Devin McCourty gives detailed take on Patriots' wide receiver battle in camp

Devin McCourty gives detailed take on Patriots' wide receiver battle in camp

The New England Patriots wide receiver group is a work in progress.

Suspension, injuries and offseason departures have resulted in a bunch of new faces competing for reps throughout training camp and the preseason. 

Patriots safety Devin McCourty has played against the Patriots' receiving corps each day in practice over the last few weeks, and he gave his perspective on the WR competition after Monday's session.

"They've been very competitive," McCourty told reporters. "I think it's been fun. Whenever you get new guys, younger guys to come in since April and start against us starting with May practices, we had a lot of new guys that knew our defense, were well into some of the things we do from a defensive standpoint, some of the adjustments. Now, you’re starting to see some of those guys like, 'Yeah alright, I've seen this before. I've been out here. I know what Tom (Brady) wants, I know what (Brian) Hoyer wants, this is how I have to adjust.' So, it's fun.

"You see a lot of these drills are back and forth, and I think that's a good sign that everybody's out here competing in camp and it's just been fun seeing these guys bet better. Even guys like Maurice Harris. That's a guy that's played in this league. When you come somewhere new, he's adjusting, he's competing, he's making plays. Bill (Belichick) always says it's like a heavyweight fight. You want to just keep throwing haymakers back and forth, and that's how you get better as a team."

Two wideouts who've impressed in camp so far are Braxton Berrios and Jakobi Meyers. Meyers, in particular, has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots. The undrafted wideout out of North Carolina State tallied six receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns in New England's 31-3 win over the Detroit Lions in last week's preseason opener.

"Even a guy like Braxton – didn’t play last year but was in our system, was working out. It doesn't take long for people to start viewing you as, 'Hey man, you're kind of a veteran. We need you to pull some of the young guys along.' And I think he's done a great job of that," McCourty told reporters. "For one, just coming out here with that work ethic each day. For him, that started last year. All of the guys that were here, we saw them in there working out, getting better and I think he's just doing a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities.

"Same thing with Jakobi – he comes in here, undrafted rookie. You’ve just got to come out here and try to perform each day and take advantage of whether it's with the ones, twos, threes – just take advantage of every opportunity you get. I thought he's done a good job of that."

The Patriots have been without their No. 1 wide receiver in Julian Edelman for all of camp and the first preseason game because of a left thumb injury. But even with a healthy Edelman, the Patriots' wide receiver depth chart is far from impressive. Pro Football Focus recently ranked New England's group 26th of out of 32 teams.

The Patriots need one or two of their young receivers, whether it's Meyers, Berrios, first-round draft pick N'Keal Harry or someone else, to step up and give quarterback Tom Brady another reliable target in the passing game.

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Josh Gordon's return making other Patriots wideouts nervous? 'Shouldn't be'

Josh Gordon's return making other Patriots wideouts nervous? 'Shouldn't be'

FOXBORO — Josh Gordon was in the Patriots locker room on Monday. His stall was situated between those of Ben Watson and Maurice Harris, two away from Tom Brady.

The big-bodied receiver was hard to miss, even with dozens of reporters in the room for the first time this summer. He stopped by his spot quickly, entered into the training room, and later came back out to walk toward a meeting. He didn't stop to chat with anyone in those brief moments, but his teammates who lingered a little longer in the room were asked about him.

Phillip Dorsett became close with Gordon during Gordon's time with the Patriots last year. He said he was happy to see him again for the first time in about eight months.

"It's just like when he first got here," Dorsett said. "We just welcomed him back. We love Josh. I love Josh. We're just glad to have him back . . . It's definitely good to see him. It's refreshing."

Dorsett added: "He's a physical specimen. We all know that. What he did last year, he helped out this team a lot. We're definitely hoping he can come back and do the same."

By all accounts, even if Bill Belichick didn't want to say much about Gordon on Monday morning, the recently-reinstated receiver will be welcomed with open arms by his teammates. But his return means the competition in the receiver room probably just got ratcheted up to another level.

This is a time of year when most are fighting for roster spots. And if Gordon, who's currently on the non-football injury list, is eligible to play then the assumption is he'll be on the roster.

That might mean someone else who was on the right side of the bubble before Gordon's reinstatement may not be. But Dorsett explained that people in the room shouldn't be worried about their standing with the team just because Gordon's now roaming the facilities.

"Shouldn't be," he said. "At the end of the day, I know for me, I only worry about what I do when I wake up. All I really worry about is how can I get better today. If I can do that every day then I feel like I'll be in the right place."

Full disclosure, I had Dorsett off of my most recent 53-man roster projection. The receiver group looks crowded with Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers looking like they'll have Week 1 spots secured. If Gordon is in the mix by then, then there may be room for one more. Two feels like a stretch. I included Braxton Berrios on my projection because of the value he brings as a punt-returner and slot option behind Edelman.

But Dorsett is certainly worthy of a place on the team if Belichick is OK with several outside-the-numbers receivers upon whom he feels like he can depend. Given what Dorsett has done in situations like Super Bowl LII and last year's AFC title game, he has his head coach's respect.

"Phil's been a pretty steady player for us," Belichick said Monday. "He's a smart kid . . . He's been able to deploy in a number of critical situations for us over the years . . . Solid player. Great kid. Works hard."

That may be enough to land on the 53-man roster, but Gordon's arrival may change the picture to the point that a valued piece like Dorsett is in the bubble conversation.

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Tight end Eric Saubert was caught off guard by trade to Patriots

Tight end Eric Saubert was caught off guard by trade to Patriots

If you predicted earlier this summer the New England Patriots would acquire former fifth-round pick Eric Saubert from the Atlanta Falcons, you'd be a liar.

But here's your reminder that trades are just as surprising for those involved in them.

Speaking to the media Monday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, Saubert admitted he was caught off guard last Monday when he found out the Falcons had traded him to New England.

"Yeah, for sure. I didn't really see that coming," Saubert told reports. "But it's the nature of this business, and I'm here now, so I'm putting my best foot forward."

Saubert said he met with Bill Belichick shortly after his arrival and told the Patriots head coach he's willing to contribute in any way possible.

"I'll do anything for this team that they ask me to do: catch passes, block, be that wide tight end on special teams," Saubert added. "That's a big part of what I do."

The 25-year-old tight end got involved Saturday against the Tennessee Titans, catching one pass for 10 yards from rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham. He has his work cut out for him on a crowded tight end depth chart that includes Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Lance Kendricks, but it sounds like he's getting more settled after leaving Atlanta seven days ago.

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