Patriots

Other playoff teams don't seem to be having this big an issue with young receivers

Other playoff teams don't seem to be having this big an issue with young receivers

Here’s something that's tough to hear as we blame everyone but Tom Brady for the Patriots’ struggles in the passing game: Other quarterbacks don’t seem to be having this big a problem with young receivers. 

Among potential playoff teams, the Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers, Steelers and Chiefs are all getting immediate contributions from rookie wide receivers. In particular, and D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, both of whom were drafted within eight picks of N’Keal Harry, are having very good rookie campaigns on contending teams. 

Here’s a breakdown of rookie receivers on playoff teams. I’ll keep it to guys taken in the first three rounds: 

Marquise Brown, Ravens, 25th overall: 36 rec, 520 yards, 6 TD

N’Keal Harry, Patriots, 32nd overall: 4 rec, 28 yards, 1 TD (spent first eight weeks on IR)

Deebo Samuel, 49ers, 36th overall: 42 rec, 564 yards, 3 TD

Mecole Hardman, Chiefs, 56th overall: 23 rec, 450 yards, 5 TD

D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks, 64th overall: 44 rec, 705 yards, 5 TD

Diontae Johnson, Steelers, 66th overall: 36 rec, 423 yards, 3 TD

Jalen Hurd, 49ers, 67th overall: IR

Miles Boykin, Ravens, 93rd overall: 11 rec, 185 yards, 2 TD

Before you play the “Harry’s only been available for three games” card, no he hasn’t. Week 9 in Baltimore could have been his first game back, but the Patriots were in no rush to play him, which further begs the question of why the Patriots haven’t been in much of a rush with him. 

Or these questions: Is Deebo Samuel that much better than Harry? Is Mecole Hardman? Is D.K. Metcalf leaps and bounds superior? 

Do you think if the Patriots had any of these guys, they’d be putting up the numbers they are with their respective teams? Or would they be the subject of endless “they’re just not on the same page” laments? 

Part of it is the offense. The same playbook that’s given opposing defenses fits has been tough to learn for youngsters and veterans alike. That’s fine, but if your receiver group is shallow and banged-up enough that you’re going to need production from Harry and Jakobi Meyers, you’ve got to meet them halfway. The Patriots aren’t. 

While it's easy to throw your hands up and say that you just can't count on rookies, consider that these other teams and quarterbacks could have, too. They haven't. Metcalf is second on the 10-2 Seahawks in both catches and receiving yards. Brown and Samuel are their respective teams’ top wide receivers. Hardman is tied for the Chiefs team lead in receiving touchdowns. Same goes for Johnson with the Steelers.  

These teams and their quarterbacks are proof that you can rely on young receivers and still be competitive. The Patriots are the exception to the rule right now, and they’re worse off for it.  

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2020 NFL Pro Bowl live stream: Watch Skills Showdown online

2020 NFL Pro Bowl live stream: Watch Skills Showdown online

New England Patriots fans haven't had much reason to watch the NFL Pro Bowl in recent seasons, but 2020 is different.

Patriots players haven't participated in the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years because they were playing in the Super Bowl and thus not allowed to take part in the league's version of an All-Star Game.

The Patriots were eliminated from the AFC playoffs on Wild Card Weekend, giving the team's three Pro Bowl selections (cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and special teams ace Matthew Slater) the opportunity to participate in this season's game. Hightower was ruled out due to injury, but Gilmore and Slater are expected to play.

Gilmore also will feature in Thursday night's 2020 Pro Bowl Skills Showdown. The event is basically football's version of NBA Saturday night, which includes the Skills Challenge, the Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Shootout.

Here's the information you need to watch Gilmore compete in the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown.

When: Thursday, Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live stream: WatchESPN

Gilmore reveals his Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl prediction

Could this former Patriots receiver's son be the next Patriots receiver?

Could this former Patriots receiver's son be the next Patriots receiver?

One way to get a feel for just how long Bill Belichick has been head coach in New England? Players who were kicking around the league in the early portion of Belichick's Patriots tenure have children Belichick has the opportunity to draft in April. 

Last week we touched on the fact that Randy Moss has a son entering the NFL Draft as a tight end out of LSU. Thaddeus Moss could end up being a mid-to-late round option for a team in need of a tight end. 

This week? Another former Patriots receiver has a son who's putting on a show in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl. 

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Belichick never had a chance to coach Shawn Jefferson. The longtime NFL wideout with over 7,000 career receiving yards left the Patriots via free agency for the Falcons after four years in New England.

His first year with Atlanta, 2000, was Belichick's first as head coach of the Patriots. (The two did overlap in Foxboro in 1996, when Belichick coached defensive backs under Bill Parcells.)

But might Jefferson's son end up a Patriots draft target?

Van Jefferson, from the University of Florida, has been one of the most impressive performers at his position at this year's Senior Bowl. The week's practices — thoroughly covered and broadcast by NFL Media these days — has allowed Jefferson to put his nuanced skills on display against some of the best defensive backs in the country. 

After a strong showing on Tuesday in the week's first practice, Jefferson was one of the best pass-catchers on the field again Wednesday.

Despite lacking the athleticism of some of the others at his position who will be considered first-rounders this year — it's thought to be an incredibly deep class at receiver — Jefferson has made plays this week both down the field and at the intermediate level by understanding leverage and making contested catches.

"He is a route technician on a level that has the corners tripping over themselves," The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote this week. "And it is tough to blame them because they haven’t faced many players at the college level with Jefferson’s detailed patterns. Instead of pure speed, he relies on pace, tempo and purpose, making every step matter and tying defenders in knots."

Jefferson spent three years at Ole Miss before transferring to Florida. The 6-foot-1, 197-pounder finished his collegiate career with 2,159 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 49 passes for 657 yards and six scores in his final season.

Belichick and his coaching staff are in Mobile for college football's premier postseason all-star game. Perhaps what they see from the Florida wideout with some Patriots connections will push them to consider him on draft weekend to bolster a receiving corps that needed all the help it could get this season.

Or not. Jefferson's father is currently assistant head coach and receivers coach for the Jets.