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Bill Belichick: Pats WR competition as strong as ever

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The record-breaking 2007 Patriots offense boasted the greatest deep threat and slot receiver of the 21st century, bolstered by a pair of veterans who went on to 10-year NFL careers in Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney.

This year's receiving corps might lack the star power of Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but coach Bill Belichick still considers the competition for jobs as tight as it's ever been in New England.

"I think our competition at receiver is good, it's probably as good as it's been since I've been here," Belichick told Jim Miller and Pat Kirwin of SiriusXM NFL Radio. "All of those guys are capable at whatever it is. They have different styles at different positions -- slot guys or outside guys -- but whatever it is, they're very competitive and capable players that, I think, have a lot to offer and are going to be very competitive.

"Obviously, we can't keep all of them, but it should be a good battle. They all have skill."

Julian Edelman is locked in as the No. 1 receiver, with Danny Amendola as the favorite for the No. 2 job. Chris Hogan is almost guaranteed a spot in the rotation after the Pats signed him away from the Bills with a three-year, $12 million contract.

That leaves veteran Nate Washington, enigmatic Aaron Dobson, versatile Keshawn Martin, 2015 camp standout Chris Harper, fourth-round rookie Malcolm Mitchell and seventh-round pick Devin Lucien ostensibly battling for two roster spots.

In other words, the position should be vastly improved from last September when the Patriots were forced to trade for Martin to provide depth.

Beyond the wideouts, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo have the luxury of the league's best tight-end duo now that Martellus Bennett has joined forces with perennial All Pro Rob Gronkowski.

"Very talented. Marty's showing up well in all phases of the game -- blocking, receiving, and he's a good downfield receiver," Belichick said of Bennett. "Big target, can go up and get the ball. He and Rob, they're different, but they're kind of interchangeable. ... Having to match up against one guy's hard. Now having to match up against two of them, hopefully we can put some pressure on the defense both in the running game and the passing game."

The Patriots' offense was an unstoppable juggernaut for three months last season before attrition took its toll in November. Once Tom Brady returns to the lineup in October, the aerial attack could be even more invincible this season.

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