]()Last year during mini-camp, the Patriots receiving corps was surrounded by question marks. Deion Branch was a no-show, Jabar Gaffney was still playing for the Eagles and Tom Brady was throwing passes to the likes of John Stone and Keron Henry. This year, the New England offense is loaded with receivers, led by big-play threats Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth.
The Patriots have primarily been known for their short passing game in recent years but with the additions of Moss and Stallworth, Brady's arm may need extra ice this season due to all the deep balls he'll be unleashing.
In 2006, the Patriots lacked receivers who could stretch the field, allowing opposing defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage and blitz Brady more than they had in previous years. New England receivers caught just four passes of 40 yards or more last season – with three of those coming from Reche Caldwell.
Stallworth averaged an eye-popping 19.1 yards per catch with Philadelphia last year, while hauling in 38 passes for 725 yards. One of the most explosive receivers in the league, 15 of Stallworth's 28 career touchdown receptions have gone for 25 yards or longer. He only has two seasons with more than 50 receptions, but Stallworth is always a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
"That's what they want to do. It's just a matter of us putting everything together," Stallworth said about the Patriots being a big-play offense. "We want to get down the field and keep defenses honest. We have a lot of different things in this offense, so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out."
]()While Stallworth may currently be the fastest of the Patriots receivers, when it comes to making big plays, Randy Moss has cornered the market. Over his nine-year career, Moss has caught 101 touchdown passes and is considered one of the best deep threats to ever play in the NFL.
Some have questioned whether or not Moss still has the same physical skills that once made him the most feared receivers in all of football. Moss, on the other hand, doesn't share the same concerns. After he was acquired by New England on draft day, the confident receiver told reporters to expect the old Randy Moss. He reiterated those sentiments again at mini-camp.
"I just think as far as me getting back to making plays and showing my versatility and that's what I meant about the old Randy Moss," he said. "Earlier in my career, I was showing a lot of that and late in my career it sort of got away. Now that I'm sort of enthused and energetic to be in a position that I'm in, I want to bring the old Randy Moss and that's going and getting it deep and making plays and one-handed catches, all of the above."
In Oakland, Moss played with a revolving door of average quarterbacks. Now he gets a chance to play with arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, and Moss is looking forward to being on the receiving end of Brady's precision passes.
"I've always been a big fan of his and now that I'm here playing alongside him, I don't want anything to change," Moss said about Brady. "I'm not going to even try to get in his way in anything that he does and hopefully it doesn't get in the way of anything that I do. I'm just basically talking on the field, because that's one thing that I came here for was to be with this group of guys, the organization as a whole and just try to do come out here and help what I can do to win some games."
Heading into this season, Brady is like a kid in a candy store with all the new weapons he has at his disposal.
"Everyone has come in and worked really hard and I think everyone's pleased with the work we've put in and I'm excited for the season to really get started," Brady said. "You wish that it all comes together and I think the thing about it is everybody's got to find a spot and we've got to figure out what Randy [Moss] is good at, what Donté [Stallworth] is good at, and what Wes [Welker] is good at and try to adapt our offense to their style as well. I think we've learned a lot already in six days of practice. I think we've learned about the work ethic of these guys and the attitude and I think we're a very unselfish group. I've had a great time thus far with those players."
There's no doubting the fact that Moss and Stallworth give the Patriots offense an added dimension and something it lacked last year: the ability to score quickly in the passing game. With the additions of Moss, Stallworth, Welker and Kelley Washington, to go along with holdovers Caldwell and Gaffney, the 2007 Patriots aerial circus is going to create a lot of sleepless nights for defensive coordinators around the NFL.
"It's just a matter of us taking it day-by-day because right now we're just putting in the offense and guys are trying to learn it," Stallworth said. "We got a great quarterback in Tom and a great system here, so we're just trying to put all the pieces together. This is only the beginning. We can be as good as we want to be but we have to work at it."
Opposing defenses have been warned.