Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Troy Brown, Deion Branch; needless to say, Tom Brady has worked with some talented receivers in his career. Some, as is the case with Welker, Brady trained himself, working with his receivers until they progressed from mediocrity to stardom. Now, 36 years old and having lost Welker to free agency and Rob Gronkowski to injury, Brady has been handed an entirely new cast of catchers, and after an entire preseason and training camp to work, we’ll see if they can repeat the old Patriots magic today at 1:00 in Buffalo.
Danny Almendola is set to slot in as the number one receiver, replacing Welker, who left to free agency. He is by far the most talented receiver on the team, but, injury is a constant concern. The 27 year old former Texas Tech standout has only managed to start 9 games over the past two years, but has been phenomenal in that short span, managing 674 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs in just half a season last year. Against a weak Bills secondary, Almendola has a chance to put up Welker-esque numbers, with 10+ catches and 120+ yards.
Julian Edelman is one of the only returning players from 2012′s Patriots receiving core, but this will be his first year in a premier role. After years of being the football version of a utility man, receiving, returning punts, and even appearing on defense, Edelman will be handed the job of no. 2 receiver in 2013. He’s certainly athletic, with a chance for big plays and deep yardage against the Bills, but like Almendola, staying healthy will remain key; Edelman has missed 14 of 64 possible games over his short, four year career.
The wild card on this team is undrafted free agent, Kenbrell Thompkins. After being passed on by every team in the draft, and signing for just $2,500 guaranteed, the 25 year old receiver broke out in the preseason. After grabbing 4 catches for 23 yards in the preseason opener against the Eagles, Thompkins led the team with 8 receptions and 116 yards in game three against the Lions. Tall, fast, athletic, with excellent route running and one-on-one skills, Thompkins was only passed on in the draft due to a troubled, jail-riddled past. Bellicheck and Brady, as seen with Randy Moss, have a history of ignoring arrest records when the talent is ripe, and Thompkins just might join the ranks of Brady’s limitless receivers.
With the news that tight end Rob Gronkowski is hurt and won’t even make the trip to buffalo, and with Aaron Hernandez obviously in prison, no name Michael Hoomanawanui has found himself as the Patriots number 1 tight end. Just 25, Hoomanawanui has historically been a blocking tight end, receiving for only 109 yards over six starts last season for the Patriots. The loss of Gronk signals the end of the Patriot’s tight end heavy offense as they will likely rely on their receivers to outmatch the Bills porous secondary, but Hoomanawanui may still get some shots to prove himself as a receiver. He did manage to catch three TD passes for St. Louis in his rookie year, and he’ll look to channel that ability today against the Bills.