Is narrative changing with Patriots wide receivers?

Ryan Hannable
August 09, 2019 - 7:23 am
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For weeks, the chatter surrounding the Patriots wide receiver position was there weren’t enough of them and it was going to all fall on the shoulders of Julian Edelman when he returns from being on the NFI list.

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Wide receiver wasn’t exactly a strength of the roster in 2018 and not many moves were made this past offseason that stood out. Demaryius Thomas is a big name, but he’s coming off an Achilles injury and it’s unclear when he’ll return. The team selected N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State in the first round, but he had his fair share of issues to open training camp.

Then there were a bunch of others relatively in the same boat such as Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, along with undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Ryan Davis. 

Not a terrible group, but also not one that was thought could be depended on in a Tom Brady-led offense on a week-to-week basis. But, then came the Patriots’ preseason opener on Thursday and it seems like the narrative with the position may have changed.

The team now might actually have too many receivers, and a legitimate competition may be developing at the position.

Edelman and Harry were viewed as the only true locks going into training camp and then the other likely three spots were totally up for grabs. In the practice sessions thus far, Meyers and Harris were the only two to really do anything of note, which had them penciled in onto the 53-man roster along with Phillip Dorsett.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Brady not having many weapons, and a lot of the fingers being pointed at this group. But, after seeing what was put on tape Thursday against the Lions, there are a number of weapons at Brady’s disposal. 

Now, it’s about keeping the right ones.

Harry was viewed as lock because of his selection in the first round, but there were a lot of questions surrounding him following his tough open to camp with dropping easy passes, getting yelled at by the coaches, etc. He surprised a lot of people on Thursday with his two catches of the contested variety that showed he’s a first-round talent and is ready to contribute.

Meyers had shown well in practice, but it was unclear how it would carry over to the game. And it actually carried over better than expected. The NC State product had six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

“I wouldn’t say surprised. I’m thankful,” he told reporters after the game. “God put me in position all I had to do was take advantage of it. So, surprised wouldn’t be my go-to word,” Meyers said. “But I’m not satisfied, either. At the same time I just have to keep going forward and hopefully more is to come.”

Then, while he’s not a rookie, there were some similar questions with Harris, but he had a solid night, too. The veteran hauled in three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown. And then there was Berrios standing out with three catches for 45 yards as well as even Dontrelle Inman, who had two catches for 23 yards.

A week after it appeared like no one wanted to emerge and make a case for themselves, now it feels like there are realistically three players (Meyers, Berrios, Inman) for one spot — unless the team keeps seven wide receivers (Matthew Slater included), which does not seem likely.

Meyers continued his impressive summer with the best showing in the game. Berrios has bounced back nicely after a slow start, and the thing that stands out with him is his special teams value, which none of the other wide outs have. Inman also got off to a slow start and was running with the third-stringers Thursday, but is a proven NFL receiver and could see more time with the starters in the coming days and weeks.

It is worth including how poor the Lions looked in the game, lacking any emotion at all. Not taking anything away from what the group did, but it will be even more impressive if it can follow it up next week against the Titans.

As of Friday, it feels like Meyers still has a leg up on the others to make the team, but it isn’t as much of a lock as it felt earlier in the week.

Last year at this time the storyline with this group was how deep it was, which obviously did not work out. This year, the storyline was the group wasn’t good enough. Could it be wrong for a second straight year? Time will tell.

Related: Why Thursday’s preseason opener was both good, bad for rookie WR N’Keal Harry