Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Donte' Stallworth and Chad Ochocinco may not have spots on the 53-man roster.
Carrying six wide receivers is the norm in the NFL. With just 53 spots on the roster and depth needed elsewhere, several wideouts won't make it through to the end.
Donte' Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco and others may not have a place in Foxboro once September rolls around.
Donte' Stallworth is not new to the Patriots, as he played with the team in 2007, catching 46 balls for 697 yards and three touchdowns. Yet with other veteran receivers already on the squad, Stallworth's role on the 2012 Patriots is in doubt.
One question about Stallworth is his decline in production. He's a speedy runner, but hasn't caught more than 22 passes in a season since departing from the Patriots over four years ago.
If Stallworth fails to rediscover his niche, he will fail to make the final roster.
As for Chad Ochocinco, his first year in New England was more than disappointing. The former Cincinnati Bengal recorded a mere 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown.
He was taken off the field in no-huddle situations because he wasn't comfortable enough with the playbook. However, what was most apparent was the fact that the Patriots didn't need him. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker combined for 291 catches in 2011, making Ochocinco obsolete.
"The 'no time to learn the offense' excuse holds no weight for an NFL player with a decade in the league," writes CBS Boston's Michael Hurley. "He’s just not the right fit."
There's a chance he could rebound this preseason, but unless Ochocinco has an outstanding camp, the experiment will be over in New England. When No. 85 restructured his contract this offseason, he gave the Patriots the financial flexibility to release him.
There is one wideout on the fringe who might stick around: Jeremy Ebert. New England's seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft could fall onto the practice squad, where Pats coaches could develop his route running and polish his skills at as a return man.
Coming out of Northwestern, Ebert's a smart player who has the body of a slot receiver at 5'11", 200 pounds. Yet the active roster has space for only so many slot receivers.
Overall, New England is fortunate to have such an array of options at receiver. The mixture of seasoned experience and energetic youth will pay dividends down the road for the Patriots. But for the time being, training camp and preseason will dictate the future of the Patriots wide receiving crew.