No position on the New England Patriots’ roster saw as much turnover this offseason as wide receiver. Injuries, free agency departures, and new additions have formed a position depth chart that includes few locks and a lot of players fighting for their roster lives. Among the latter group is recently signed Eric Decker, who was picked up by the Patriots two weeks ago.
A proven pass catcher in the NFL, Decker came with plenty of promise to possibly carve out a role as a rotational and package-specific wideout. There are still four weeks of practice and preseason opportunities to do just that, of course, but so far his stint in New England has not looked overly encouraging: Decker – he of 461 career receptions – has struggled with drops during his first few practices with the team.
Yesterday’s session was no different. The 31-year old had a nice stretch later in practice and at one point caught a long pass from Tom Brady over a tightly covering Jonathan Jones, but also let three passes go through his hands early on during the session. There is no need to push the panic button on Decker yet, and according to ex-Patriot Andrew Hawkins there also is a simple solution: the veteran just needs to keep at it.
Hawkins, who spent two months in New England last offseason before announcing his retirement, took to Twitter to comment on Decker’s issues. “From experience, adjusting to the Patriots system has you thinking about what to do SO MUCH, that you lose concentration on routine things,” the seven-year NFL veteran wrote while yesterday’s practice was taking place.
“They (Coaches/Players) actually warned me about it ahead of time,” Hawkins continued. “[They] told me when it happens ‘just keep pushing, it happens to everyone.’” Even though Hawkins’ tenure in New England did not last long, he paints a picture about the difficulties of adjusting to life with the Patriots. And while a lot of wide receivers are able to adapt and flourish in the system, others fail to do that.
Despite his early struggles, there is no telling in which group Decker will end up in as he will get plenty of opportunities to turn things around. What should help him do that is his prior experience with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted the Minnesota product when he was still head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2010. While the two offenses are certainly different – starting with the quality of quarterbacks – the general concepts are similar.
If Decker can take advantage of his knowledge of the system to re-focus on getting the little things right, he should find himself back on track.