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Player in Focus: Donté Stallworth

Stallworth now plays with an even better quarterback than his former tosser. (Courtesy of USATODAY.com)
Stallworth now plays with an even better quarterback than his former tosser.(Courtesy of USATODAY.com)

Before March of this year, the only way New England football fans could know anything about wideout Donté Stallworth was if they were avid players of Madden. Since he was drafted out of the University of Tennessee as the 13th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Madden lovers have showed Stallworth love simply due to his 97 speed rating and low cap number.

In reality, Stallworth spent the first four years of his career in New Orleans where after a touchdown laden rookie campaign (8 TDs on just 42 catches), he endured three more underwhelming seasons in the Bayou, catching just 163 passes for 2,197 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hardly numbers the Saints were expecting from a top 15 pick. In 2006 Stallworth joined the Philadelphia Eagles and posted solid numbers (38 catches, 725 yards for an average of more than 19 yards a catch, and five touchdowns) despite only playing in 12 games.

The Patriots, in hopes of upgrading a sub-par 2006 receiving corps, surprised the league by signing Stallworth to a six year, $30 million contract in March. The usual financially stringent Patriots opened their wallets in hopes of finding a prime time wide receiver. The numbers of the deal are deceiving however, as a large roster bonus kicks in at the beginning of the 2008 season, thus the Pats could cut him after this year with little monetary punishment.

Stallworth was labeled a disappointment during his four year tenure in New Orleans. (Courtesy of Philadelphiaeagles.com)
Stallworth was labeled a disappointment during his four year tenure in New Orleans.(Courtesy of Philadelphiaeagles.com)

Stallworth is perhaps the most speedy receiver that Tom Brady has had during his tenure as quarterback. Though his overall numbers have been less than gaudy, Stallworth continues to wrack up large catch average yards (he twice had more than 19 yards per catch in a season) and is one of the best deep threats in the league. Stallworth has the raw speed and acceleration that cannot be taught.

His biggest problem in the past has been his propensity to get injured. In five seasons in the NFL, Stallworth has logged only two seasons where he appeared in all 16 games. He’s been nagged constantly by small, lingering injuries and must overcome those to be an effective WR for the Patriots.

Paired with Randy Moss, Stallworth will frequently command double coverage from teams because of his deep, big play ability. He is blessed with a great gift and now – with the best quarterback he’s ever played with – he should take the next step everyone thinks he can. His touchdown total will be small but his average and total yardage should be near the tops on the team. He is also useful in trick plays and reverses.

2007 Prediction

The trade for Randy Moss was great news for Stallworth. If he was the only big play wide receiver brought it he would have struggled because of his inability to get open on his own. His strategy over the years has been to outrun everyone. With Moss, Stallworth will see more one-on-one coverage and should improve his route running skills. His deep threat will open up the middle and short passing game. Like most of the other new wide receivers, his overall statistics will not prove how much he is worth to the team.

2007 stats: 60 catches, 940 yards, six touchdowns

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