It has been one full decade since the New England Patriots finished a regular season with seven wide receivers on the active roster. Ever since the Patriots drafted Matthew Slater in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Patriots have held four or five receivers in addition to the special teams ace.
But back in 2007, the Patriots had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Troy Brown, Kelley Washington, and Chad Jackson on the active roster.
Undrafted rookie WR Austin Carr needs the 2017 Patriots to use a similar roster construction as the 2007 Patriots if he’s going to make the roster. Barring injury, the Patriots are unlikely to keep Carr on the active roster- but Carr is going to do everything in his power to make the Patriots decision as difficult as possible.
In the Patriots first preseason game, Carr led the offense by playing 66 of a possible 75 snaps. He collected 5 of his 7 targets for 44 yards and a touchdown and made his case to play with the top unit offense in week 2 of the preseason against the Houston Texans
“I was talking with the guys and I just wanted to get my first catch, my first hit, my first tackle and it’s all done now,” Carr said after the game. “It was tons of fun, I love this game. Nights like tonight, being able to play in front of a home crowd, it’s kind of what you live for. Tons of fun.”
Carr made a few highlight grabs over the course of the night, including a nice 20-yard grab during the Patriots two-minute drill right before halftime.
Carr showed excellent body control on the sideline and generated great separation from the Jaguars second-string defensive backs.
Later in the same drive, Carr snagged a third down touchdown from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo off a broken play.
“Austin made a tremendous catch on a touchdown,” Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo said after the game. “I mean, he really went up and got that one for me.”
“It was a scramble play,” Carr said about the touchdown. “ It’s never how you draw it up, but we do that drill every week and Jimmy threw a great ball and I was able to go up and get it.”
“As I was coming across the end zone, I was trying to make sure I didn’t get pushed out [of bounds],” Carr added. “The [defensive back] made a great play on the ball. All of the [defensive backs] on the Jaguars had a great game, but I was able to pull that one down.”
Carr flashed impressive quickness in his breaks and an ability to pluck the ball out of the air. While Carr was a combine snub, he ran a 6.70s three cone drill and 4.07s shuttle drill at his Pro Day and would have joined Houston CB Howard Wilson, Washington CB Kevin King, and Michigan WR Jehu Chesson as the only players at the combine to reach those agility numbers.
But it wasn’t just Carr’s receiving ability that could earn him a roster spot. Carr showed a nose for blocking in the run game and was often one of the leading blockers, moving linebackers out of the way down the field.
Carr (#84) starts the play on the left side of the line of scrimmage.
The Patriots will likely ask Carr to take on a larger role in the offense in week 2 of the preseason with players like Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola possibly limited, and with Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks potentially seeing an early exit due to their importance.
If Carr can take another step forward in the Patriots offense and impress with Tom Brady at quarterback, then the rookie receiver will be another step closer towards securing a roster spot and forcing the team to hold seven receivers for the first time since 2007.
And even if he is unable to crack the Patriots depth chart, then Carr has put together a great highlight tape for whichever team signs him after roster cuts.