As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has repeatedly said in the past, the offseason is not a time for evaluation and competition but rather for teaching. Roster spots and roles on the depth chart are therefore neither won nor lost during spring practices.
That said, now is the time for players to build a foundation and to create some momentum heading into the summer break and, subsequently, training camp.
One man who is apparently doing just that is Jakobi Meyers. By all accounts, the third-year wide receiver has had an impressive spring so far, leaving some to wonder if he could eventually end up as New England’s number one wide receiver option after all.
“Jakobi Meyers continues to pop. He had a nice practice with some solid catches. At this point, I wonder if he turns out to be the Patriots’ WR1,” the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels wrote following Monday’s first mandatory minicamp practice.
Others have also identified Meyers as a standout performer during the open practices so far, with his improved route running and consistently reliable hands catching the eye. The following reception on a red zone throw by rookie quarterback Mac Jones illustrates his suddenness in and out of his breaks as well as his ability to hold onto the football even when finding himself in a challenging position:
Of course, offseason practices are a comparatively safe environment: players are not wearing pads while live tackling is not permitted per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Training camp and preseason is when wide receivers such as Meyers will be challenged on the line of scrimmage and throughout their patterns.
What he has shown so far is nonetheless encouraging, especially within the context of New England’s rebuilt passing offense. The team, after all, invested considerable resources to upgrade one of the worst receiving arsenals in football: tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry were signed to multi-year deals in free agency, as were wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
All four are projected to be prominently featured within the Patriots’ offense this year. Meyers apparently still has something to say about his own role, though, especially given the added competition in the form of Agholor and Bourne.
With the two wideouts still learning the system and building a rapport with the quarterbacks, Meyers has established himself as Ol’ Reliable — a role he could keep until Agholor and Bourne are up to speed. And even then, it seems as if he could remain a big part of New England’s passing attack this season.
Despite the ongoing competition for practice reps and playing time, however, Meyers spoke highly about the bond he and his new teammates have already formed.
“They’re family already,” he said during a media conference call during organized team activities. “I love having them around, just the energy they bring and how hard they work. They’re definitely two guys you can tell they want to be the best at what they do. And everyday they come in here, they push each other, they push us. This definitely brought some new life to the room and I’m definitely excited to have them here.”
As for himself, he said that he would be trying to eliminate “brain farts” this offseason and to become a more reliable contributor for whoever will start at quarterback.
Meyers already showed some promise in this area last season. Despite only hitting his stride until the second half of the season, he ended the year as the Patriots’ most productive wide receiver and led the team in targets (81), catches (59) and receiving yards (729).
Now heading into Year 3, the former rookie free agent seems poised to build on this performance despite the added depth around him. If the first few open practices are an indication of what is to come, it seems as if he is on the way to succeess.