FOXBORO, Mass. — Taylor Price was victimized by a nasty, penalty-inducing, helmet-to-helmet hit Thursday night. A handful of plays later, he took another hard shot to the legs on a punt return. And when he walked off the field after the Patriots' victory against the Jaguars, he was exhausted.
Yet, Price probably still felt as good as he had in a long time.
The second-year wide receiver had five catches for 105 yards and one toe-tapping touchdown in the most significant action of his professional career. Granted, it was the preseason, and Price is still the fourth receiver on the depth chart, but he provided a serious glimpse of his capabilities.
Price has had a very good training camp, so Thursday's performance wasn't all that surprising. At the very least, it validated the hard work that he has put in to develop over the last year.
"I know I've got skills," Price said. "I believe in myself. I know I've got the talent to play at this level. It's just about going out there and showing these teammates, getting the trust of these teammates and the coaching staff and showing that I can play. I'm going to keep doing that, and I'm going to keep getting better."
Price was a healthy scratch in 16 of the Patriots' 17 games in 2010, including the playoffs, so he was more than ready to show his skill set against the Jaguars. He ran a very good baseline in-cut to the back of the end zone to free himself from the safety, and he did an even nicer job to slow up, leap and reach back to catch Brian Hoyer's misplaced pass. Price kept his hands outstretched to show possession while tapping both feet in the end zone to record the score.
He also ran a great out-route on third-and-5 to get himself open to catch a crisp sideline pass from Ryan Mallett. After hauling it in, Price spun away from a defender and turned a play that was simply designed to move the chains into a 50-yard gain. In doing so, it also helped Mallett settle down.
The Patriots open the regular season in a month, so Price still has a lot of work left to do to prove that he belongs on the game-day roster. So far, he's done everything to show that he's been one of the four best wide receivers on the roster, both in practice and primetime.
"[I feel] a lot different [from last season]," Price said. "Just put the time in, put the work in, knowing the playbook that much more after a year, after a so-called redshirt year, getting comfortable with the quarterbacks. Just going out there and putting it all together, playing fast and playing football. That's it."