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As we continue our training camp previews it’s time to look at quite a top heavy group of players on the Patriots, the wide receivers. Coming into camp, it’s obvious who the top three guys are, but after that there’s a lot of uncertainty. Here’s a breakdown of what we may see in 2009.
2008 stats: 69 rec, 1,009 yards, 11 TDs
2009 Forecast: Of all the offensive players on the roster, it was most obvious that Randy Moss would suffer the most from the loss of Tom Brady. After an NFL record setting season in ’07, Moss had every reason to pack it in last year as defenses doubled him and frustrated the passing attack with Matt Cassel under center. However, Moss continued to show how he’s matured as a player on and off the field by going out and still catching for more than 1,000 yards.
Without a solid number two receiver on the other side, Moss was frequently double covered and was forced to shorten routes. With Brady back under center and new partner Joey Galloway on the other side of the field, Moss should be able to roam free along the sidelines and deep down the middle. The wide receiver attack is very dynamic for the Pats with Wes Welker in the mix and Moss will be able to tool on the AFC East’s weak cornerbacks as he did in 2007. He may not equal the incredible touchdown totals from that record setting season two years ago, but he’s a threat for a 1,500 yard, 15 TD season.
2009 Projected stats: 95 rec, 1,300 yards, 17 TDs
2008 stats: 111 rec, 1,165 yards, 3 TDs
2009 Forecast: The man who has made Patriots fans forget about Troy Brown still was able to catch more than 100 passes in 2008 with a backup QB. We all know his ability to get open in the slot and with another year of practice with Tom Brady and Randy Moss under his belt, covering Welker will be a scary proposition for opposing defenses. His touchdown total was down last year but should be back up near 10 in 2009. He’s become an irreplaceable part of the offense.
2009 Projected stats: 115 rec, 1,200 yards, 7 TDs
2008 stats: 13 rec, 138 yards, 0 TDs (with Tampa Bay)
2009 Forecast: The signing of Joey Galloway gives the Patriots yet another deep threat at wide receiver. In 2007, this role was filled by the recently jailed Donte Stallworth. What Galloway brings to the table is speed and experience. Though he missed most of last season with injury, Galloway had three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons with Tampa beginning in 2005 and racked up 23 TDs in that time. If you look at his career games played, he has an uncanny trend of missing most of one year, then playing a near full season for the next three years. Thus, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a healthy Joey Galloway throughout this season. Gotta love the logic they teach at Boston University!
Galloway may not have the stats of some other No. 2 wideouts in the league but will give defenses one more option to keep an eye on.
2009 Projected Stats: 65 catches, 800 yards, 5 TDs
2008 stats: 19 rec, 247 yards, 1 TD
2009 Forecast: Lewis comes over from Philadelphia where he was mostly used as a reserve in 2008. His numbers dropped off as the year went on, as he had 105 yards against St. Louis early on in the season and yet still had a low total for the year. He has okay size at just 6′ and will compete with a lot of younger guys for playing time at the fourth receiver. It’s really up in the air at this point but Lewis might have an edge simply because he’s been in the league for seven years and knows the ins and outs of the NFL. Whichever player takes that No. 4 role, I don’t expect a whole lot of production, stats wise. I think at this point, Lewis’ spot on the team is safe.
2009 Projected stats 25 catches, 300 yards, 1 TD
2008 stats: 8 rec, 101 yards, 0 TD
2009 Forecast: Aiken comes into camp with a size advantage over his peers at 6’2″. He’s also been in the system for a year and Bill Belichick usually goes with the guys he knows over unknowns. Aiken provides help on special teams which makes his roster spot valuable. Wide receiver wise you can’t expect much, as he’s only had 27 catches in a six year career. In my mind he’s a valuable asset on special teams and will be kept around.
2009 Projected stats: 12 catches, 85 yards, 0 TDs
There are a few more names that could be thrown out there, most of which either won’t make the team or will only make an impact on special teams. Matthew Slater had 13 tackles last year on special teams and also can be used in kick returning. Brandon Tate was a 3rd round pick this year and also figures to be a kick returner at first, though he is coming off ACL surgery so his status is in limbo. Two other rookies, Julian Edelman and Terrence Nunn, may also be in the mix.
The Patriots may not have the deepest wide receiver corps in the NFL, but it’s probably among the top two or three groups in the league. In 2007, Brady, Moss and Welker put up huge numbers with very little preparation in the pre-season. Now with a full summer of working out together, it’s going to be scary to see these guys hitting on all cylinders. Buckle up, New England, the air attack is about to commence.