It hasn’t been all bad for New England Patriots wide receiver Eric Decker, though it might look that way from watching him in the preseason.
Decker signed with the Patriots three weeks ago and has struggled with drops and mental errors in training camp and preseason games. He was flagged for a false start Friday night in the Patriots’ 25-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers and caught just 2-of-5 targets from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. He’s dropped a pass in each of his last two preseason games.
But head coach Bill Belichick painted a more positive picture of Decker.
“I think Eric’s learned everything well,” Belichick said Saturday on a conference call. “Again, he had a background in this system in Denver with (offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels) and he’s played multiple positions in the offense since he’s been here. We used a couple new formations last night so I don’t think learning is really a problem for him and he has a lot of experience of some of the more sophisticated routes, option routes and things like that are all things that he’s done.”
Decker was drafted by McDaniels, then head coach of the Broncos, in 2010.
So, what’s been the issue with Decker? Belichick shined a light on that too.
“It’s just really a question of getting the timing and the exactly how you want to do it and seeing enough looks on it so that you and the quarterback know exactly what it is,” Belichick said. “And again, in training camp when you’re working with multiple quarterbacks and multiple receivers, takes a little time to get everybody to get those looks so one quarterback might see one picture and then the next picture is just slightly different and making sure that the quarterbacks and the receivers again see those the same way and they can anticipate what’s going to happen. But that just comes through repetitions and experience. But he’s learned well and he’s been able to play multiple positions for us so that’s not a problem.”
But will Decker be with the Patriots long enough to get those required repetitions? The Patriots must trim their roster from 89 to 53 players in a week, and based on when Decker received snaps Friday night, he very well could be one of those cuts.
The Patriots have Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner at receiver. Only the first five players are locks to make the roster, and Edelman is suspended the first four weeks of the season.
McCarron has seen plenty of reps as a punt and kick returner this preseason, and he received minutes with starting quarterback Tom Brady and the first-team offense against the Panthers.
Decker’s best chance to make the roster will come if the Patriots decide they want to keep six receivers and believe he provides more upside than McCarron. Based on his struggles, it currently looks like an uphill battle, though.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images