Taylor Price: The Time Is Now for Young New England Patriots WR

Eitan KatzAnalyst IINovember 4, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 26:  Taylor Price #17 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against the St. Louis Rams on August 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Rams defeated the Patriots 36-35.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Taylor Price waited patiently all season long as the New England Patriots stubbornly kept struggling wideout Chad Ochocinco on the field.

Now, with the coaching staff fed up with their lack of a downfield presence, they are looking to Price as a deep-threat they can count on. With a limited amount of in-game experience, it is tough to adequately measure what we can expect from him.

In the preseason, Price made a gorgeous tip-toe catch in the back of the end zone. The catch prompted many fans to wonder whether the 2010 third-round draft pick would get a legitimate shot this season.

Price was inactive for the first three games of the regular season (partially due to injury), but has since been dressed on game day and ready for action. Finally, against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday, Price was given a real chance to showcase his skills.

In only six offensive snaps, No. 17 proved to coach Belichick that he was ready.

The main highlight came when Price beat his man one-on-one down the field. The play would have gone for big yardage, and possibly a touchdown, had quarterback Tom Brady been given an extra half second to set his feet on the long throw.

While the ball ended up being harmlessly tipped away by the defender, the result of the play was a lot more significant. After sitting on the bench for almost all of his rookie season and the first half of this season, Taylor Price is ready to contribute.

The speedster from Ohio is barely 24 years old, and with his 6'0", 205-pound frame, Price is the type of athletic receiver the Patriots have been lacking since they traded away Randy Moss at the beginning of last season.

Pats offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is itching to get Price some more playing time: 

"He's [Price] practiced well. We need to get him in there more. He's done a good job in practice and he's a guy we gotta give some more reps to in the game." 

O'Brien's words are a clear indication of the coaching staff's desire to increase Price's role in the offense. Replacing wretched free agent bust Chad Ochocinco would seem to be the right move in this situation. As the No. 3 receiver, Price would see lots of one-on-one matchups that Brady would love to exploit down the field.

With his speed, Price could transform the offense.

Against great defenses like the Steelers and the New York Jets, the Pats have had trouble moving the ball through the air. The reason is simple: Because the offense lacks any downfield threats, strong cornerbacks are able to bump small receivers like Wes Welker and Deion Branch.

Considering Brady's reliance on Welker and Branch's timing patterns, these bumps at the line of scrimmage disrupt the entire flow of the passing game.

However, with Price in the lineup, the secondary would be forced to respect his deep-play ability and take a step back.

Once the playoffs come around, Brady isn't going to be able to toss up 517 yards like he did against the woeful Miami Dolphins. Defenses in the playoffs are suffocating—just ask the 2009 and 2010 Patriots. Both of those teams were manhandled in the first round against defensively dominating teams.

Integrating a player who can make things happen down field, and give defenses pause the next time they think about playing press coverage, is exactly what this offense needs.

Hopefully for the New England Patriots, Taylor Price can be that player.