By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Eric Decker has a lot of catching up to do with the New England Patriots, but he also has a bit of a head start. The former Denver Broncos receiver, who worked for part of his rookie season in 2010 with Josh McDaniels when the Patriots offensive coordinator was head coach there, arrives in Foxborough with at least some semblance of familiarity.
The Patriots’ offensive playbook has long been one of the most complex in the National Football League, certainly one of the hardest to master with Tom Brady at the helm. But there are some elements from McDaniels’ time in Denver that remain in New England, which is giving Decker a leg up in his transition from the street to the Patriots. It could give him an advantage as he battles for a roster spot with the likes of Kenny Britt at a wide receiver position that’s low on sure things.
McDaniels’ offense is far from exactly the same as it was eight years ago, but Decker acknowledged in his first meeting with reporters on Tuesday that there’s enough he recognizes to give him more than just a blank slate.
“You know, there’s obviously things that change over time but there’s some carry-over that I was able to take and quickly learn,” Decker said. “And then there’s a lot of new stuff too that, you know, I got to kind of catch up on and get ready to go.”
Interestingly enough, Bill Belichick admitted the same thing when asked if Decker’s experience with McDaniels will help acclimate him to the Patriots. And used the same term.
“Yeah, I’m sure it will,” Belichick said. “Well, he’s a smart guy. I know he has recall from some of the things that we do that Josh did at Denver that are carryover. There’s a lot of differences, but there’s certainly a lot of carry-over.”
Even if Belichick and Decker had a meeting about how to address the media (“Carry-over!”), at least they’re in agreement in that regard. Belichick easily could’ve said 2010 has no bearing on 2018, which he would do with a lot of other topics. But not Decker.
The receiver already appears to be making progress and gaining a bit of trust out there; he caught his first pass from Tom Brady in team drills as he got some reps on Tuesday.
Decker, who had two of his best seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver, already sees why the now-retired Manning and Brady achieved such monolithic levels of greatness over their careers. He believes the similarities between the two future Hall of Famers will help him become a better asset to the Patriots the way he emerged under Manning with the Broncos.
“I mean these guys have played a lot of football and they understand how to win, what the formula is and Peyton’s the same way,” Decker said. “I took a lot of just the habits, you know how he came to work, how he took care of himself physically, the way he watched tape, the way he practiced, the extra work he put in. Those things that translate over to Sunday and I believe Tom’s the same way just being around him the last few days.
“That’s something that as a receiver, as just a teammate that you love seeing from that position because that’s who’s going to carry you and you just kind of follow in his lead and do what suits best for the team.”
It’s unclear where Decker is at this point in his progress of learning the Patriots system, having been around for just a few days of practice. He may not play a single snap in Thursday’s preseason opener, unless Belichick and McDaniels see the benefits in getting him the reps to get him up to speed.
But it’s already becoming apparent that he’ll have a legitimate shot at the roster, despite making just $75,000 in guaranteed money. This may be a glorified tryout for the veteran wideout, but one where he already sees an avenue to become a viable weapon in short order.
The carry-over should help.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.