The New England Patriots are getting healthy and deeper at the right time, particularly at the wide receiver position.
Super Bowl LIII MVP winner Julian Edelman recently passed his physical and was removed from the non-football injury list. Demaryius Thomas returned to practice Tuesday at Gillette Stadium and was activated from the PUP list. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in December, so the fact he's already back practicing is pretty impressive. Josh Gordon was reinstated by the NFL over the weekend. He had been suspended indefinitely since December.
Wide receiver was a concern entering training camp, but now it looks like one of the team's greatest strengths as the regular season approaches. It's among the reasons why experts have ranked the Patriots so high in their latest NFL power rankings. Here's a roundup of the latest lists:
Bleacher Report NFL Staff: No. 1
Dan Handzus, NFL.com: No. 1
ESPN: No. 1
In addition to the veteran wide receiver group improving, another reason why experts like what they see from the Patriots is the impressive performance of the team's rookies in the preseason.
Edge rusher Chase Winovich played very well in New England's Week 2 preseason win over the Tennessee Titans. The third-round pick out of Michigan tallied six tackles (two for a loss), one sack and two QB hits. Jarrett Stidham has made a compelling case to be the team's backup quarterback behind Tom Brady. The third-round pick from Auburn is completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 372 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. Some of his most accurate passes have actually gone for incompletions due to wide receiver drops.
Damien Harris impressed against the Titans with 80 rushing yards on 14 carries, as well as four receptions for 23 yards. The third-rounder from Alabama could be a valuable goal-line threat for the Patriots given his excellent strength and ability to rack up yards after contact.
Undrafted rookie wideout Jakobi Meyers has been the most pleasant surprise in the preseason with 12 receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns in two games. It's crazy that every team missed on him during the April's draft.
The Patriots have a lot of veterans, including the league's oldest starting quarterback in a 42-year-old Brady. But there is reason to be excited about New England's rookie class, and its ability to provide valuable depth as the franchise gets ready to defend its Super Bowl title.
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