Patriots Wide Receivers Analysis, Morse’s Morsels
This week we will conduct the review of the WR group. The group is better but only slightly.
The veteran receiver didn’t have anywhere near the year he had with Las Vegas the year before where he caught 48 passes for 893 yards and 8 TDs. He did not perform to the contract he signed. To be honest it wasn’t all Agholor’s fault. The Patriots are a run-first team. They were starting a rookie QB and Mac Jones was blitzed the most of any QB in the league. In 2021 Agholor had 37 catches, 473 yards, and 3 TDs. Agholor reported in OTAs that he is much more comfortable with the offense and the Patriots’ terminology, reads, and route running.
Bourne had a career year last season. His 55 catches for 800 yards, a 14.5 average, 5 TDs, and a 78.6 Completion % were all personal best performances. His game-high number of catches was 6 and had no games over 100 yards. Bourne was very reliable yet underused. The primary use of Bourne is out of the slot. The slot receiver position is very crowded with Meyers, Bourne, Parker, Nixon, Montgomery, Perry, and Wilkerson. Bourne performed well in the OTAs but missed the Mini-Camp with an excused absence. I can’t wait to see the improvement of Bourne in his 2nd season.
The Patriots made an unusual trade with divisional rival Miami. Parker has the highest percentage of contested catches in the league over the last 6 seasons. Jakobi Meyers was also in the top 5. One of the reasons is that Parker does not get separation. However, if he can get his hands on the ball it is usually caught by Parker. During OTAs and mini-camp, Parker looked smooth. However, he is primarily a slot receiver. Parker has a history of injuries which has held him back. Last season he missed 7 games due to a hamstring injury.
Meyers signed his 2nd round tender ($3.986M). None of this is guaranteed. Meyers was hoping to come to an agreement on a long-term contract. None was forthcoming from the Patriots. He saw what Hunter Renfrow signed with the Raiders, a two-year extension worth $32M. That was what he was hoping for. The North Carolina State product was arguably the Patriots most reliable pass catcher in 2021, finishing the season with two touchdowns, but leading the team in both receptions (89) and yards (906), including the playoffs. Meyers also logged a 9-yard carry and completed two passes for a combined 45 yards. The former college quarterback is now 4-for-4 as a passer for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Meyers has trouble getting separation but the 6’ 3” slot receiver usually catches the ball if he has a clear path to the catch. Could Meyers be a surprise veteran cut? Let’s see how Training Camo goes.
Perhaps a trade to New Orleans for fellow RFA 2nd round tender player Deonte Harty (formerly Deonte Harris) from Assumption University in Worcester. Harty has refused to attend OTAs in hopes of getting a long-term contract. According to Ian Rapoport, they are “apart on a contract and nothing is imminent”. As a rookie, he was selected to the Pro Bowl as a punt returner.
Harty, who changed his last name in January to honor his stepfather, joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He recorded 1,500 all-purpose yards last season, gaining 199 on punt returns, 690 on kick returns, 570 receiving, and 41 rushing in 13 games.
The short and slight Harty, (5’6” 171 lbs.) expanded his role as a receiver last year, catching 36 passes and scoring three touchdowns. At his Pro Day, he ran a 4.48 40 and 6.82 3-cone drill.
Montgomery was an interesting signing but that was before the trade for Parker and after the drafting of Pierre Strong. The veteran swing player could have contributed at both Slot receiver and Receiving Back. Montgomery has exclusively worked out at WR. He is reliable if unspectacular. I don’t think he offers anything in the Special Teams game which will make it hard for him to make the team. Montgomery had a paltry 16 catches for 95 yards for the WR-needy Saints last year. I don’t expect him to make the team.
There are a lot of critics of the selection of Tyquan Thornton as a 2nd round pick. His slight build did not excite many observers at camp and he was running with the scout team players. He is currently WR5. If he can’t contribute on Kickoffs, he may not make the 46-game day roster. We are looking at a Redshirt year for Thornton. I believe he is having a difficult time with the playbook and route running responsibilities. He is not the first to have these problems as many high-caliber veterans had trouble picking it up as well (Chad Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Malcolm Floyd, Marquise Lee, and Reggie Wayne). Thornton has the speed to separate, but can he get his responsibilities down? A Redshirt year will also give him a year with the nutritional and weightlifting staff. He will be one to watch in camp. Nelson Agholor has taken Thornton under his wing to mentor him.
Nixon was the surprise of OTAs and Mini-Camp. He made several deep catches and one, in particular, was spectacular. He was being covered by Jon Jones on a deep cross. Jones had Nixon’s arm pinned (probably interference) but Nixon made a one-handed catch anyways. He took an opportunity presented by Kendrick Bourne being absent and he ran with it. If you remember Nixon was the last selection in last year’s draft. The Patriots gave Ernie Adams the honor of making that pick and he chose the unheralded Nixon. NFL Draft Buzz had this to say about Nixon prior to being drafted by the Patriots, “ Plays fast and confident. Covers lots of ground in the short half of the field and is slippery after the catch. He is a balanced, savvy route runner with top field awareness, setting up and selling routes. Has elite speed and cutting ability and good hands and toughness. Lacks ideal size, but has a similar body type to Antonio Brown. Fluid athlete and explosive burst to stretch the field and breeze past defenders, Has a quick 1st step and gets to top speed in a hurry. Combines speed, balance, quickness, vision, and crisp cuts to leave defensive backs and linebackers in the dust.”
