We continue our position-by-position preview of the Pats with the receivers.
The Patriots' receiver corps is not as deep as most think. You've got Moss, you've got Welker, then not much else. A year after Donte Stallworth departed, Jabar Gaffney has also moved on. Gaffney only caught 38 passes for 468 yards, but he helped out Moss and Welker by drawing a 3rd DB that otherwise could be used in double coverage.
But the Patriots do have Randy Moss, perhaps the best vertical WR in the game today. Even with Matt Cassel's much more conservative passing attack last year, Moss amassed 1,008 yards from 69 catches, and scored 11 TDs. With Brady back, I still wouldn't expect anything like Moss's 2007 performance of 1,493-98-23. But he''ll return to being the most potent offensive weapon in the quarterback's arsenal. More deep balls, more TDs.
From Moss, I expect 1,200+ yards, 15 TDs.
Wes Welker came to the Patriots with 96 career receptions, 1,121 yards, and 1 TD. As a Patriot, he has 223 catches, 2,340 yards, and 11 TDs. He was Matt Cassel's go-to-guy in '08, and Brady's outlet in '07. And things don't look to change much for '09.
The Pats' O-Line isn't as good as it was in '07, so Welker could be the recipient of more screen-type passes, as well as run a few end arounds or reverses. He might be the most valuable member of the WR corps.
I think Welker once again tops 100 receptions and 1,000 yards. He should also fall just shy of 10 TDs.
Joey Galloway was a nice cheap acquisition that doesn't seem to be working out too well. He's not impressing in training camp or in preseason games. He turns 38 in November, and he's coming off a foot injury. He only caught 13 passes last year because of that injury.
Then again, from '05 to '07, he averaged 67 catches, 1,119 yards, and 7.7 TDs a season. But at the same time, 2005 was the best of those years, and there's a big dropoff in the NFL once you're past 37 years old.
Galloway might be able to be like a much older version of Gaffney, used as a #3 or #4 option, and helping to tie up DBs, or be a short outlet option. He's a solid possession receiver. I don't expect much from him. And he looks like a dirty old man.
After Moss, Welker, and Galloway, the talent level drops off considerably...
Greg Lewis is a 7 year veteran and ex-Philadelphia Eagle. The Eagles are not known for their receivers, and rightfully so. Lewis only caught 19 passes last year. His career high in receptions and yards came in 2005, when he caught 48 passes for 561 yards. Don't expect much from him.
After Julian Edelman starred in the preseason opener, we haven't seen much of him. He caught one pass in the Bengals game, and I never saw him on the field Friday night. He seems like a guy who can be a pesky 4th or 5th receiver in a spread formation. He's got Wes Welker speed and evasiveness, we'll see how reliable his hands are across the middle.
He was a QB at Kent State, but the Patriots have explicitly denied that they'll use him in any sort of Wildcat formation (IMO, the Wildcat will be the biggest flop of the 2009 season). He might throw a pass or two, but in plays like a WR Reverse Pass, a la David Patten.
The Patriots drafted Brandon Tate out of North Carolina. Tate was the acclaimed Hakeem Nicks' counterpart, until going down 5 games into the season. He's athletic, and could one day develop into a solid #3 or #4 guy. I wouldn't expect to see much of him outside of 5 wide formations.
It's a mix bag of targets for Brady to throw to. Moss over the top, with the occasional screen or cross mixed in. Welker all over the place. Galloway a possible deep threat, used more to keep Moss open than anything else. Then there are LOTS of question marks. Who will be the #4 receiver. On most teams, this isn't a pressing issue. But Brady and the Pats use all receivers at all times.