New England Patriots practice squad receiver Jace Billingsley already has a lot in common with his new fanbase.
Billingsley, 25, has spent a lot of time watching Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.
The undersized slot receiver listed Welker as his favorite pro athlete in his college bio at Eastern Oregon. He also spent his offseason watching film of Julian Edelman at the behest of Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia.
“I think one thing that I’ve learned from him is that he always is just playing hard and he’s doing things a little unorthodox, but it’s his way and it works for him and he’s gotten good at it,” Billingsley told The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “And he just kind of trusts his process and that’s one thing I’ve learned is just finding what you’re good at and building on that rather than trying to always be like someone else, ’cause you’re not them. So you have to be yourself and you have to do what you do good.”
In four weeks — assuming Billingsley still is on the team — he’ll get to work closely with Edelman, who is serving a four-game suspension.
Billingsley might be a punt return option for New England, depending on what he shows in practice. He fielded 18 punts in three preseasons with the Lions, returning 13 for 92 yards. The Patriots need a punt returner while Edelman is out. Their current options in the role are running back Rex Burkhead, wide receivers Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson and safety Patrick Chung.
Billinglsey returned punts in high school, though it doesn’t appear he handled those duties in college.
The Nevada native didn’t catch any passes in two games through two seasons with the Lions. He was very productive in the preseason, however, catching 30 passes on 39 targets for 313 yards with two touchdowns over three summers. He dropped two passes over the past three preseasons.
As much occasional hype Patriots practice squad players get, they very rarely actually get opportunities on the active roster. But given New England’s hole at punt returner, it’s at least more possible Billingsley gets a call-up.
He’s certainly been studying the right players.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images