This Patriots Wideout Made Most Of Opportunity On Day 1 Of Minicamp

Tre Nixon is turning heads in Patriots practice

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Looking for a surprise early standout in New England Patriots spring practice? Say hello to Tre Nixon.

Nixon, best known as the final draft pick of retired Patriots legend Ernie Adams, has stood out positively in each of the team’s three open practices to date, garnering unexpected attention in a deep and veteran-laden receiving corps.

Tuesday’s practice — the first of New England’s three-day mandatory minicamp — was Nixon’s best yet. Seeing an uptick in first-team opportunities with Kendrick Bourne absent and Jakobi Meyers limited, the second-year wideout caught all five of his targets in competitive team drills, with four of those coming from starting quarterback Mac Jones.

Nixon was on the receiving end of Jones’ most impressive completion, beating top slot cornerback Jonathan Jones for a 50-yard gain. Lining up in the slot, Nixon ran a corner route, creating just enough separation to haul in Mac Jones’ deep ball and hang on for a sliding catch.

“It was just one of those plays where it’s a shot play,” Nixon said after practice. “Your number’s called, and you get a little excited coming to the line of scrimmage. Wherever I can make a play for the team, get some energy for the offense, I’m willing to do it.”

As for Jones’ throw, which beat tight coverage by one of the Patriots’ fastest defensive backs?

“Amazing,” Nixon said. “I can’t complain. He put it right on the money.”

Mac Jones (first round) and Nixon (seventh round) bookended the Patriots’ 2021 draft class, and they enjoyed markedly different rookie seasons, with the former looking like a potential franchise quarterback while the latter toiled away on the practice squad. Nixon did not play a single regular-season snap as a rookie, and he entered 2022 as a roster long shot in a position group that added veteran DeVante Parker and second-round draft pick Tyquan Thornton this offseason.

That truth remains: Nixon has a long hill to climb if he hopes to stick around through cutdown day. Parker, Bourne, Meyers, Nelson Agholor and veteran Ty Montgomery all likely are above him on the depth chart, and Thornton’s draft position guarantees him a roster spot, regardless of how he performs this summer. Many Patriots wideouts, including current roster hopeful Kristian Wilkerson, have flashed in a few early practices before eventually fading.

But Nixon, based on the practices that have been open to the media, seems to be helping his case thus far. In addition to his positive offensive moments, he’s also seen work as a punt gunner, attempting to show the special teams value that fringe roster players must possess.

“I would say everything is starting to slow down a little bit,” Nixon said of his Year 2 progression. “I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m still trying to find my role in this offense. But compared to last year, it’s just slowing down. I’ve got my routine now. I know how to really take care of myself off the field. I’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but way different from the first year, for sure.”

Nixon said his body has “changed tremendously from a taking-care-of-it standpoint.” He still wants to add weight to his slender frame — he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds — but he’s implemented yoga and flexibility exercises into his off-the-field routine and is feeling the benefits.

The 24-year-old UCF product will be looking to knock some established veterans out of roster spots in the coming months, but he said he’s received valuable advice from those more experienced wideouts.

“I feel like the biggest thing is just to be where my feet’s at,” Nixon said. “I know training camp’s around the corner, and I like to just stay present, in the moment. Just try to make my own role what I can do. It’s easy to, especially in this league, compare yourself to other people or count numbers, (but) one of the biggest things the older guys tell me is be your own person. Try to make your own role and see what you can do. Be your own guy.”

Before speaking with reporters, Nixon paused to greet Adams, who watched practice from the sideline. It was Adams, the Patriots’ former director of football research, who made the decision to select Nixon with the 242nd pick in last year’s draft — a retirement gift of sorts from Bill Belichick to his longtime friend.

Nixon hopes to prove him right in the months before roster cutdown.

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