DETROIT — That is why everyone has been so high on Jakobi Meyers lately.
After rising to the top of the New England Patriots’ depth chart over the first three weeks of training camp, the undrafted rookie receiver put on one heck of a show Thursday night in his first taste of NFL action, catching six passes on eight targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s preseason-opening 31-3 beatdown of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
“I was getting a lot of texts about, ‘Oh, I heard you were doing great in practice’ and all,” Meyers said after the game. “But it didn’t mean anything because we didn’t have a game yet. So just the fact that I could go out there and show that I deserve to be here — for now — I’m just pushing forward.”
Meyers wasn’t among the 254 players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft despite being projected as a mid-Day 3 pick and has been running with the Patriots’ first-team offense since before the team left for its joint practices in Detroit. The North Carolina State product has been New England’s most impressive wideout in practice by a considerable margin — his 15 catches in 11-on-11 drills are a team-high — and his transition to game speed was seamless.
?Even before this week of practice with the Lions, practicing with ourselves for two weeks — I mean, that?s a tough group of guys,” Meyers said of New England’s defense, which racked up nine sacks and held Detroit to just a fourth-quarter field goal. “You see what they did today, the show that they put on today. Going against them, I feel like I got better. I kept trying to take one step forward every day, and I feel like it prepared me for this week and today.”
After his first target of the night fell incomplete, Meyers caught each of his next five from quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. He absorbed a big hit from linebacker Tre Lamar to haul in a 9-yard red-zone reception during New England’s third offensive series, then outmuscled safety/linebacker Miles Killebrew two plays later, high-pointing Hoyer’s pass for a 3-yard touchdown.
“The fact that he even trusted me enough to throw that ball, that’s something that I want from all the quarterbacks,” Meyers said. “Hopefully I can keep improving on that trust and they’ll give me a chance to make plays.”
On his first pass from Stidham — who also enjoyed an impressive Patriots debut — Meyers lined up in the slot and easily beat cornerback Mike Ford for another short-yardage score.
“The middle of the field just kind of opened up, and he ran a great route and got open,” Stidham said. “I was just trying to get the playmaker the ball.”
Later, Stidham hit Meyers for pickups of 26 yards over the middle and 17 yards down the left sideline. Meyers even came up with a nice defensive play to swat a would-be interception away from a Lions corner.
Asked how he’s able to have this level of success so early in his NFL career, Meyers chalked it up to “want-to and listening.”
“Because I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust on me in tough downs, and at the same time, we?ve got a lot of great players on our team. All I have to do is listen. If I?m doing what they tell them to do, then I?ll just stick around.”
Given what Meyers has shown both in practice this summer and in Thursday’s opener, he has an overwhelmingly strong chance of extending the Patriots’ 15-year streak of keeping an undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster. He knows his work is only beginning, though.
The Patriots and Lions both fielded rosters made up mostly of rookies and reserves after the week of joint practice. Meyers will need to prove in the coming weeks that he can replicate this production against starting-caliber defensive backs.
“I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers said. I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to the people who didn’t give me the (draft) call. …
“I?m not satisfied, either. I?ve just got to keep going forward, and hopefully more is to come.”