Braxton Berrios Turns Heads At Patriots Minicamp After Lost Rookie Year

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Braxton Berrios is one of a dozen wide receivers looking to crack the New England Patriots’ roster this summer. Tuesday’s practice was a step in the right direction for the 2018 sixth-round draft pick.

Berrios, a 5-foot-9 slot receiver out of Miami who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve, was one of the top performers on Day 1 of mandatory minicamp. He provided the day’s most memorable moment, laying out to catch a long touchdown pass from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer during 7-on-7 drills.

“It was just a good ball, and he put it where I could catch it,” said Berrios, who punctuated the highlight-reel play with an emphatic spike.

Berrios also hauled in another touchdown pass from Hoyer in 11-on-11s — a toe-tapper in the back of the end zone — and looked good overall as a pass-catcher and punt returner during the two-hour-long session. It was an impressive showing from a player who has plenty to prove over the next three months.

2018 was a lost season for Berrios, who was compared to just about every Patriots slot man (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Wes Welker, etc.) after the team drafted him late on Day 3 last April. After a nondescript spring, Berrios was hobbled by injuries throughout training camp, playing 11 offensive snaps in his lone preseason appearance and ultimately landing on IR before Week 1. He is one of six 2018 Patriots draft picks who have yet to appear in a regular-season game.

Despite that inauspicious start to his NFL career, Berrios has a chance to make amends in Year 2. With only Edelman, 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry and special teams ace Matthew Slater currently viewed as stone-cold roster locks, an opening exists for a receiver like Berrios to play his way onto the team with a strong performance in training camp and the preseason.

Slot receivers often take more time to develop than their outside counterparts — Amendola and Welker both were cut during their first pro seasons, and Edelman didn’t become the pass-catching force he is today until Year 5 — and Berrios believes he’s a much better player now than he was at this point last spring.

“Honestly, I learned a lot,” Berrios said. “I grew a lot in all phases of being a football player and being a person and just meshing with everybody in the building. I got so much better from then to now overall just knowing everything — learning everything, let’s put it that way. … (But) I don’t take any of the knowledge for granted. I still study like everything is brand new.”

Other Patriots receivers angling for roster spots include incumbent Phillip Dorsett — whose chances of sticking around are very strong — Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson and undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski.

Harris had a strong performance Tuesday with several catches during team drills, and Davis flashed some impressive quickness and foot speed. Even Olszewski, who played cornerback and returned punts at Division 2 Bemidji State, looks more comfortable at wideout than one would expect.

Edelman, Dorsett, Berrios and Harris all saw reps with Tom Brady and the first-team offense Tuesday while Inman, Patterson, Meyers, Davis and Olszewski primarily worked with the reserves. Veteran newcomer Demaryius Thomas remained sidelined as he recovers from a torn Achilles.

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