Danny Amendola: Start
Replacing Wes Welker is no easy task, but Amendola worked hard to develop chemistry with Brady this offseason, and according to ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss, it’s already paying off. Reiss reported that during last week’s joint practice with the Eagles, the two exchanged pre-snap hand signals before hooking up for a nice reception.
He’s locked in as the top wide receiver.
Kenbrell Thompkins: Start
Thompkins has come on like gangbusters this summer after landing with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie from Cincinnati. He started the preseason opener against the Eagles and looked great during his action, showing crisp route running and soft hands and aggressively fighting for the football.
If the season began today, the former Bearcat would likely start opposite Amendola.
Aaron Dobson: Start/Keep
Dobson is the most explosive—and perhaps the most talented—receiver on the Patriots roster. The second-round draft pick out of Marshall saw significant reps during the preseason opener and acquitted himself well. He did have one drop but also flashed big-play ability with the longest catch of the night—23 yards—while working with both the first- and second-team offenses.
He was also open for another potential big play, but Tebow rifled an absolute laser beam into the dirt and about five yards off target.
Dobson should see situational action initially, but may very well overtake Thompkins as the primary “X” receiver during the course of the season.
Julian Edelman: Keep (active)
Edelman has flashed Welker-ish ability in the past and could carve out a sizeable role for himself with so much roster turnover this season. He’s caught more passes from Brady than any other wideout on the roster, which isn’t saying much, but still bodes well for his roster chances.
Perhaps more importantly, he’s an explosive option in the return game should Leon Washington suffer an injury or prove ineffective. As mentioned earlier, he could also serve as the emergency quarterback in a pinch, assuming Tebow isn’t dressed for game action.
Michael Jenkins: Keep (active)
As recently as last month, I had Jenkins penciled into the starting lineup. He hasn’t really established himself since then, and the young guns have taken off.
Renowned for his speed—or lack thereof—“Molasses Mike” will likely take his sure hands and slow feet to free agency, unless the Patriots get creative and keep seven wide receivers. I see them doing just that, only because Jenkins’ veteran experience will be invaluable to rookies Dobson, Thompkins and Josh Boyce.
Matthew Slater: Keep (active)
Another reason Jenkins might escape the chopping block is because another player at his position doesn’t actually catch passes. Slater has one reception in his career, but the back-to-back Pro Bowler is entrenched as the Patriots’ special teams ace.
Josh Boyce: Keep (active)
He didn’t record a catch in last week’s preseason opener against the Eagles, but the Patriots didn’t spend a fourth-round pick on the former TCU Horned Frog to put him on the practice squad and watch another team poach him. He’ll suit up on Sundays and in a best-case scenario will give the Patriots another weapon in the mould of Deion Branch.
Kamar Aiken: Cut
Initially, I had Aiken penciled in for the practice squad, but the Patriots won’t carry eight receivers.
Johnathan Haggerty: Cut
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Haggerty before. OK, now put it down if you cover the team or if you went to school with him at Southwestern Oklahoma. If you still have your hand up, put it down, you filthy liar!
Mark Harrison: Cut
In the interest of full disclosure, he is a rookie from Rutgers, so Bill Belichick might keep him around to fill out the Scarlet Knight lunch table at Gillette Stadium. Even with Rutgers on his resume, though, it looks like Harrison is too low on the pecking order to crack the final roster.
Quentin Sims: Cut
Sims has great size at 6’3” and 202 pounds, but the undrafted rookie from Tennessee-Martin would barely make the cut even if the only receivers on the roster were the five rookies.