Positional review: Wide receiver

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
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We’ll take some time to look back upon the 2012 season for the Patriots, doing so by breaking down each position with a reflection on the performance, some stats of note and areas of strength/weakness.

In addition, we’ll look ahead to 2013 and look at what’s on tap from a personnel standpoint.

2012 Final Depth Chart: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Matthew Slater, Kamar Aiken (Julian Edelman was placed on injured reserve in December)

Key Statistics: Welker: 118 catches, 1,354 yards, 6 TDs; Lloyd: 74 catches, 911 yards (12.3 avg), 4 TDs; Edelman: 21 catches, 235 yards, 5 total touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeJulian Edelman
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJulian Edelman's combination of athleticism and slippery open-field running make him a candidate to return.
Overview: The Patriots were one of the best passing offenses in the NFL again this season, and it was done with both of their top tight ends missing extended time due to injuries. Welker was the stalwart of this group, trailing only Calvin Johnson for most receptions in the NFL and leading the league in yards after catch with 619. He displayed unparalleled toughness and remains a coverage nightmare for defenses in the slot. Lloyd was expected to inject a perimeter threat for the Patriots, and he was solid overall in his first season. Unlike Welker, Lloyd provided limited yards after the catch, but was a dependable outside threat who quarterback Tom Brady suggested was open much more than his targets would indicate. Edelman was featured early in the season when Welker’s role was limited, but a pair of injuries cost him multiple games. He is a free agent this offseason, but his combination of athleticism and slippery open-field running makes him an intriguing option to bring back going forward. Deion Branch, who bounced back and forth from the roster, provided dependable depth.

2013 Personnel Preview: It’s a big offseason for the Patriots relating to wide receivers, as Lloyd, Slater and Aiken are the only members of the active roster under contract for 2013. Welker could be a franchise-tag candidate, but would earn a hefty $11.4 million under that designation. Edelman played his best football before being injured, and the team could experience some turnover at this position. Practice squadders Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes were signed to reserve/future contracts on Monday.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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