New England Patriots rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell looks to have a larger role now that All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is sidelined with a back injury. Mitchell caught two touchdowns over Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis last week, and nearly picked up 100 yards the week before.
But Mitchell wasn’t always a big part of the offense. He suffered a few setbacks earlier in the year.
“Malcolm’s year has been not a straight line,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “I think the spring was good. The early part of training camp built off of the spring was very good. Then he got injured. Then he missed, whatever it was, three or four weeks in there and there was kind of a rebuilding process of him getting back timing, confidence.
“In the meantime, the offense had accelerated quite a bit from where we were in the spring and where we were in the first let’s call it two weeks of training camp to where we were by the second, third, fourth regular season game. So there was some catching up to do, timing, confidence, strength, so forth. And then it’s been a good progression I’d say from somewhere there, like around the third, fourth week of the season, somewhere in there. He came back earlier than that but I think again there was kind of a catch up period that took place to a degree.”
Mitchell was making plays all over the field during camp and was exceptional in his first preseason game, until he hit the ground awkwardly and dislocated his elbow. Mitchell missed time due to the injury and it’s clear that he needed to make up for lost practice during the first quarter of the regular season.
It seems like Mitchell has finally turned a corner to a point where the Patriots coaches and quarterback Tom Brady know they can trust the rookie to deliver at crucial moments. Mitchell will have five weeks to cement his place on the Patriots depth chart before the postseason. He’s just getting started.