Patriots

Patriots training camp battles: Jakobi Meyers versus Braxton Berrios

Patriots

ALLEN PARK, Michigan -- Now that the Patriots are through more than a week's worth of summer practices, it makes sense to roll through a few of the camp battles taking place between teammates. 

There are several. They're happening along the defensive line and in the linebacking corps. They're happening at high-profile position groups (corner) and less-sexy position groups (punter). 

But today we'll focus in on Patriots receivers and find out who's offering what in a matchup that pits young pass-catchers Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios against one another. 

TALE OF THE TAPE
Meyers: Undrafted rookie out of NC State; 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Berrios: Second-year out of Miami; 5-foot-9, 190 pounds

STRENGTHS
Meyers: A versatile receiver who played in the slot in college but has been used all over the formation in his first training camp as a pro. Despite being "high cut," he's very crisp in and out of his breaks and creates separation with his routes. Meyers also has the ability to make contested catches, as he's shown regularly through nine practices. He climbed the ladder for a catch in one-on-ones Monday, landing hard on his back, losing his helmet, but securing the catch. He's been a favorite of Tom Brady lately, which continued Monday. A smart player who has quickly risen up the depth chart, Bill Belichick said he "has versatility, understands the offense . . . That's not really an issue. He's a smart kid, and he learns well."

 

Berrios: More of a traditional Patriots slot receiver in that he's "low cut" and can shift quickly in and out of his breaks. Berrios had a strong spring, from what we could see during practices open to the media, and he may have had his best day of training camp in Michigan on Monday. He caught three of the four targets sent his way, and the one incompletion was on a pass that was a little long and forced him to dive. Berrios caught two passes from Brady in the hurry-up period, which could help the pair build some chemistry. Berrios is an experienced punt-returner on a team that might be looking for a new body in that role in order to save Julian Edelman some hits at this stage of his career.

WEAKNESSES

Meyers: Meyers has been one of the most impressive players during Patriots training camp, regardless of position, so there's not much to nitpick. However, if he's going to be the fourth or fifth receiver on the roster to start the year (along with Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris), the team will likely want to find a role for him on special teams. They appeared to try to get the ball rolling Monday as far as that goes with Meyers taking reps as a punt returner. They were a little shaky. He muffed one. Another was kicked short and he fielded it despite being a little out of control. As good as he's been, if his progress as a receiver dips and he doesn't have any value in the kicking game, his argument for a roster spot would take a hit. 

Berrios: Berrios and Meyers make for a fascinating comparison because -- even though they can both play in the slot -- they handle the middle of the field in such different ways. While we've seen Meyers elevate over defenders and high-point footballs down the seam, Berrios has to rely on his ability to separate. His catch radius is much smaller, and he's often forced to lay out for passes thrown away from defenders. That ups the level of difficulty for every completion. Should he be able to separate more consistently -- in practices he's seen a lot of time against top slot defender Jonathan Jones -- then that might allow quarterbacks to give Berrios more catchable footballs. One pass to Berrios down the field on Monday glanced off of his fingertips as he dove.

AND THE EDGE GOES TO...

Meyers. He's been so consistent through camp as a receiver that it's hard right now to envision a scenario in which he's left off the roster. There remains the possibility that both could make the club, especially if Berrios separates himself as a returner. But with Maurice Harris impressing, it looks like there would only be room for one to go along with Edelman, Dorsett and Harry. There's a long way to go in camp and there are plenty of questions to be answered. Can Berrios make a difference as a return man? Can Meyers get open in live situations against top-end competition? Would the Patriots like to keep a low-cut slot as opposed to having several taller wideouts like Meyers, Harris and Harry? Is Meyers' skill set a little redundant when you take into account the others on the depth chart? How would Josh Gordon's reinstatement impact the mix at this position? But with what we know right now, Meyers looks like a steal as an undrafted rookie -- as Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told you he was -- and he would have to be the pick if there could only be one.

 

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