I must admit there are many things that worry me about this team: the lack of a contract for Vince Wilfork, the age of the offensive line, Belichick's sometimes heavy reliance on "tried and true" veterans, and the apparent black hole in the locker room known as player leadership. Those are some of the things that make this fan pause. But the one thing that has me sleepless (well, not really. I mean, I'm not that much of an NFL nut. It's not like I'm up all night combing through fantasy stats while my mom screams down the stairs that my Dinty Moore Beef Stew is ready. Sheesh!) is our wide receiver corps.
Part of what made the 2007 Patriots great is evident in the current conference champion Colts and Saints: targets. Remember how many targets Tom Brady had? Sure, Wes Welker and Randy Moss were preferred, but there were other guys giving defenses fits: Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelley Washington. Out of the 3, not one of them is/was a #1 or even a #2 guy on a top tier team, but they all helped the 2007 Patriots do 2 things: a) spread the field and b) make defenses incredibly nervous. Double team Moss and Welker and you remove 4 guys from the defensive backfield. That leaves the 3rd and/or 4th wideout undercovered. Oh, did I mention Kevin Faulk. Depending on how many running backs or tight ends Hoodie decided to put on the field (maybe one for QB protection), you could have 3 or 4 wide receivers on the field. Yeah, scary if you're a defensive guy.
Contrast that with today and what do you have? Welker's most likely out until the last third of the season (if he makes it at all), Moss had back and shoulder problems (stuff it, Felger!!), Julian Edelman's a Welker clone, but he doesn't have "IT" yet, Isaiah Stanback isn't a good option at #3 or even #4, and Brandon Tate is an unknown commodity. There's a few other dudes (Sam Aiken, Matthew Slater, Shun White), but there either serving out their military obligations or are better suited for special teams.
Targets are what ails this offense. The dearth of legitimate targets will be the death of this team. But lest Hoodie forget, there are others with the capability to pull down a Tom Brady spiral. Getting away from the Josh McDaniels "We don't use tight ends to catch the ball" mentality is a good thing. Benjamin Watson showed his worth time and time again. Just because the guy isn't freakishly tall and skinny (Moss) or the size of a Hobbit (Welker) doesn't mean is not a legitimate target.
Edelman may be able to take on Welker's duties until he returns. There were flashes of Welker-ness in the young lad. That will leave us without a legit #3, IMO. I think we need a Donte Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney type guy to fill the void. We can't be training someone to take the spot, not with Welker out. And we need to use as many sets of hands as we can, well, get our hands on. TE's, RB's, you name it. Let's use 'em. Got that Bill?