By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Speed is good, but overrated. Especially at wide receiver. Obsess over 40 times all you want, but wide receivers can’t succeed at the NFL level without confidence, smarts, and work ethic. Jakobi Meyers has plenty of all that, and the Patriots’ newest top target has a chance to put it on display even more against the Jets.
Curiously, Meyers has attributed to his self-confidence to the mere fact that he grew up in Lithonia, Ga., less than 20 miles east of Atlanta. It’s where he played quarterback at Arabia Mountain High School before committing to a transition to receiver at North Carolina State. From there he’s learned as much as he can about the position, from hands-on experience to scouring YouTube videos for players of similar size. He sure looks the part now, but it all started with the confidence instilled him as a Georgia kid.
Earlier this season, when asked about his confidence level, Meyers said “I’m from Georgia, so I’m always confident.” Asked to follow up on that self-assessment, Meyers expounded a little more.
To be fair, confidence is hard to describe. You just kind of know it when you see it, feel it. But Meyers described the “Georgia swagger,” so to speak, as an infectious self-assurance that helped him and others grow and succeed together.
“It’s just something that’s in us,” Meyers said Thursday. “You know, I feel like everybody that I know, all my friends from Georgia, everybody I meet that’s from Georgia, I feel like we’ve all got the same confidence. We’re all pretty confident in each other. I mean I’m not sure about other places, but I just know where I’m from, it’s definitely something that we like to do is believe in ourselves.”
Opportunity and self-education have converged halfway through Meyers’ second season in the NFL. Faced with the task of a suddenly major role in the Patriots offense amid injuries to Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry, Meyers has been absorbing as much as he can all along. After making six catches for 53 yards against the Bills, Meyers looks well along in his transition.
“I feel like a lot of receivers who play receiver all their life, they’ve had opportunities to experience different coverages, different man techniques, and I feel like I’m still learning that,” Meyers said. “Every day I see something new that I realize I have to combat that, or I have to find a way to work around it and win my route. I think I’m still learning, still getting better. A lot of little details I’ll keep focusing on.”
Lackluster Combine results kept Meyers off everyone’s draft boards a year ago. That’s looking more and more unfair by the week. Considering the mountain Edelman climbed in his own transition from quarterback to receiver, it’s fair to wonder if Meyers still has a lot of ground to cover.
It wouldn’t be the first time Patriots fans saw a hard-working receiver grind his way to the summit. It shouldn’t be ruled out with Meyers and his Georgia swagger.
The No-Tight End Set
The Patriots popularized the use of two tight ends in the passing game after they drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010. Now everybody does it in some form. But the Pats are in an entirely new position in the post-Gronk era, faced with a rebuilding period and a rash of new injuries at the position.
Could the Patriots simply go with zero active tight ends on Monday? It’s a distinct possibility, if neither Ryan Izzo (hamstring) nor rookie Dalton Keene (knee) are able to go. It would likely mean a big jump in offensive snaps in “20” personnel – two running backs, three wide receivers, zero tight ends.
Those formations are the Patriots’ best hopes of putting their best offensive weapons on the field, anyway. But expect a major uptick in that grouping against the Jets after a season-high 16 snaps in Buffalo. Even if Izzo or Keene can play, it’s likely they’ll be limited and the Patriots will have to either 1) use offensive linemen as blocking tight ends, or 2) just go with the no-tight end set.
Three Cheers For Mike Onwenu
Offensive lineman Mike Onwenu has been one of the biggest rookie surprises not just in New England, but across the league. He’s played both guard positions and is currently filling in at right tackle. The way he’s been playing, he may hold onto that job even when Jermaine Eluemunor is healthy again.
Onwenu’s impressive power has been on display all season, and it showed up against the Bills when he blew up two linebackers simultaneously. You can watch the play below, via NESN’s Zack Cox:
Mike Onwenu said this block earned him a big cheer during film study. He wiped out two Bills linebackers like it was nothing. pic.twitter.com/6inMwN8AmV— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 5, 2020
“Yeah definitely during the film session, all the guys cheered me on,” Onwenu said Thursday. “So, I mean, that was a good feeling. To be honest, I didn’t even know that happened until I watched it. But, you know, I’m glad I did.”
The Patriots’ roster-building has certainly been a problem in other areas. But with Onwenu the team has a real find, and it sounds like his teammates know it.
A Clash Of Alabama Men
Patriots running back Damien Harris may have literally run away with the lead back job after scoring his first career touchdown in a nice performance last Sunday in Buffalo. The offensive line opened up big lanes for him and the former Alabama back made guys miss on the way to the end zone.
Between the tackles, Harris will have a heavy challenge in front of him, in the form of an ex-teammate from the Crimson Tide, the Jets’ Quinnen Williams. The Pats’ interior O-line has its hands full with the third pick in the 2019 draft, who will be tasked with bringing his ex-Alabama ‘mate down at the point of attack. Harris is ready for the challenge of going against his buddy.
“He’s the same player that he always has been,” Harris said. “A big, physical presence, creates negative plays, always around the ball, always disrupting whatever scheme the offense has going. He’s still that guy so like I said I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see him again on Monday.”
Harris and the O-line against “Q” will be one of the key matchups to watch as the Pats look to get back in the win column.
I talked Patriots with Alex Barth and Ty Anderson of 985TheSportsHub.com earlier this week on our podcasts. Have a listen below.
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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.