By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
“What are you saying Jakobi Meyers is the next Randy Moss??!?!?”
No. Don’t do that. But Meyers is emblematic of a wide receiver group that’s noticeably deeper and more talented than what the Patriots had a year ago. The comparisons to 2018 should end now.
A year ago, this positional group was like they signed five Demaryius Thomases. Speaking of the former Bronco, he’s still on the shelf as he recovers from an Achilles injury. There’s too much talent and competition for Thomas to make the roster out of camp now.
This time, Bill Belichick went younger at the position but continued his trend of adding bigger receivers. It’s been a departure from the Patriots’ usual stable of smaller, quicker slot guys. But they even have one of those in second-year pro Braxton Berrios.
Meyers, though, has really shaken up the positional battle. He now looks like a near-lock to make the Final 53™ after he parlayed an excellent training camp and joint practice week into a strong showing in his preseason debut against the Lions.
The undrafted rookie out of N.C. State is making a lot of teams (even the Patriots) look bad for not drafting him. But what matters now is proving himself to Belichick, and he’s done that better than any other new receiver.
“I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers told reporters after the Patriots’ 31-3 preseason win over the Lions. “I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”
Meyers showed confidence in his understanding of the Patriots offense (they sent him in motion on a number of plays), a surprising ability to get separation in short areas, and the sure hands that the Pats look for in their quick-strike passing game.
His second touchdown of the game from Jarrett Stidham wasn’t the most spectacular play, but it showed a lot of what the Patriots want when Tom Brady gets within the 10-yard line in a real game. Meyers beat Lions cornerback Mike Ford to the inside with a quick first step before holding on to the pass for the score.
The Pats need receivers to flawlessly execute the simple stuff more than anything. Meyers has excelled at it so far. Edelman and others have shown that in this system, simplicity can equal greatness.
“I want to be great, and I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust in me on tough downs,” Meyers said of his second touchdown, which was also a good development for the rookie quarterback throwing him the ball.
“The middle of the field just opened up and he ran a great route and got open,” Stidham said of the TD. “I’m just trying to get the playmaker the ball. He did a great job getting open and those guys up front did a great job of protecting.”
Berrios also had a promising night as the team’s primary return man and slot receiver, making three catches for 45 yards. Brady has targeted him heavily in team drills during camp and joint practices. Berrios still has a decent chance of making the team as a logical backup to Julian Edelman in the slot.
Maurice Harris also continued to make plays after sliding back a bit on the depth chart under Meyers. He hauled in a one-handed touchdown from Brian Hoyer that was arguably the best catch of the game.
And we’ve gotten through over 600 words here without even mentioning first-round pick N’Keal Harry. The former Arizona State wideout apparently avoided a major injury, but had to leave the game early on Thursday night.
He still turned heads with a pair of acrobatic catches that showcased his talent for winning physical battles and reeling in contested balls.
N’keal Harry’s first catch as a New England Patriot pic.twitter.com/cdc4BL8qM7— PatriotMaven (@PatriotsMaven) August 9, 2019
This is a long way of saying that the Patriots’ wide receiver corps is a far cry from the dumpster fire of a year ago. This isn’t Cordarrelle Patterson being forced targets because he’s the best available option, despite never panning out as a pass-catcher. These are real receivers.
And I’m not saying this because of a preseason game, either. This has been my take since right after mandatory minicamp. Like a coward, I didn’t deliver this take to the forefront until now.
It’s still possible that water finds the proverbial level with Meyers. This isn’t the first time that an unheralded prospect was a preseason superstar. But can Meyers be the fifth passing option behind Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, James White, and Harry? Is Dorsett’s roster spot even as secure as it has appeared all offseason?
Unlike 2018, this year’s crop of receivers suddenly looks like Belichick will have to move on from a good player. At the very least, it’s possible that someone who shined in the preseason will miss the cut.
That won’t be Meyers, but his rise has made that a distinct possibility. The same can be said for the entire group.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.