Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots’ offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on Thursday.
Position: Wide receiver
Current number of players: 10
Four-year average at cut to 53: 6.25
Last season at 53: 6
Locks (3): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Matthew Slater
Near-locks (2): Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman
Battling (5): Deion Branch, Donte’ Stallworth, Britt Davis, Jeremy Ebert, Jesse Holley
Long shots: None
On the team: Welker, Lloyd, Slater, Gaffney, Edelman, Stallworth, Davis
Cut: Branch, Holley, Ebert
Parting thought: As successful as Branch’s second stint with the Pats has been, this could be the end – he has struggled to gain separation over defenders since the second half of last year, and while his savvy got him through, Gaffney can fill a similar role on better legs. Welker and Lloyd should be a powerful 1-2 punch, with Lloyd the downfield threat the Pats haven’t had since Randy Moss left. Slater is a receiver in name alone, as his status as one of the league’s best special-teamers makes him needed; similarly, Edelman’s versatility – he’s likely the team’s best returner, and played some defensive back last year – get him a spot. Davis impressed in spring camps, and Stallworth’s ability to contribute on special teams also helps when compared to Branch.