The New England Patriots currently have 89 players under contract, and 16 of them are headed into their second year in the league — a pivotal moment in their development. After all, Year Two is generally seen as the one in which players either make the biggest leap forward and show their potential upside in a system, or start to show that they may not be able to grow much further in their current environment. Among the players hoping to fall in the first group is wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
After not hearing his name called during last year’s draft, Meyers was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent. Despite his status, however, the N.C. State product left a positive early impression during spring practices and later also saw prominent snaps within the offense in training camp and the preseason. As a result, he earned himself a post on the team’s 53-man roster and eventually finished the season as a rotational fourth/fifth option on New England’s wide receiver depth chart.
Meyers therefore enters his second season as a pro with a sound foundation to build on — and as he recently told Paul Perillo of Patriots.com, he is trying to get better in one particular aspect of the game: the 23-year-old wants to improve mentally.
“Mentally, I want to be levels ahead of where I was last year. Understanding not only what we’re doing but also why we’re doing it. Earning trust to make the right play. I want to build on last year. It was a nice stepping stone, but I want to keep building and growing,” Meyers said. “I want to be the best I can mentally. The more I understand what I’m doing the better I can play, the faster I can play. People will always be able to find you if you don’t know what you’re doing. You will be exposed.”
During his first year in the Patriots’ notoriously challenging system, Meyers had his ups and downs. While he saw prominent action in some of the team’s games — Meyers played 50+ percent of New England’s offensive snaps in six contests — he also was used only sparingly or not at all in others. When all was said and done, he had appeared in 15 of 16 regular season games and was a healthy scratch for both the team’s Week 2 game in Miami and its wild card playoff loss against Tennessee.
In total, Meyers was on the field for 416 of a possible 1,210 offensive snaps (34.4%) while registering 26 receptions for a combined 359 yards. However, he also had his fair share of concentration drops as well as communication errors with quarterback Tom Brady, and therefore never established himself as a true every-down option. Improving his mental makeup with the 2020 season on the horizon is therefore a logical goal for him to work towards.
“Last season was a learning experience. It was a perfect chance for me to learn, and for me to figure out how I would learn from it,” he said about the transition from Year One to Year Two. “I feel like I will be a lot further ahead. I didn’t know if I’d even make the team or what role I might have or where I’d be playing. I still have a chip on my shoulder — like will I even be here? I’m staying ready for my name to be called. I need to make sure I give them a reason to keep me around.”
In order to be kept around, Meyers will need to show some growth compared to last season and also beat out the logjam at wide receiver behind roster locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. His position as a hybrid outside/inside receiver can also be filled by veteran Mohamed Sanu, offseason acquisition Marqise Lee, second-year men Quincy Adeboyejo and Devin Ross, and undrafted rookies Jeff Thomas and Isaiah Zuber. Meyers will have to prove himself.
His biggest advantage over the other competitors is his experience: he saw considerable playing time last preseason and in practice with projected new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham. If he can build on that, and continue to chase his goal of getting better mentally, Meyers could not just find his way onto the roster again but also establish himself as a viable option at a position seemingly lacking them at the moment.