It took some time. But it feels as though Tom Brady is coming around on his rookie receivers. Either that, or he wants them to know that he has confidence in them. That he trusts them. That they should trust themselves when they're out there with him.
Brady has been demanding of his receivers for a long time. And after seeing some positive signs from both N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers in a 13-9 win over the Cowboys on Sunday, he threw them a bone.
"I think both those rookie receivers have really answered the call," Brady told WEEI's "Greg Hill Show" on Monday morning. "When you're put in that position and you don't have a lot of football under your belt and you're playing on a team that's competing for titles and so forth, there's a lot of pressure. Both those guys have embraced it. I think Julian [Edelman] has shown great leadership for that whole group. Hopefully if we get everyone healthy, we can see what we can do."
The Patriots weren't healthy over the weekend. Mohamed Sanu missed the game with an ankle injury. Phillip Dorsett sat out because of a concussion. That forced Harry and Meyers into action.
Both played more than 50 snaps. Harry caught his first-career touchdown, and Meyers nearly saw double-digit targets — including three on first down. Both players had drops, but all in all, the Patriots were pleased with their rookie receivers.
Edelman sang their praises after the game, as did Bill Belichick. But for Brady to laud them as he did the morning after a win — after Brady has been fairly open at different points this year about how a lack of experience makes it difficult to contribute in the NFL — felt significant.
Harry, in particular, seemed to make an important leap in Brady's eyes. And it happened before his 10-yard back-shoulder touchdown against Dallas. It sounds like it happened in practice leading up to the game.
"He just had a great mentality about it," Brady said, "and he just really approached the week, put in that position, we were banged up with Phillip and Mohamed, and it just looked like those [rookie receivers] were gonna have to play a lot.
"I think rather than feeling like, 'Oh man, I haven't played much and I'll be a little worried getting out there,' he really approached it like he'd been out there all season. Made a lot of good plays in practice, and improved on things he'd done and that were corrected. I really love N'Keal's attitude. Jakobi did a great job too."
Meyers dropped Brady's first pass of the game, and the Patriots punted two plays later. But he recovered by reeling in four of his next eight targets for 74 yards.
"He's done a great job," Brady said. "Coming in as an undrafted free agent and making the plays that he made all spring, and making the plays that he made this season, I think it's been so impressive. I can't say enough good things about Jakobi.
"He cares deeply about doing the right thing, and you love to have teammates like that. I'm so happy for him and the opportunities he's getting. He wants to do a great job. He wants to do everything right. He holds himself to a high standard. It's great to have him out there and great to see him doing good things for us."
After a rookie season spent hoping to win over the trust of the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer throwing them passes, Meyers and Harry appear to have gained some ground in that pursuit with what they did Sunday.
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