The New England Patriots didn’t select a receiver in a loaded 2020 NFL Draft class for wideouts. They didn’t sign a high-profile free agent nor make a splash trade to add a pass-catcher this offseason. They didn’t re-sign wideout Phillip Dorsett, and they somewhat surprisingly decided to cut receiver Mohamed Sanu.
All of that is to say there’s a lot of pressure on second-year wideouts N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski to perform on a receiver depth chart that otherwise only includes veterans Julian Edelman and Damiere Byrd.
“I’m excited still to be here another year,” Meyers said Friday. “A lot of guys definitely wish they had this opportunity and we’re all pretty excited. We all have a chance to be special and contribute in a different way so just trying to figure out what that way is for me. And when I figure it out, I’m gonna try my best at it.”
Olszewski has been ruled out of Sunday’s Week 1 matchup with the Miami Dolphins after being limited with a foot injury all week in practice. Harry is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, but he was a full participant in Friday’s practice. Edelman and Harry are prospective Week 1 starters, while Meyers and Byrd will continue to compete for the No. 3 role in the offense.
“I’m feeling really good going into Week 1, extremely excited to get things going and get out there on game day,” Harry said Friday. “I just can’t wait.”
Harry and Meyers were swimming upstream during the 2019 season as they attempted to acclimate on offense, gain chemistry with Tom Brady and avoid a rookie wall that’s all too common for first-year players.
It wasn’t always pretty.
But both players are feeling much better as they enter Year 2.
“I feel like I have a better understanding of where I am and what my role is, or the role that I’m trying to carve out,” Meyers said. “I wouldn’t say comfortable and more comfortable, but I would definitely say I’m getting better and I’m starting to understand. I know I’ve still got a long way to go and I’ve still got a lot of work to put in, but I feel like I’m taking the right steps.
“I feel like you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I feel like you’ll be able to play as fast as you want, to be able to get open in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to if you just pay attention. It will pretty much just be the answer to the test right there.”
Harry absolutely feels more comfortable.
“For me, it’s definitely the playbook. I kind of just feel more settled,” Harry said. “This is my second year in the league, my second year being a professional athlete, and this year I feel much more like a pro than I did last year. I think just having that year under my belt has helped me take those steps in the right direction and was something that I really needed.”
Both Harry and Meyers said that, along with Olszewski, they’ve all grown together over the past year.
“Those are definitely my guys,” Meyers said. “We came in, we’ve been through a lot of ups, a lot of downs together, putting in a lot of work together.”
Harry is also enjoying the cameraderie with his fellow second-year pros.
“Just having those guys around kind of just lightens the mood,” Harry said. “It’s just great to have people that you came in with and are still here.”
Harry, Meyers and Olszewski combined for just 498 yards and two touchdown on 40 catches last season. The Patriots will need more production from the trio with limited options on the depth chart.
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots