when on the field. Is it right? No, but are they wrong for doing it? Not necessarily.

Chad went from being the number one guy for the Bengals to someone who is probably close to last looked at while he is on the field. Not his fault, Brady will look at Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez before Chad if all are on the field at the same time so sometimes he might have to get open 2-3 times on a play and by then he has abandoned the route but before Tom can get back to him he must dump it off or hit the hot receiver cause he doesn’t have forever back there, 2-3 seconds tops. What has stood out to me during his time here is that he has seemed to really buy into the Patriots Way. He’s been quite, hasn’t complained about anything really and has been a true professional and from what I can tell has done everything that they have asked, that stands out because if this was the Bengals I don’t think we could say that. Almost like when the Boston Celtics were in the playoffs two years ago and Nate Robinson came into the game and made an impact on defense, yet when he came here all you heard was he is “uncoachable“… Doc didn’t seem to have many issues coaching him… it just didn’t work out and he has become a solid role player for the Golden State Warriors and even contributed heavily in a win they had against the “almighty” Miami Heat.

Has Chad worked out as a Patriot? No he has not, I’m not denying that but I don’t believe that his lack of production is because he doesn’t know the playbook. The Patriots offensive system doesn’t help him much either, but I’ve already talked about that, you can check that out on my page. For you guys out there it’s like this: you’re in a relationship with a girl who is 7 out of 10 and then one day you meet a girl who is a 25 out of 10… You really don’t want to mess up the opportunity but yet with each mistake dig yourself into a deeper hole and after a while, you’re digging up and that is not easy. So in conclusion I will make this BOLD statement: I think the Patriots should bring Chad Johnson back next season and see if he is any more comfortable… after all what do they have to lose really? Not working out again then see you later.

Why hasn’t Chad Ochocino played well for the Patriots?

Photograph of Chad Ocho Cinco during warm-ups ...

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The Chad Johnson experiment has not worked thus far for many reasons but the one thing I look at might be largely overlooked by everyone, probably for a reason, but anyway it’s still on my list and close to the top if not the number one thing. Coming into the season I did not think that we needed WR help really at all. Also when talent is acquired from another team you often hear the phrase “can he adjust to not being the guy, the man.“ However I think that the other element of that statement, not said, is that not only do the players have to make this adjustment but also the fans must make this adjustment as well. Okay, anyway, back to my main point. You look at the depth chart we had coming into this season and we had this:

Wes Welker
Deion Branch
Julian Edelman
Brandon Tate
Taylor Price
Matthew Slater

We also had two young Tight Ends who we just drafted who had GREAT first seasons in:

Aaron Hernandez
Rob Gronkowski

So I am not even taking into account the RB’s we had who could catch out of the back field, so explain to me why we needed a WR? I see it this way and call me crazy, dead wrong or an idiot on the topic of football I’m okay with that. You are going to have 4 main guys pretty much who are targeted most of the time, or at least on the top of the depth chart for receivers (counting TE’s) and Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski were always in the top 3 of that list so that leaves you with one real spot for someone who will see a good amount of playing time and everyone else below number 4 are parts that will be in the games sparingly at the most. So I always assumed that the spot would be Branch’s to lose basically and I didn’t see Tate or Price really winning it from him. You can say that the Patriots needed a 3rd WR and I will rebuttal that Hernandez is that player. When I heard of the trade with the Bengals to bring in Chad Johnson I was so happy but I still understood that he still needed to beat out Branch for the last of the significant playing time. Either Chad or Deion was going to be living on the bench for most of the games since the title of 3rd WR really doesn’t mean that it is a WR that holds that label. If I had to tell you what the depth chart for receiver is including TE’s it’d look something like this and it has nothing to do with how they line up on the field but rather value and the order in which Brady will look when on the field.

Wes Welker
Aaron Hernandez
Rob Gronkowski
Deion Branch
Chad Johnson
Matthew Slater
Taylor Price

So to people saying that Chad is the 3rd WR they are looking at it differently than I am, I see him as the 5th now and he is playing like he is the 5th. Has he been disappointing and making some bad mistakes that someone of his caliber shouldn’t? Absolutely. Is he close to being labeled a bust as a Patriot? Definitely. Is he washed up and a has-been? No.  The plays that the Patriots call just simply need the top 4 main players and he is not one of them now. I think that Chad is at a fork in the road and he could go one of two ways. One way is he does great in practice, better than any other week, and cracks the top 4 or he will remain the 5th guy and catch just about 40 catches. Also Chad I think is great in the red zone and has not been used much or at all in red zone situations, which I find weird. Based on this analysis if the Patriots wanted to get rid of Chad they can and it wouldn’t impact the offense very much at all because he was not high enough on the chart to make that impact. I don’t blame Chad for his ineffectiveness in this system at all nor do I place any sort of blame on Bill either it was just going to happen because of how good the two young tight ends have become and the exceptional hands of Welker and the trust/familiarity Brady has with Branch from years past and that’s it. I do think though that he can he valuable in the future, especially playoffs if/when he can ever show that he can/has learned this system.

You can not compare him to another WR in another system really, I mean you can but I don’t think it’s a fair assessment. Teams have different schemes, different situations and different loyalties by the starting QB and that is why when someone claims or points out that WR (enter name here) has more catches than Chad and is an undrafted free agent. Okay, so what is the situation on that team? What is “the list” of that QB? Is the coaching staff putting more time in this rookie because they see something in him? Also saying that we should have Randy Moss back and that would be an improvement, well would it? Randy Moss was here in different circumstances, no young TE’s, Welker was still proving himself, so Moss was the 1st guy on Brady’s list than Welker. If Moss is back? Well he’d probably be getting just about as much time/looks/reps as Chad or Branch. Remember what happened when Randy was here and the young TE’s started catching on and Brady was looking at Welker and them more than Randy? Yeah me too and he went to the Vikings and the rest is history.

Believe me or not, look at this like me or think I’m a complete idiot but I still think that the opportunity is still available for Chad to explode and end up with a decent season but with that being said I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Chad was a bust here. I don’t blame him, I don’t blame Bill or Tom or even the offensive scheme… just a perfect storm really with the lock out cutting into the off-season, Chad basically having to learn football all over again due to the differences in the systems, the “Patriot Way” weighing on him, filling Moss’s shoes in fans’ eyes and living up to the productive seasons he had in Cincy. Other players and teams are kind of having the same problem, Derrick Mason who was just traded by the Jets to the Texans, the Eagles roster, McNabb and the Vikings situation and some others I’m sure just elude me now so Chad… you’re not alone… technically. So Chad Ochocinco Johnson Riviera Snickers bar whatever you are calling yourself, play smart like we know you can, don’t be afraid of being you and just do what you do best on the field because I think that some Patriot fans still believe in you, I do anyway.