Malcolm Mitchell gave the New England Patriots reason to believe they finally hit on a wide receiver in the draft during his NFL debut Sunday night.
Of course, it’s always smart to temper expectations when dealing with receivers drafted by the Patriots. The results haven’t just been mixed since 2009. They’ve been disastrous.
But that Mitchell started and played 55 percent of snaps — 28 percent more than Danny Amendola — in the Patriots’ 23-21 season opening win on the road over the Arizona Cardinals is reason to think they like and trust Mitchell. Especially since Mitchell played in the Patriots’ first preseason game of the summer, dislocated his elbow, and sat out practice until last week.
“Malcolm really did a lot for us up until the New Orleans game, when he was injured in that preseason game,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Monday in a conference call. “Then he came back, I thought he worked hard to get back on the field and had a good week of practice last week before the Arizona game. Other than those couple weeks he missed, he’s been out there a lot, and he’s done a good job for us. Obviously that’s why we kept him on the team, but he did a good job and has done a good job for us in training camp. He’s been a pretty steady performer other than those couple weeks he missed after the New Orleans week.”
Mitchell finished Sunday night’s game with two catches on five targets for 33 yards. The three incompletions were through no fault of his own, and on his 28-yard catch and run, he did something few young receivers have in the Patriots’ offense: turn upfield with the ball. Mitchell was the Patriots’ third-most targeted receiver behind Julian Edelman and running back James White.
Mitchell showed promise throughout the summer and especially in the preseason game against the Saints, when he caught four passes for 55 yards. He showed strong, reliable hands throughout summer practices and might be the team’s fastest receiver.
It remains to be seen how big Mitchell’s role will be when Danny Amendola is fully up to speed, but it’s clear the team has confidence in his ability. And from talking to the young receiver, he has plenty of confidence in himself.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images