Patriots Preseason Week 1: Who to Watch

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Competitive football has finally returned.  Well, football has returned, the competitiveness is relative in the preseason.  At any rate, Thursday evening will be the first opportunity for players to showcase themselves somewhere other than on the practice field.  The result of the game isn't as important as the individual performances.

Not sure who to focus on?  Let me help you.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Jakobi Meyers

When talking about rookie wide receivers, most of the chatter has been about N’Keal Harry.  Understandable.  We all know how difficult it is to play receiver in this offense, and to compound things, he was the first ever wide receiver that Belichick selected in the first round.  So, the attention is warranted. 

While the reports seem to indicate that Harry’s camp has had its ups and downs, there’s another rookie receiver who is starting to turn some heads; Jakobi Meyers.  Surprise, surprise he’s undrafted.  Seemingly at the bottom of the depth chart upon arrival, Meyers has worked his way up, to the point where he is taking first team reps regularly. 

Everything you read about Myers talks about how he seems to have a grasp on this offense.  He’s skilled at reading the defense, knows when to sit down and cut off his route and he seems to be developing some chemistry with Tom Brady.  That is the most important part of being a wide receiver in New England. 

Physical abilities, athleticism and all of that are nice, but if you can't get on the same page as Brady, you're not going to last very long. 

He’s had an impressive camp so far, but Thursday will be his first opportunity to show that his practices are no fluke.  Without Julian Edelman, there will be plenty of targets to go around, and plenty of chances for Meyers to show his worth. 


Damien Harris

On the offensive side of the ball, running back is the position with the most depth.  Outside of defensive back, you could argue it’s the deepest position on the roster, currently.  Sony Michel and James White are at the top of the chart; 1a and 1b essentially.  Last, year when Rex Burkhead was healthy, the Pats leveraged all three backs, and it worked out. 

Running back wasn’t exactly a position of need, but Bill Belichick still elected to use a third round pick on Harris.  Primarily a runner at Alabama — Harris ran for over 3000 yards at Alabama and averaged over six yards per carry — he did have 22 receptions in his senior year. 

With White the primary pass catching option out of the backfield, the Pats could use another run first option.  That was Burkhead last year.  He was third on the team in carries, but second in carries per game, as he missed eight games.  With his knack for getting injured, it opens the door for a guy like Harris.  I would anticipate a lot of reps for him on Thursday night. 

Jamie Collins

Collins had a good first go around with the Patriots.  He was part of the Super Bowl winning team in 2014, had some highlight reel plays during his tenure, and was overall one of the team’s top linebackers.  That’s why there was some backlash when Collins was shipped off to Cleveland. 

However, he sort of disappeared in Cleveland.  Not that he wasn’t an effective player - he had over 100 tackles last season - but individual performance can get lost on a team that struggles to win.  He also missed 10 games in the 2017-2018 season.  So, he returns to New England almost as an unknown. 

Past performance won’t earn him anything with the Patriots.  He needs to prove he can still play.  With Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts and Ja'Whaun Bentley, there’s a lot of competition.  Collins, along with most of the defense, has reportedly had a good camp.  Let's see if that translates to live action.

Honorable Mentions
  • Danny Etling - His QB career is over and done with.  Will he get any meaningful snaps as a wide receiver or on special teams? 
  • Jerod Mayo - With nobody holding the title of defensive coordinator, Belichick figures to be heavily involved with the play calling.  However, Jerod Mayo is somebody to keep an eye on.  Many players have gushed over having him as a coach and he seems to have earned the trust and respect of the players and staff.  It'll be interesting to see how much rein Belichick gives him early on.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Patriots Preseason Week 1: Who to Watch
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