HOUSTON — The New England Patriots’ two rookie wide receivers each made very clear mistakes Sunday night in the team’s 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans.
First-round pick N’Keal Harry didn’t fight for a target from quarterback Tom Brady that was intercepted by Texans cornerback Bradley Roby. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers didn’t listen when Brady motioned for him to continue upfield on an extended offensive play.
Harry didn’t see a target for the rest of the game and played just 22 snaps despite drawing the start. Meyers continued as an integral part of the offense and was on the field for 60 snaps. These things are interesting. They’re notable. They more than likely mean something.
Sure, it’s possible it was part of the offensive gameplan to include Meyers more than Harry down the stretch. But even that is noteworthy given their respective pedigrees.
Harry was asked what went wrong on the interception. He twice answered that he had to watch the film. Finally, he was asked what he felt on the play.
“I mean, I guess I could have just used my body more a little bit,” Harry said. “I haven’t watched it on film yet. I’ve got to see it first.”
Harry didn’t know why his snaps decreased and his targets went MIA after the play.
“Yeah, that’s not a question for me,” Harry said. “I’m really not sure. That’s not a question for me.”
Harry has four catches on nine targets for 28 yards with a touchdown in his first three NFL games. He was dealt a bad hand with an injury in training camp that knocked him out for the first eight weeks of the season. And while it’s still possible that everything could click for the first-round pick before the season is through, it’s looking less and less likely that will occur for him as a rookie.
Meyers knew exactly what happened on the play where he failed to follow Brady’s command.
“He was trying to tell me to turn up and go,” Meyers said. “I honestly don’t know what I thought in the moment. But I tried to push up and come back to give him a target. We were just on different pages.”
Brady was visibly frustrated after the play. After it, he gave a fiery pep talk to the Patriots’ rookies.
“I think we’re all trying to do a good job out there,” Brady said after the game. “I give them credit. (Meyers and Harry) played well. We didn’t make a lot of plays. It just wasn’t a great game.”
Meyers finished the game with three catches on seven targets for 46 yards. He had another 54 yards called back because of two offensive penalties.
He’s is very aware of his place on the Patriots’ roster as not only a rookie but an undrafted one. He’s lucky to still be on the team. He’s the only undrafted rookie still on the squad.
“Only get so many chances,” Meyers said. “So, I’ve got to tighten up, get my stuff together, make sure we won’t have no more instances like that. And hopefully, we won’t have to do that again.
“You only get so many chances, so many opportunities before you’re out of here. If he wants me to go up, next time I know I better go up before my number’s called.”
The next time Brady uses some non-verbal communication with Meyers, the rookie sure as hell is going to know what Brady is telling him. And there are two ways to respond to a mistake. A player can turtle and shut down, or they can move on.
“I think you have to learn to live in the moment, control the things you can control,” wide receiver Matthew Slater said Sunday night. “You can’t get a bad play back. So, when a bad play happens, you have to be able to clear it and try to move on to the next one. I had a coach tell me once that every play is an experience. You want to take those experiences and put them in your memory bank and try to build off of them.”
Slater said it takes a certain type of person to do that.
“It takes a lot of mental toughness, and it takes a lot of maturity,” Slater said. “And if you’re fortunate enough as a young player to have older guys that will walk alongside you and teach you those lessons, put their arm around you and kind of show you the ropes and hopefully over time if you have the right makeup and the right people in your life, you learn to handle those situations a little bit better.”
Meyers seems fully entrenched in Brady’s trust tree 12 games into the season. It will be interesting to see the number of looks Harry receives throughout the rest of the season.