Patriots Rookie Receivers Draw Important Praise After Stepping Up

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots were in a unique situation Sunday when they only really had emergency depth at wide receiver.

With Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) out with injuries, Julian Edelman and rookie wideouts N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers had to carry the load at the position in the Patriots’ 13-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Edelman played 66 of a possible 68 snaps, while Harry and Meyers were on the field for 55 and 52 plays, respectively.

Special teamer Matthew Slater was one injury away from seeing some extensive offensive snaps.

“I guess I’m technically still a receiver,” Slater said laughing Sunday.

And not only did the Patriots lack depth at receiver Sunday, but they also were playing in adverse conditions with cold, whipping rain inside Gillette Stadium.

“I think anywhere on the field was hard,” head coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “The ball?s wet, your hand?s wet, the field was a little slick and the wind was a factor. I don?t know that any one of them were just unplayable, but when you add them all up together, it just made it very challenging. The wind kind of came and went. It?d gust a little bit and then it would calm down. Same thing with the rain ? at times it was a little steadier and then it seemed like it let up a little bit, but it was just continuous throughout the day. But yeah, I can?t say enough positive things about the way our skill players handled that.”

Edelman caught eight passes on 12 targets for 93 yards. Meyers caught four passes on nine targets for 74 yards, and Harry hauled in a 10-yard touchdown on four targets. Harry and Meyers each dropped two passes, while Edelman dropped one. Those types of plays can be forgiven in Sunday’s conditions.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who hasn’t always had a positive outlook about throwing to rookies, said he was proud of Harry and Meyers.

“They put a lot of effort in this week and they?re making improvements, and it was great to see,” Brady said. “They both came through with some big plays for us — we needed it — and did a great job.”

Belichick typically doesn’t offer effusive praise immediately after a game, but he too had some positive words to say about Harry and Meyers.

“Yeah, they stepped up,” Belichick said. “They had a couple big plays. Again, not perfect, we?ve still got a long way to go. I think they?re learning every time they step on the field, whether it?s practice field, game field, or even walkthrough, but certainly, they made plays today that we needed to win. There weren?t a lot of points scored, and they were involved in either the field position or the actual scoring of it, that N?Keal had. So yeah, they did a nice job.”

Meyers picked up four first downs and two third-down conversions on his four receptions. His 74 receiving yards were a career-high.

“It just shows we’ve been working hard,” Meyers said. “It’s not easy for a rookie to go in there and play. Both me and N’Keal always come in here and do extra work to try to make sure we are ready for when they call on us.”

Harry wasn’t quite as productive, but he scored the Patriots’ only touchdown Sunday. He vowed to “turn it up a notch” after the game.

“We’re just trying to make sure we can get better every day,” Harry said. “We’re just trying to make sure when we’re out there in a game, the least we can do is just give our full effort and just hope the rest takes care of itself.”

The Patriots certainly are hoping they won’t have to count on Harry and Meyers so heavily moving forward. Sanu and Dorsett should be close to returning to action, which will move the rookies back down to No. 4 and 5 on the depth chart.

But Sunday showed the Patriots could count on their rookies and still come away with a win against a good team.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett
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