The AFC East has excellent talent across the board at many positions like running back and defensive tackle. The depth isn't as great at receiver. There is a clear gap between the haves and the have nots. It is this week's discussion on Around the AFC East. Yours truly joins Pats Pulpit, Buffalo Rumblings, and The Phinsider ranking the division's corps at wide receiver.
There's not really much room for discussion here. The Pats are far and away the best the East has to offer at the position. Randy Moss is the greatest receiver of this generation. He has been the most dangerous weapon on the two teams with the most points in a single season in NFL history. There is no way to defend him. He's the one receiver in the league with top end speed, height, leaping ability, and hands. The shifty Wes Welker is an ideal slot receiver and has thrived working underneath since the Pats acquired him in 2007. He led the league in receptions in 2008. Their number three receiver, Joey Galloway, has put up 1,000 yards in three of the past four seasons and is a quality deep threat even at age 37. Greg Lewis, another shifty slot receiver, perhaps a poor man's Welker, seems like an ideal fit and will see plenty of opportunities in New England's multiple receiver formations.
It's easy to knock these receivers as a product of the system and a Hall of Fame quarterback, but that isn't really accurate. Randall Cunningham and Jeff George resurrected their careers in Minnesota with Moss, and Daunte Culpepper fell off a cliff after the Vikings trade him. Welker led the league in grabs a year ago with a quarterback who had not started a game since high school. Galloway put together an excellent career with three different teams before going to Foxborough. The Jets' newfound depth at corner was a necessity.
The Bills have a tandem that will compliment each other well. Lee Evans is an excellent deep threat, and Terrell Owens is a difference making possession receiver. T.O. is a bit overrated right now. He is coming off a relatively underwhelming year at age 35. We all know about his team killing persona, and he drops too many passes. Even at his best, he doesn't have the physical ability to do as much as Moss. With that said, he's been in double digits in touchdowns the past three years, is as dangerous as anybody after the catch, and always forces defenses to account for him. Josh Reed is an excellent third target, a surer bet than Galloway at this point. Although Roscoe Parrish isn't much of a threat in the passing game, his status as an elite punt returner gives him bonus points. I rate the Bills a close second only because there isn't anybody in football who can do everything Moss does. That's not a shot at them.
Can Trent Edwards be an effective starter in this league? The jury is still out after two seasons. There are no excuses now. With this receiving corps, an effective stable of backs, and a revamped offensive line, the tools are in place.
I would be absolutely shocked if any of the other bloggers had the Jets or the Dolphins in the top two or the Pats or Bills in the bottom two. There's a wide gap between the top and bottom tiers at the position. Why do the Jets take the third spot? Imagine you had to start a team composed of only players from the Jets or Dolphins. Who would your first choice be? Jerricho Cotchery and it wouldn't even be close. He has over 230 catches, 2,900 yards, and has tallied 13 touchdown grabs in the past three years. He lacks top end speed, but that's about it. He has the strength to beat jams, runs routes well, fights for the ball as well as anybody, and possesses excellent hands. If all the Dolphins' receivers became free agents today, I don't think there's anybody the Jets would have a lot of urgency to sign. The Dolphins would probably be all over Cotchery.
This is a group almost as underwhelming as that of the Jets. Even with a quarterback who finished second in MVP voting, nobody put up numbers that stood out in 2008. Ted Ginn led the club in receptions with 56 and yards with 790 to go with a pair of touchdowns, but at this point, he hasn't lived up to his top ten status. That might be better than anybody currently on the Jets roster has produced, but does anybody out there really think Chansi Stuckey couldn't put up similar numbers if he saw increased opportunities as a full time starter? Just another guy is a phrase coined by the man who runs the Dolphins, Bill Parcells. It refers to dime a dozen unspectacular players. The Dolphins are full of these at receiver. Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess inspired so little confidence in the regime that Miami drafted two receivers this year, Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner. They aren't exactly expected to become difference-makers like Michael Crabtree. You might throw Pat White into the mix, but it will take a lot of work to adjust to a new position. Besides, if Miami thought he was an answer, why did they take Hartline and Turner?