Each week leading up to the draft, the Foxboro Blog crew will spend a week breaking down a position on the Patriots' roster. We'll start with a quick overview and then move onto a discussion involving potential draftees at that spot as well as free-agents that the Patriots may pursue. Up this week are the wide receivers...
2010 Recap: It's not often that an offense loses it's #1 wide receiver and ends up becoming even more potent in his absence. Yet that's exactly what happened when the Patriots traded Randy Moss back to the Minnesota Vikings after Week 4. The tumultuous wideout mananged to wear out his welcome early on in the year. While nothing we ever officially made public, there was rumblings that Moss was unhappy with his contract situation and the playcalling, and even had a heated confrontation with coach Bill O'Brien after the team's Monday Night victory in Miami.
With Moss, the Patriots managed to put together some impressive scoring performances against Cincinatti, Buffalo, and Miami, but without him they turned into a nearly unstoppable force. While the tight ends and running backs, certainly contributed to the offense that routinely put up 30+ points each game, the recievers were no slackers either. Bill Belichick brought back former Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch in a trade with Seattle, and he and Tom Brady quickly recaptured their magic connection. Welker continued to look stronger as the weeks went on and he gaind distance from his recovery from a torn ACL. Brandon Tate, while not necessarily a major producer in the passing game, had some key kickoff returns that he took to the house. Unfortunately, all the positive momentum came to a jolting halt in the playoffs against the Jets. New York's corners were able to play some tight defense and shut down the passing game. With Brady's targets locked up, the offense sputtered and, well, we all know what happened...
Overall, the Patriots offense shredded defenses by utilizing a number of different looks and keeping the opposition on their toes. It truly was a "team" effort with all facets of the offense contributing. However, it's safe to say that the passing attack looked as good as it had since the legendary 2007 year.
Returning Players: Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Buddy Farnham, Darnell Jenkins, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker
Patriots Free-Agents: None
2011 Outlook: With many pressing needs on the defense and some uncertainly on the O-line, upgrading the receiving corps is likely a lower priority for the Patriots as they head into next season. Given the success the offense had in 2010, it would ceratinly be reasonable for New England to maintain the status quo. However, some red flags were raised during the playoff game against the Jets and have left many fans wondering if the team would benefit from a more explosive receiver who could stretch the field. Players that have been named as potential trade targets include Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, and Chad Ochocinco. It's also possible that Randy Moss may be ready to return to the fold after being served a large slice of humble pie this past season. All four of those players would be able to fill that type of role in the offense. Looking from within, it may very well be that Bill Belichick looks to develop Brandon Tate and Taylor Price as up and coming contributors in the passing game. Tate has shown flashes of explosiveness, and Price looked solid in his single game of action in Week 17.