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.

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.