Receiver competition heats up as Patriots trample Lions 31-3 in preseason action
By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The result of Thursday night’s game obviously doesn’t matter. Many of the Patriots’ biggest plays came with the Lions missing most of their usual starters. This game has little bearing on the regular season.
Just getting all that out of the way to see who comments on this article without reading. But the important thing to take away from the Patriots’ 31-3 beatdown on Thursday against the Lions is that the wide receivers all stepped up in one form or another.
This positional group is embroiled in a suddenly strong competition for two, maybe three roster spots. The emergence of undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers out of N.C. State has particularly shaken things up. Meyers carried over his strong training camp and joint practices into a big night on Thursday, catching six passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
Braxton Berrios also made plays all over the field, making three catches and shining as the starting punt returner. Maurice Harris caught the game’s first touchdown with a nifty one-handed grab against a handsy cornerback. Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Davis, and Gunner Olszewski all made at least one catch.
The only unfortunate news out of Thursday’s game for the receivers was that rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry had to leave the game with an apparent injury in the first quarter. But even he showed up before that, making two impressive back-shoulder catches on throws from starting QB Brian Hoyer.
Other promising developments in this game came from rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham. He’s had a solid camp and it translated to a solid game against the Lions, completing 14-of-24 passes (58.3 percent) for 179 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers.
The big question with Stidham is how he handles pressure and processes the game in front of him. He got the ball out quickly on a number of throws and often made good decisions, such as a second-quarter throwaway when he curled back and got rid of the ball with a pass-rusher bearing down on him. His arm talent is undeniable at this point, as is his ability to throw on the run. If he can improve in the more intangible areas, the Patriots may be able to develop him into a starting-caliber QB. Of course, it’s way too early to make any declarations.
New England also dominated on defense. Their depth showed, with several key players from last year’s Super Bowl-winning squad (J.C. Jackson, Adam Butler, Danny Shelton, Keion Crossen) playing heavily in the first half. Others who are expected to play big roles this season showed up, like linebackers Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive end Derek Rivers.
There’s not much you can take away from this game that isn’t positive for the Patriots. A nice start to actual game action for a team with a lot of depth and tough decisions to make on the roster at the end of the month.
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.