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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Patriots off-season part three

Tom Brady throws the ball during Super Bowl XX...

Tom Brady throws the ball during Super Bowl XXXIX. Brady connected with game Most Valuable Player Deion Branch 11 times to tie a Super Bowl record. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Restructuring of Chad Johnson’s contract- I think that this was a great move by Ocho because it proved that he is not about the money, at least at this point in his career, and that he is determined to show that he can make it in this offense. It was a positive move and for those who think that they should just cut ties with him all together I just have to say that I do not agree. What would they lose by bringing him into training camp and having him compete with Deion Branch, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte Stallworth and Brandon Lloyd? So why not see what he can do with a full, real off-season and time to study. Last season it wasn’t just Chad “Ocho” Johnson who had trouble with his new team it was also Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Lee Evans, Steve Smith, Donovan McNabb, Zach Miller, Albert Haynesworth, and Shaun Ellis just to name a few. He can work in this system, he can be a contributor and an impact player but it is all on Chad to learn this system and Brady. Honesty, learning this system is not just about the playbook but it is also about learning Tom Brady and HIS playbook because they are different. Chad is smart and I think he will make the team. My prediction is that Gonzalez will get hurt and Stallworth will be underwhelming.

CB- Will Allen- He did not do much last season but this is a decent signing. They need some depth so that they do not have to rely on offensive players to jump in and play some important and major snaps. He will not be an impact player because he has lost a step or two but he can still make some plays. It is nice to be able to have a seasoned veteran to step in at nickel back or into the starting role if need be. Grade: B

FB/LB- Spencer Larsen– I am not so sure that Larsen will make the roster honestly. With that being said, it is not a bad signing. I have said, before this blog was created, that one of the biggest holes that they had was at FB. You remember what Heath Evans brought to the team when he was on our roster and what we were missing when he was gone and so that’s why I believe getting a half-way decent fullback is on the list for this season. I do not think that Larsen is a bad fullback but when you compare him to Lousaka Polite, who was just released, and the recent signing of Tony Fiammetta (see below) I think that either Polite or Fiammetta are better options. (Polite lost though sadly) Maybe he can contribute more as a defensive player and special teams player. In addition, Josh McDaniels being here now might help him make the roster in some position but maybe not FB.  Grade: C

WR- Deion Branch– A good signing because you do not know what Stallworth, Lloyd, Gonzalez and Ocho will bring you and so you need some insurance. In addition, Deion wants to be here and is a great locker room guy, which is a key with the new draft picks that will be coming in after the draft. I originally said that signing Branch would bring about the end to the Ocho experiment but it appears I am wrong, shocking, but training camp could weed out one or two of these guys so I can see why they signed all of these guys. This move will also assure them that Slater can concentrate on special teams and maybe even defense, which he is better at. Grade: A

FB- Tony Fiammetta– Bringing him in to compete with Larsen is a good move by the Patriots. Bringing in a FB will allow them to go back to a more traditional running game and help Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen next season. It will also open up the playbook more and give Brady more options if coverage down the field is good and needs to dump it off. To add an element like that just makes it harder for defenses to successfully stop the offense on a consistent basis. Even though the offense has been great, I think it was also a little too transparent and after a while, defenses knew how to stop them. All you did, really, was make Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski a non-factor by a double team or putting one of your best guys on them and force the Patriots to win with the rest of the guys. Also not having a real FB on the roster made them be creative with one and often-used DL, Aaron Hernandez or an OL but that did not really work. Grade: B

Mark Anderson signs with the Buffalo Bills- His goal I think was accomplished, which was to resurrect his career here in New England and he did. I say good for him but Bills have to know that he is not an every down guy and if they use him on every down, he loses his effectiveness. Just like when they had Aaron Maybin, he was not an every down player but they tried to use him like one and it didn’t work out… then Maybin found his calling with the Jets as a part time player in pass rushing situations. If they use him to his strengths, it will work out for them and he could make Brady’s life harder twice a year, especially with a lot of attention going to Mario Williams.

Patriots release FB Lousaka Polite- Well you knew something had to give when they signed both Larsen and Fiammetta and Polite lost. Polite is a good player but was not going to make the roster most likely so he now has a chance to land with another team and I hope he does honestly. He is a good fullback and some teams in the league have some bad ones so he could step in and contribute.

The Patriots have still yet to make a move and get an impact player or two for defense. They need a pass rusher and a safety and the more they ignore that need the more other teams will take advantage of that. I would think that the strategy would be to go defense heavy in the draft or at least target some real potential talent in the first few rounds. After all, he did build a defensive line before that was one of the best and he did it through the draft, with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. The question is can he land an OLB/DE, a safety and a DL all in one draft? Maybe that is why Bill has been trading down all of these years, to fill positions with high-potential players a lot, sooner than he did before. The math makes sense; the odds go up with more picks but the odds of landing a dud also goes up so basically you’re in Las Vegas. Well the house always wins, or so I hear and that makes it difficult for the Patriots to land premium guys in a short pan obviously, because they have missed. The combination of trying to land great talent in one or two years means you might have to go after players who might have a lower ceiling but can still play at a higher level, to make them fit under the cap. Of course, this is just a theory, a theory of a shut in writer who thinks and analyzes things a little too much. I must say that this is a solid strategy if it is indeed true and one that if it worked would have kept the rotation of talent going and replacing Seymour, Warren, Bruschi, Law and others wouldn’t have been plaguing them still. I doubt that this theory of mine is true because well it is mine and I have not read it anywhere else, unless of course it is just blatantly obvious that any team would do that if they wanted to refill the talent pool faster.

My overall impression so far is that they have made some good moves to try to ensure that they do not have undrafted rookies as starters but have not really done much else. They went heavy on offense so far and bid farewell to some good players but also committed to some other young ones they believe in. I see the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a commitment to Ridley, Vereen and Woodhead and that is not a bad thing. Ridley and Vereen have both shown that they have the potential to fill the role left behind by Law Firm, also in my opinion they will surpass it. I did not mention Matt Light and whether or not he is going to retire because it is not confirmed yet and as a side note, I would like to see the Patriots bring in Kevin Faulk as a coach.

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

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

Image via Wikipedia

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 ...

Image via Wikipedia

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.