ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With Julian Edelman thus far unavailable as he recovers from a broken thumb, we knew some other New England Patriots receivers would see additional reps and targets this summer.
We just didn’t expect so many of those targets to go to undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers.
Through nine training camp practices — including Monday’s joint session with the Detroit Lions — Meyers has caught 14 passes from Patriots quarterbacks in 11-on-11 drills, tied with Maurice Harris for the team lead.
Meyers’ 18 total targets rank fifth among Pats pass-catchers behind Harris (19), first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry (20), running back James White (21) and wideout Phillip Dorsett (22), but a whopping 15 of those — and 12 of his receptions — have come in the last three practices. Harry (11) and White (13) are the only others with more than 10 targets during that span.
These haven’t been throws from Jarrett Stidham against third-team defenses, either. Meyers’ drastic uptick in activity coincided with his elevation to the first-team offense. Since last week, the North Carolina State product has seen significant playing time with Tom Brady and regularly has been part of the Patriots’ top offensive personnel grouping.
“He’s done a great job, and he’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” Brady said after Monday’s joint practice, during which Meyers caught four passes on six targets in 11-on-11s and also made a highlight-reel grab during 1-on-1s, holding onto the ball despite hitting the ground so hard that his helmet popped off. “I think that’s really what we try to stress to anybody.”
No player has benefited from Edelman’s absence more than Meyers, who’s been able to develop a rapport with the 42-year-old quarterback while Edelman — Brady’s usual favorite target — recuperates. Harry also has been highly involved in the offense of late, while Harris now seeing less time with the top unit after a superb start to camp.
“It really doesn’t matter — the football doesn’t care how old you are, whether you were drafted or not,” Brady said. “The football doesn’t care how much experience you have. It just knows that when I let that ball go, it’s got to be in the hands of the guy who it’s intended for. If that happens to be him, it’s him. If it’s Julian, it’s Julian. Whoever it is, it doesn’t matter in football.”