If Thursday night was it for Devin Lucien in Foxborough, he didn’t leave much on the sidelines.
The New England Patriots’ final pick in the 2016 draft led the team in receptions and receiving yards in the preseason finale against the New York Giants, cutting and claiming the football with as much incentive as you’d expect from a player who went from four years at UCLA to one post-grad year at Arizona State to being selected No. 225 overall.
“I thought it went OK,” Lucien later told reporters in the locker room, via Patriots.com. “You know, it’s that time of the season where you start to figure out the reality of the situation. They pushed back the cut dates, so you’re kind of lost in everything, thinking that you’re going to be here the whole time, but you really don’t know. I just hope I was able to put on a good performance this last game.”
Lucien finished with five catches for 96 yards in what was a 40-38 loss to the Giants at Gillette Stadium, securing his first touchdown in an NFL uniform after catching seven for 79 through his first seven preseason games. And yet, with rosters set to trim from 90 to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, that little out-and-up might signify the last time he breaks into the Patriots’ end zone.
Devin Lucien gets into the end zone. pic.twitter.com/02hGD1JzVI— Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas) September 1, 2017
It may not be fair, but it is, as Lucien said, the reality of the situation.
Lucien, 24, has been waived before. He’s been unclaimed before, too.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound target spent the entirety of his rookie season on New England’s 10-man practice squad, earning one practice player of the week nod by the time he inked a reserve-futures contract in February. He spent much of New England’s first three exhibitions this August in a similar circumstance, stepping in with Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell well ahead of him.
But with Edelman’s 2017 over before it began, an outside shot remains. It could be Lucien or undrafted rookie Austin Carr who runs with it. Or, it could be neither.
There’s no guarantee the Patriots move forward with more than four pure wide receivers and special-teams captain Matthew Slater on the depth chart. There’s no guarantee that Lucien, thrown to a total of seven times by quarterback Jacoby Brissett on Thursday, won’t be subject to the transaction wire as most are sitting back on Labor Day weekend.
No glance to the sideline from Devin Lucien. pic.twitter.com/dixzsP3BIz— Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas) September 1, 2017
Over the course of 29 snaps against the Giants, Lucien played as if that were the case.
No. 13 worked his way to the boundary with enough field awareness to keep his eyes on the ball, not out-of-bounds marker, on the way to an 11-yard completion. He also worked his way downfield on an outside-releasing go route that netted him a pickup of 45 yards opposite corner Tay Glover-Wright and safety Eric Pinkins.
It was pretty. It was speed and concentration.
Devin Lucien's outside release and the 45-yard gain that followed. pic.twitter.com/d7KgNxWRKZ— Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas) September 1, 2017
But it may be too little, too late it comes to Lucien’s chances of making New England’s active roster in the coming days.
"That's up to Bill [Belichick]. That's a Bill question,” Lucien said of his odds. “I hope I did. A lot went into this game. A lot went into this preparation. I was able to have a good game. Jacoby put the ball there, the line did a great job of blocking – a lot went into me having the kind of game I had, so hats off to all of those guys. I hope they make the team just as much as I do."
The Patriots were not the only ones making observations Friday night. A handful of the league’s other 31 teams were watching firsthand, and the rest who weren’t will be retracing the coaches’ film for when 1,100 names become available.
If Lucien is one of them, it seems as though you won’t see him back on New England’s scout team.
It seems he’s made himself a difficult decision.