New England Patriots: 5 Wide Receivers Tom Brady Needs Next Season
Translation: Brady needs new weapons.
With Rob Gronkowski clearly ailing, Brady was forced to rely on the likes of Aaron Hernandez for the majority of the work on Sunday. Hernandez can be a nightmare for defenses as the third, or sometimes second option. But as Brady's primary target against the G-Men, his inadequacies were exposed.
There are a variety of talented wide receivers currently set to become available in the upcoming offseason, and the Patriots should look to add at least one, if not more of them.
Tom Brady wouldn't argue.
The Pats may need to clear up some cap space to acquire a couple of these targets, but that isn't something I can truthfully predict.
Vincent Jackson is a man child. At 6'5" 230 pounds, he's more than a handful for any corner in the NFL. During his time with the Chargers, he's developed a strong rapport with quarterback Philip Rivers. Over the last three seasons they have turned into one of the best deep-ball hookups in the league.
Unfortunately, Jackson hasn't seen eye-to-eye with management.
Jackson began the 2010 with a contract dispute and subsequent holdout. He played in only five games that season. Despite playing all 16 games in 2011, it seems likely that Jackson will seek employment elsewhere, as he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Tom Brady to Vincent Jackson could be a ridiculous force. We've already seen Tom's ability and willingness to simply throw it up to tall receivers (See "Gronkowski, Rob") and let them do their thing. Jackson also possesses speed that Gronk could only dream of. This pairing would bring back the deep threat that the Pats lacked this year, as well as adding yet another red-zone target for the Golden Boy.
From 2008-2010, DeSean Jackson established himself as one of the most electric players in the NFL, scoring a variety of jaw-dropping touchdowns.
In 2011, Jackson established himself as another misguided young athlete whose top priorities are fame and money.
Jackson began the season with a contract dispute, the first bump in an Eagles' season gone awry.
He was suspended for missing meetings. He was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was benched for poor play and effort.
He had a forgettable season.
But despite these shortcomings, Jackson still managed to post 961 receiving yards.
As talented as Jackson is, the Eagles may have had enough of his antics this season and could just let him walk. The Patriots would do well to sign him to a short-term deal.
Mario Manningham had a big night against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, recording five catches for 73 yards. That included a 38-yard grab that sparked the Giants' game-winning drive.
Needless to say, Pats fans probably aren't too happy about him right now.
But the truth of the matter is that Manningham may have just played his last game in a Giants uniform. Relegated to being the third receiver due to the emergence of superstar Victor Cruz, Manningham could look to break into a starting receiver role elsewhere.
And there aren't too many quarterbacks he'd rather catch passes from than Mr. Brady.
The Patriots could certainly benefit from his athleticism and quickness, using his shiftiness to create separation from defenders. Deion Branch isn't getting any younger, and Chad Ochocinco apparently doesn't know how to play football anymore.
Though Manningham clearly regressed in 2011, it was mainly due to injuries and Cruz's unexpected rise to stardom. The Patriots should look to lure him away from the Giants.
The Colts were a disaster this season. Three different quarterbacks accounted for two total wins, and the offense was a joke all year.
All except Garcon.
It can easily be said the young receiver was the only Colt who benefited from Peyton Manning's absence. Without the future Hall of Famer, Garcon recorded career highs in catches, receiving yards and yards per catch. He matched his career high in touchdowns.
What enabled him to excel without Manning is his athleticism.
Often knocked for his less-than-stellar hands, Garcon makes up for it with his top-flight speed and quicks. His leaping ability is underrated and his ability to gain yards after the catch was on display all season long.
Tom Brady hasn't had a receiver as athletically gifted as Garcon since Randy Moss stepped in a vat of cement and was subsequently traded away. Brady would not only benefit from Garcon as a target, but also as a decoy who can open up the middle of the field for Gronk and Hernandez to have more room.
All of the aforementioned targets could be re-signed to their current teams, or even other teams around the league. However, as of current projections, Alshon will almost certainly be available for the Patriots to select either at pick No. 27 or 31.
His athleticism will be further revealed at the NFL Draft Combine, but until then all we have are his measurables and the tape.
His measurables say this kid is a coverage nightmare. Listed at 6'4" 230 pounds, there is no corner in the league who can line up across from this kid and look him eye to eye. His physicality will be more than most corners can deal with.
The tape is a little less appealing. He often doesn't break routes off properly, especially when his quarterback is in trouble. He relies too heavily on athleticism to get open and doesn't run sharp routes.
Of course, these are all things that can be (and should be) coached. Provided he's willing to work hard, we can safely assume that the Patriots can mold this kid into a fine specimen.
After all, few do it better than the Patriots.