Pats receivers show new range

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Shortly after the New England Patriots' organized team activity on Wednesday, there was a hard-to-miss three-receiver set.

David Patten conducted an interview with reporters. A few yards away, veteran Torry Holt drew a large crowd. And a few yards away from Holt was Brandon Tate, answering questions about his return to health.

It was a mix of old and new, of veteran savvy and intriguing potential.

Given the questions surrounding when Wes Welker will return from his knee rehabilitation, the team could potentially be relying on all three in some form.

For Patten, who at 35 is the oldest player on the roster, returning to the Patriots for the first time since 2004 has reminded him of how much the offense has evolved.

At one point in Wednesday's practice, first-year receiver Darnell Jenkins was yanked out of a drill and the coaches inserted Patten to show him how it was done. While Patten (5-10, 190) faces an uphill climb for a roster spot, his impact seems to already be felt in how he's helping other receivers on the roster.

Asked if he feels like a 13-year NFL veteran, Patten responded that he feels great physically, but knows the true test comes in training camp.

"The first days I came in, running around in cone drills and I said 'I'm tricking them right now because the cones don't move,' " he said. "Now you go to the next level and you're out here working the technique aspect and doing some competitive things, but there are still no pads. So the real test is going to come in August when we're out here banging each other."

The 6-foot, 200-pound Holt, who turns 34 in June, seems like a lock for a roster spot.

Similar to Patten, younger receivers were told to watch him during Wednesday's practice as an example of good technique. One aspect that has stood out to Holt was the mix of receivers and how everyone is approaching their work.

"There are a lot of young guys, a lot of veteran guys who are proven and have been on this football team, but the environment is still competitive," he said. "That's all you can ask for as a player and a team."

Then there's the 22-year-old Tate.

The 2009 third-round draft choice played in just two games last season because of two separate knee injuries, but has recovered to the point that he's been in the offseason program since Day 1 and is participating in all drills.

Tate (6-1, 195) had an 11-yard end-around on his first play of last season -- against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25 -- and added four kickoff returns, but has approached this year as if that didn't happen.

"For me, I feel like I haven't really done anything," he said. "I've been taking this whole offseason trying to get everything down pat and hopefully I'll be out there when the season starts."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.