FOXBORO, Mass. — From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see the potential opportunity in front of New England Patriots wide receiver Riley McCarron.
Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four weeks of the season, so the Patriots will need a fill-in punt returner and slot receiver for four games. Out of players on the Patriots’ current roster, McCarron and rookie Braxton Berrios fit that mold to a T. Both played slot receiver in college and are among a handful of players taking reps as punt returners in Patriots training camp.
McCarron is staying laser focused, though.
“Know what? To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it,” McCarron said Friday. “It’s not really important for me to think about it. I’m just trying to come out here day after day and get a little better each day and take it one day at a time.”
After a slow start to camp, McCarron has come on strong over the last two practices, spending more time catching passes with the first-team offense.
“Just doing what the coaches are asking me to do,” McCarron said. “Not really thinking too much about that at all. Just trying to go out there when I am out there, compete, make plays and just do my job.”
McCarron dropped a pass from Tom Brady on Thursday and briefly felt the wrath of his quarterback. It seemed like McCarron ran the wrong route, which forced Brady to throw behind the second-year receiver.
“I needed to make a correction, and that was that,” McCarron said. “I just gotta be someone that he can rely on just like all my other teammates.”
Edelman has been there before with Brady. He was asked Friday if he could relate to what McCarron and Berrios are going through, trying to learn the offense.
“You know, little things you do see,” Edelman said. “Just the confusion or you know — I mean you got to think about it. You’re a young guy and you’re going into a whole new system, you’re going into a whole new part of the country you probably haven’t been. You know, you got to learn calculus when you just got out of regular math. So you definitely can relate to a lot of those things and try to help them out as much as possible to get them to feel a little more comfortable. And I think that’s what we all try to do. We all try to learn from each other and help each other out and that’s — as a veteran that’s what you got to do I guess.”
McCarron has received help from some of the best slot receivers in franchise history. He was coached by Wes Welker last summer with the Houston Texans and leaned on Danny Amendola while on the practice squad in 2017. Now he’s working closely with Edelman.
“It’s awesome to be around those guys,” McCarron said. “Not only are they extremely good football players, but they’re good guys to be around off the field in the meeting room and on the field. They’re a great help, obviously. They’ve been in the system for a little while now, so their knowledge is up there.”
McCarron spends his extra time studying those same players.
“Any kind of film that I can get my hands on, whether it’s Wes, Danny or Jules, Hoags (Chris Hogan) for that matter,” McCarron said. “All of those guys, just go back and watch their techniques, watch the way they go about doing things vs. different coverages, all of that stuff. The more I can do, the better.”
McCarron is competing with Berrios, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Paul Turner and Devin Lucien for roster spots behind Edelman, Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater. If he can make the team and impress with Edelman out, then perhaps he could be the team’s slot receiver of the future.
Don’t tell him that, though. Every day, for now, is just about improvement.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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