Looking at NFL Draftscout, Nixon ran 4.44 (expected to run 4.38), 6.81 3-cone drill. In 2019 Nixon had 49 catches in 12 games for 830 yards, 16.9 avg, and 7 TDs. His 2020 season started with a high ankle sprain which he fought hard to come back from and play the final 4 games. The ankle sprain may have affected his 40 time. Can he duplicate this performance in Training Camp? He will be one of the players to watch.
In the week 17 50-10 blowout of Jacksonville last year, Kristian Wilkerson had a coming-out party. It was expected that N’Keal Harry, coming off a hip injury would get the start with Nelson Agholor out. Instead, it was Wilkerson and Harry was a healthy scratch. Wilkerson didn’t disappoint with 4 catches
Wilkerson, who had played only nine offensive snaps over his first two years in the NFL, was on the field for 60 on that Sunday. Wilkerson came to the Patriots by way of the Tennessee Titans who cut Wilkerson at the final 2020 cutdown. He was signed to the Patriots practice squad immediately after clearing waivers. This is going to be a very tough year to survive the final cuts.
The former NAVY QB had a very disappointing mini-camp with an opportunity to separate himself from the other slot receivers, and he didn’t. He was listed as one of the biggest losers. I don’t see Perry getting a spot on the roster unless he is kept as an emergency QB. The practice squad is a possibility again.
Why is he still here? He is occupying a roster spot. Harry is in the last year of his contract and I believe they will cut him if they can’t find a new home for him. He has no value in a trade, and we might just be taking on someone else’s headache in order to send him packing. He may be the biggest bust in Patriots history. It still torques me that the Patriots could have (and should have as I predicted) taken Deebo Samuel.
A late add on Tuesday, Humphrey played for New Orleans last year and had 16 catches for 249 yards, a 19.2 average, and 2 TDs. He was a Restricted Free Agent but had an injury. New Orleans drafted Chris Olave and he made Humphrey expendable. The Texas product stands 6’ 5”, 225 lbs, ran a pedestrian 4.75 40-yard dash, but a good 7.09 3-cone drill. Jordan is a great Red Zone target but seems he would be another in the group of receivers that can’t separate. Can he put on more weight and play a move TE? He doesn’t add any value on special teams, which hurts his chance of making the team. I see him as nothing more than a camp body.
Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal had three comments that deserved to be highlighted. Appearing on Sports Sunday with Mike Felger, Bedard floats the idea of a 3 man Shadow Roster. For the final roster cutdown, he suggests that Malcolm Butler, Cody Davis, and Joe Cardona will be cut and re-signed to the Practice Squad. The unique characteristic of all three veteran players is that cutting them won’t accelerate any bonuses against the cap. As vested veterans, they do not have to pass through waivers and become free agents immediately. They are told with a wink and a nod they will be resigned to the Practice Squad and elevated three times (as allowed by the new rules). If they are on the active roster for week 1, their salary is guaranteed for the entire season. The Patriots did this with Brian Hoyer and Nick Folk last year. They can’t do it with Folk and Hoyer because both players signed multi-year contracts that would have accelerated their signing bonus against this year’s cap. This is a very interesting idea. Bedard’s comments were before the Daniel Ekuale suspension announcement. This number might increase to 4 with one of the players being re-signed immediately when Ekuale is suspended. So might a Henry Anderson be added to the group?
Bedard also warns to pump the brakes on Mac Jones’s great OTAs and Mini-camp. Most of his big deep throws were conducted in 7-on-7 drills with no pads and no pressure. I am encouraged to see Jones’s improvement but let’s see how this goes in training camp.
The final point is that he sees no reason to keep Isaiah Wynn at $10.5M against the cap, to play Right Tackle. He goes on to say there is no trade market for Wynn as he is considered a below-average O Lineman carrying a huge cap hit of $10.5. Further, the team and others in the league are questioning just how much Wynn loves football. He has missed all the “Voluntary” OTAs the past two seasons. Reportedly he came to training camp last season out of shape which hindered his development. If Wynn is on the roster for the 1st game of the season, then his salary is guaranteed for the season.
Daniel Ekuale Suspended Two Games by NFL
Patriots reserve Defensive Tackle Daniel Ekuale has been notified by the league that he will be suspended for his first two games in 2022. Ekuale must first make the final 53 roster, then can be added to the suspended list and replaced on the 53-man roster. Ekuale played in 8 games last season and had 5 tackles, with 2 being sacks.
Quinn Nordin Passes Through Waivers
Kicker Quinn Nordin was waived-injured and since no team claimed him he reverts back to the Patriots. He has been designated as a Non-Football Injury player. As such, the Patriots do not owe him any salary against the cap.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Good article I enjoyed it.