There were two major stories surrounding the Patriots wide receiver position in 2009. The first was the lack of a consistent number-[
]()three option behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker; the second, Pro Bowler Welker's devastating knee injury in the regular season finale. The former was something the team had to deal with all season; the latter, something they'll likely have to deal with into next season.
New England experimented throughout '09 with several players at that third spot, each time with disappointing results. Veteran free agent Joey Galloway never seemed to click and was out the door before midseason. Rookie Brandon Tate showed enormous promise after recovering from a college knee injury, but was lost soon after emerging when he suffered another knee injury. Isaiah Stanback and Sam Aiken alternated at the position down the stretch, but neither was able to establish himself as a reliable threat.
Rookie Julian Edelman looked like the perfect complement to Welker in the slot as the fourth wide receiver, but was thrust all too often into the number-three role, and even became the number-two in the playoffs after Welker went down.
All of which puts New England back where it was a year ago at this time -- searching for quality depth and experience at wide receiver. Without question, this is an area that the Patriots will address in free agency and April's NFL Draft.
THE WIDE RECEIVER ROSTER
(Players listed alphabetically, as of January 2010, with individual analysis below)
88 -- Sam Aiken
Made some big plays (in London and at Miami, most notably), but the special teams captain is best suited, it seems, in the latter role. Should be back in '10.
11 --Julian Edelman
Continued to improve the more he played. Still has a lot to learn and has room for growth, but appears to have a solid future with the club.
10 -- Darnell Jenkins
Practice squad addition late in the year, wound up on IR. An unknown commodity at this point.
17 -- Nick Moore
Like Jenkins, a late-season addition to the practice squad. Brother of Saints' Lance Moore might get another shot in spring workouts.
81 -- Randy Moss
Had a season most NFL receivers would envy (13 TDs, nearly 1,300 yards), but perceived as having underachieved in '09. Named as a Pro Bowl replacement for Welker, but decided to back out because of an unspecified injury. Moss has a year left on his contract and will probably be back in Foxborough to fulfill it.
14 -- Robert Ortiz
The on-again-off-again receiver keeps getting chances to impress the Patriots brass, but never seems able to hang on. Perhaps the third time's the charm.
18 -- Matthew Slater
A defensive back for most of the year, Slater switched back to wide receiver when the team got thin at the position. May switch back to defense come camp time.
15 -- Isaiah Stanback
A talented player who's both a QB and receiver for the Patriots. That versatility could keep him around for at least another year.
19 -- Brandon Tate
The severity of his injury is unclear, much like his football future.
83 -- Wes Welker
Faces a Tom Brady-like rehab stint after suffering a similar injury. Best-case scenario timetable has him back on the field sometime during '10 season.
The Patriots have two former Navy wide receivers, Tyree Barnes and Shun White, on the reserve/military list. It's unclear when or even if they'll be able to contribute in the upcoming season.
Up next in the Position Snapshot series: defensive back, coming Wednesday, Feb. 3. Tomorrow, look for an all-new Debate Friday.