Patriots

Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

When and if the labor situation gets settled, the NFL's free agent shopping period will follow soon after. Who's out there? What do the Patriots need? What do the Patriots have? We'll go position-by-position to bring you up-to-speed. WIDE RECEIVERStatus Report: The Patriots scored 31 or more points in every game after the Cleveland debacle. 39, 31, 45, 45, 36, 31, 34, 38. Five players caught more than 30 balls, six players were over 375 yards receiving. Their passing game is excellent. Their wide receivers had a terrific year. But still...there's something that makes you feel they could be more complete at the position. And better stocked for the future.Who They Got: Wes Welker is entering the final year of his contract and is about to turn30.Coming off the ACL injury, he hada modest year by his recent standards - 86 catches for 848 yards and 9.9 average. His could be a sticky renegotiation.Deion Branch is 32. His presence kick-started the offense and - in an upset - opened things up for diversity the way Randy Moss didn't. Brandon Tate remains raw but he's their X receiver. Julian Edelman had a very disappointing second year and was plagued by drops. Taylor Price performed a season-long apprenticeship as a rookie before making three catches in the regular-season finale. What They Need:For one thing, they need to panic less than the region did after the playoff loss to the Jets. FIELD STRETCHAAAHHH! THEY NEED A FIELD STRETCHAAHHH! They do need a better outside the numbers threat than simply Tate, though. And they need better depth at all three receiver spots. But the transformation of the passing game from a wideout-based one to one that features tight ends means we have to redefine what they need going forward. The Patriots have made a habit of trying to find smart, veteran receivers who are advanced in the pro passing game. Those are the ones with whom Brady has most success. There have been misses - Torry Holt, Joey Galloway - but they are always looking for that kind of player. Who's Out There: Braylon Edwards (Jets),Sidney Rice(Vikings), Brad Smith (Jets), Steve Smith (Giants), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Santana Moss (Redskins), Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars), Randy Moss (Titans), Lance Moore (Saints), Jacoby Jones(Texans) Possible Targets: Santana Moss, Brad Smith, Lance Moore, Jacoby Jones. Braylon's a moron; Santonio and the Giants Steve Smith want to stay where they are. Santana Moss is a smart route runner. Smith is a Swiss Army knife and his gain would be the Jets' loss. One guy the Patriots should explore is the Panthers' Steve Smith. He turns 32 in May and has two years left on his contract. He's got nobody to throw to him in Carolina and his numbers reflect that 46 catches for 554 yards last year. He is the same as a Corey Dillon or Randy Moss - very talented, very competitive and combustible. New England would be Eden for him for a year or two. A third-round pick could get it done on draft day. More than Chad Ochocinco, who - a well-informed source recently told me - has lost his nerve and work ethic - Smith is the kind of player to target.

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."