If Devin Lucien didn’t earn a New England Patriots roster spot Thursday night, he at least made Bill Belichick’s decision to cut him a bit more difficult.
Lucien easily had the best game of his NFL career in the Patriots’ preseason finale, catching five passes on seven targets for 95 yards and a touchdown in a 40-38 loss to the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.
A 2016 seventh-round pick who spent all of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad, Lucien had caught a total of seven passes for 79 yards over his first seven preseason games as a pro.
Belichick, whose team must trim its roster from 90 players to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, raved about the wide receiver’s development in a conference call Friday afternoon.
“I think Devin has taken some strong steps, and (Thursday) night was a good example of that,” the Patriots coach said. “The catch he made in the end zone was a great play where he got his feet in bounds and made a tough catch in the end zone. (On) the (45-yard) go route, he did a great job of stacking the defender, getting by the defender early, running through the catch.
“Those plays take hours and hours of work out on the practice field, in individual sessions and then in team practices with the quarterback and the receiver. All the hours that they spend catching the ball and running those routes and having people throw it to them — quarterbacks or coaches or JUGS machines or whatever it is.
“I don’t know that those plays would have been made a year ago. They might have been, but I think there was a lot better chance they would be made this year because of the time and work that he’s put in. So I was happy for him (Thursday) night to be able to have that production after the hours that he’s dedicated to that.”
Lucien’s chances of cracking the 53-man roster for the first time improved last week following Julian Edelman’s season-ending ACL tear, but he still had his work cut out for him as he battled with the likes of Austin Carr and D.J. Foster for a spot on the team. Lucien outplayed Carr in training camp but was quiet in New England’s first three preseason games, catching just four passes for 40 yards.
Cyrus Jones’ season-ending injury Thursday night further complicated matters, as the Patriots now need to find a new player to return punts, which Lucien never has done at the NFL or collegiate level.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images