New England Patriots Must Target a Big Play Wide Receiver in Free Agency
Posted on Friday, July 01, 2011 at 01:26 PM
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In a sense, Wide Receiver is the least important position on an NFL team. At the very least that was the case in the past.
However the transition of the NFL into a quarterback driven league has put more prominence on receivers than ever before. In the past teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers thrived on powerful running games and dominant defenses to win Super Bowls. In those days additional production from the receiver position was a luxury rather than a necessity to succeed.
That is not the case any longer. There are very few run first teams that have won Championships over the past five years.
Last season, Aaron Rodgers precision passing to his then elite unit of pass catchers was the difference between the Packers becoming Super Bowl Champions and losing to the Steelers.
In 2010, the Indianapolis Colts reached the Super Bowl on the back of Peyton Manning's passing prowess only to lose out to the New Orleans Saints team that anchored on Drew Brees' accuracy.
In 2009, the Arizona Cardinals rode one of the best passing attacks in the league to the Super Bowl before losing out to an outstanding last minute reception from the Steelers' Santonio Holmes.
In 2008, the New York Giants made the Super Bowl with a strong running game and swarming defense. However the Giants rode the back of two Eli Manning touchdown passes to prevent the Patriots' perfect season.
In 2007, Peyton Manning won his first, and only to this point, Super Bowl ring of his career. The Colts were forced to run the ball a lot in that game due to the conditions in Miami but were no doubt a pass first team.
Super Bowl XL, in 2006, was the last Super Bowl where two teams that relied on a strong running game and dominant defense made the Super Bowl. With Shaun Alexander, Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis battling it on for each side, it was still a play made by two wide receivers that decided the game. Antwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward that ultimately gave the Steelers a 21-10 victory.
The importance of the wide receiver position has been heightened in the league the past few seasons. This may be because of the likes of Jerry Rice's lasting legacy or simply because teams need to take advantage of a golden age of quarterbacks.
One team with a golden quarterback, and arguably the best of the bunch, is the New England Patriots.
The Patriots however haven't taken advantage of their momentum from the 2007 season as they are yet to win a playoff game since the AFC Championship that year. The team's most recent loss highlighted the lack of a big play threat at receiver.
After the demise of Randy Moss in New England last year the Patriots offense continued to churn out blowouts in the regular season but were found out eventually. The team lacks a deep threat and has done little to rectify the problem to this point.
Being realistic they haven't had the chance to fix the problem yet.
The rookie wide receiver group was supposedly weak in this season's draft class, which was evidenced by the disastrous Julio Jones trade, while the lockout is still preventing teams from making a splash in free agency.
Once the lockout is eventually lifted, the Patriots need to make an aggressive move to add a new dimension to their receiving corp. They look set to have a good, not great, running game next season while the offensive line should be strong and the Tight Ends are potentially the best in the league as a group.
The team should avoid at all costs however, bringing back Randy Moss. Moss is done and cannot offer them what they need. Bill Belichick got great value from the trade with the Minnesota Vikings and should have no reason to question his decision to let him go.
While the team as a whole still has some issues, such as a major need for a pass rush and improved defensive line play, but going all out for a receiver should be their number one priority.
As this article will tell you, Bill Belichick has had success in the past without a potent pass rushing unit defensively.
Instead the team should be making big pitches to players like Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes and even Braylon Edwards. Each of those players can stretch the field which is what the offense is currently lacking.
Brandon Tate is very talented but has lacked the consistent explosion that he promised coming out of college. Outside of he and tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots other pass catchers are primarily possession guys.
They all run good routes and are reliable when the ball comes their way but they aren't going to consistently scare defenders.
The Patriots will need to give Tom Brady as much help as possible if they are to allow him to win at least one more Super Bowl before the end of his sterling career.
Serial tweeting about NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Soccer and Rugby @Cianaf
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I also write for Fantasy Football Life.
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