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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