FOXBORO, Mass. — Hop aboard, New England Patriots fans. There’s still space on the Jakobi Meyers hype train, but it’s filling up fast.
Meyers has established himself through one week of training camp as the undrafted rookie most likely to crack the Patriots’ 53-man roster, and his performance Thursday was arguably the best by any New England wide receiver this summer.
The pinnacle of said performance came midway through 11-on-11 drills when Meyers, lined up wide to the right on the play, beat speedy cornerback Keion Crossen down the sideline, tipped a Jarrett Stidham pass up to himself at the goal line as safety Patrick Chung arrived in support and then regathered it for a highlight-reel touchdown.
It was just one of several standout plays by the North Carolina State product during the Patriots’ seventh camp session.
Earlier, he won both of his reps in 1-on-1s, fighting through the ferocious jam of an uber-physical J.C. Jackson on one and beating starter Jason McCourty on the other. Meyers victimized McCourty again during 11-on-11s, leaping and extending to haul in a high throw from Brian Hoyer.
And two snaps after his tip-drill score, Meyers outleaped Crossen for a second time on an identical route but came down just out of bounds. He received a total of five targets in competitive full-team scenarios — including two from Tom Brady — and that was the lone incompletion.
Meyers’ ability to make plays like these against NFL-caliber defensive backs — Crossen, Chung, Jackson and McCourty all were on the Patriots’ roster last season — has caught the attention of media members and teammates alike.
“He’s made some really competitive catches,” veteran safety Devin McCourty said after practice.
Meyers’ usage also is noteworthy.
Since the spring, he’s joined first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry in a small group of pass-catchers that gathers with Brady, Hoyer and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for additional reps while the rest of the team runs through punt or kickoff drills.
When the Patriots split up their offense and defense during practice, Meyers stays with the main group while other young wideouts like Ryan Davis, Damoun Patterson and Gunner Olszewski run with the scout team. On Thursday, he was part of the top personnel grouping along with Harry and Braxton Berrios, illustrating his steady climb up the depth chart.
Meyers, who starred as a slot receiver at N.C. State after beginning his college career as a quarterback, has played both inside and on the perimeter in camp and seems to be developing a rapport with Brady — no easy task for any Patriots newcomer.
“Well, he’s a smart kid, and he understands (the offense) and has versatility,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday morning. “Like any rookie, any young player, there’s a lot of things he needs to work on technique-wise — recognition, route adjustments — just a lot of fine points. He basically knows what to do, but there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that all receivers need to pick up — certainly in our offense — and he’s doing that.
“There’s more than we’ve had to get down, but he’s making progress there. Whether that comes from his quarterback background, or his experience, or his intelligence, or his learning, I’m not really sure. But that’s not really an issue. He’s a smart kid, and he learns well.”
The last undrafted rookie receiver to make the Patriots’ Week 1 roster was Chris Harper in 2015. Harper and Kenbrell Thompkins (2013) are the only UDFA wideouts since 2004 to achieve that feat.