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For Patriots, the pieces are falling in and out of place

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  April 5, 2013 08:30 AM

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On the other end, the team dropped Brandon Lloyd (74 catches in 2012 for 911 yards) and reacted by signing Donald Jones (41 receptions, 443 yards, 4 touchdowns in 2012) and Michael Jenkins (career high 53 receptions in 2007).

Eh.

Former Patriots wide receiver David Patten
was successfully developed in New England.
(Matthew J. Lee / Globe file photo)
And now, with news of free agent receiver Julian Edelman visiting the New York Giants, the Patriots can potentially go into training camp with a group of receivers who have little to no experience in the team's offense. Whether Amendola has a leg up from his time spent with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis is not a sure thing. But what is certain is the infamous learning curve – the same one that doomed Chad Ochocinco, who was once beloved by Bill Belichick. The Patriots will potentially put four or five receivers through the playbook gauntlet, but have succeeded in developing only three at the position since 2000: Deion Branch, David Patten, and Edelman. While Patten was drafted elsewhere, he didn't become a top flight receiver until Belichick got his hands on him.

With the developments of the last week, Patriots fans can possibly bear witness to the rare occurrence of the team developing a promising player and then watching him become successful elsewhere. Edelman, despite his own durability issues, certainly has that potential.

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Zuri's Top 5 positions of need for Patriots:

1. Wide receiver
2. Cornerback
3. Defensive end
4. Nickel linebacker
5. Defensive tackle


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Looking over last year's offseason for the Patriots, there were some huge names that came through camp, almost none of which stuck. Among the players signed to provide competition: WR Anthony Gonzalez, LB Bobby Carpenter, DL Jonathan Fanene, WR Jabar Gaffney, and RB Joseph Addai. There were a number of ailments across the board, age included, that were a detriment for each of these guys. But their chief disadvantage was the competition on the roster after the Patriots flooded their position groups with talented youngsters and free agents. That's why Erik Frenz's post on the team's personnel strategy was so prescient. And if you were to ask a betting man which position groups will see the most competition in camp this year, he wouldn't be far off looking at wide receiver, defensive line, and safety again.

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The Patriots are conducting their pre-draft visits from NFL prospects. Each team gets 30 such visits a year, making it one of the more interesting periods of the offseason for tracking which players are making the trip to Foxborough. Rest assured, the ones that are spotted at Logan Airport are not necessarily the cream of the Patriots' crop. Consider that Marcus Lattimore (knee injury) and Tyrann Mathieu (discipline) are reportedly visiting with the team. The two fall into very specific categories for the Patriots to warrant closer looks: health and personality issues that require a more thorough examination. Also consider that Chandler Jones (2012) and Nate Solder (2011) did not visit the Patriots during this period as well. However, what these visits do suggest is positions in which the team is showing the most interest.

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Tweet of the week

040513steviejohnsontweet.jpg

Instant face palm.

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Input this

Readers of Boston.com shared their excitement for draft prospect Margus Hunt, a defensive end for Southern Methodist, in one of our brief scouting reports. Here's a sampling:

Pats have a solid team with depth... what they need are a few extra playmakers on both sides of the ball to put them over the top... not a value pick or a spare part... but a game changer... Imagine Hunt playing across from Chandler Jones... It's a risk to draft Margus Hunt in an early round... but a risk with huge upside... Go for Hunt ... looks like a great athlete with incredible assets

It's clear that Patriots fans are very much enamored with this stud defensive lineman, but are also open to any dynamic player. Methinks we all will share in our surprise at whomever the Patriots select at No. 29.

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Terrell Owens worked out with Tom Brady at USC this week. On a slow news day, it dominated headlines. As someone who watched T.O. up close from his days in San Francisco, I found it peculiar. But more than anything else, it gives me the opportunity to break out this video:

I should note that Tony Romo just signed a 6-year, $108 million contract extension. No telling where T.O.'s finances are after being out of the league the past two years. He's still looking for that next opportunity. And between the two, he's still a bona fide hall of fame player. I can't say the same about Romo.

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What's coming?

- On April 11, Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will be sentenced after his felony conviction for assaulting a police officer in Lincoln, Neb. How much time he serves will directly affect the Patriots' draft strategy. He faces up to five years in prison, but is likely to see much less time.

- The NFL draft is now 20 days away, April 25-27.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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