New England

Is Jakobi Meyers for Real?

By the time Jakobi Meyers had finished up yet another dominating performance in Saturday's 22-17 win over the Tennessee Titans in preseason game No. 2 for the Patriots, you may still have been thinking to yourself that you'd seen the beginning of this movie before.

An undrafted free agent receiver comes to Foxboro and wows in the preseason, only never to be heard from again come September.

It happened with Austin Carr in 2017, with Chris Harper in 2015, with Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld in 2013, and with Bam Childress in 2005. Why would Meyers be any different, despite his line of 12 catches – on 14 targets – for 151 yards and two touchdowns through two preseason games?

Meyers had six catches in each of New England's first two exhibitions, racking up 69 yards vs. the Detroit Lions and another 82 against the Titans. He did so against second and third-string players, for the most part, many of whom will be out of work come roster cutdowns on Sept. 1.

The level Meyers is playing at against backups through two weeks, however, demonstrates far more consistency than anything other undrafted wonders ever accomplished. Perhaps more impressive is that Meyers seems to have reached a gear that players drafted in mid-to-higher rounds by the Patriots never could – preseason or regular.

Chad Jackson, New England's second-round pick in 2006, never had more than two catches in a single preseason game. Aaron Dobson, a second rounder in 2013, never topped four catches in an exhibition and topped 60 yards receiving only once. Josh Boyce, taken in the fourth round in 2013, maxed out at three catches and 44 yards in August football.

The one outlier is Taylor Price, a third-round pick in the famed 2010 draft class, who did have a five-catch, 105-yard game in a preseason contest in 2011, but never approached another game log like it. Thompkins showed similar form with an eight-catch, 108-yard outing in New England's third preseason game in 2013, but like Price, was inconsistent at best beyond his shining moment (we'll always have his game-winning touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints, hours before David Ortiz's grand slam in the ALCS, though).

The fact that Thompkins painted his preseason Mona Lisa in the third game is noteworthy, given that it's the week where starters generally play into the second half.

That is why if Meyers comes out gangbusters on Thursday against the Carolina Panthers, with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, replicating his form from the first two weeks of the preseason, there'll no longer be a need to curb your enthusiasm with the NC State product.

The Patriots are in a unique situation with their receiving corps right now. It's not nearly as gloom and doom as many have made it out to be, but there's lots of boom-or-bust potential – and that was before Josh Gordon was reinstated on Friday.

Julian Edelman, 33, is as reliable as they come, but the third-oldest receiver in the NFL. If Demaryius Thomas, 31, has any tread left on his tires, great, but he likely won't suit up for the Patriots the first six weeks of the season. Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris, should either make the roster, are good, not great, options for Brady.

Beyond that, the depth chart is littered with young, unproved players who have little to no history with Brady. Meyers can solidify not only his spot on the roster, but potentially a starting role, with another strong outing on Thursday night.

If not? It doesn't mean the movie is playing out exactly as expected again. Until we see Meyers play some meaningful snaps with Brady, there's no way to know exactly what the Patriots have here.

Meyers may be a lottery ticket, he may be another face in the crowd in a montage of teases at receiver while The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" plays in the background.

Right now, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that what we've seen so far is indeed both real, and spectacular.

The same is true of quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who looks far more polished than contemporarily drafted passers such as Kevin O'Connell or Ryan Mallett. That 11-play, 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive against the Titans – on which he finished 7 for 7 passing – should be proof enough that Stidham, if nothing else, may be causing Brady to look over his shoulder as though Jimmy Garoppolo is back in the fold.

Through two preseason games, Stidham is completing 65.1 percent of his passes. For their exhibition careers in New England, Mallett was a dreadful 53.9 percent passer and O'Connell an abysmal 46.6.

Again, these are preseason numbers, but in comparison to what's come before them, Meyers and Stidham have both looked the part of NFL players.

Don't go walking out of this movie just yet.

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