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Analysis: WR group grabs our attention

As we get deeper into training camp, we delve deeper into the competition at various positions. Today, an examination of the Patriots wide receivers.


PHILADELPHIA – The Patriots and Eagles continued their joint training camp workouts Tuesday here in Pennsylvania, leading up to their preseason game Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

During these competitive practice sessions at Philadelphia's NovaCare Complex headquarters, we've been able to watch New England's wide receivers square off in drills and team periods against the Eagles' secondary, giving us a better idea of where things stand in the ongoing competition for a limited number of roster spots at the position.

Since Patriots camp opened in late July, we've obviously seen a great deal of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, the two veterans who inked big free-agent deals with New England this past spring. Of the two, Bourne has perhaps been the more consistently productive, having been able to suit up for every practice thus far and contribute on a daily basis. Agholor missed a bit of time back in New England with an apparent injury and put forth some up-and-down efforts, although he appeared to get open and make some big catches a few times, particularly during Day 1 of joint sessions with the Eagles.

Often, we've seen the Patriots offense deploy three-receiver sets this summer, and third-year man Jakobi Meyers frequently finds himself in that group. Clearly comfortable in this system with his previous two years of experience, Meyers is proving a reliable target for whichever quarterback is throwing him the football. His fellow third-year teammate, N’Keal Harry, also has had his share of positive moments, including a fantastic touchdown catch on the final play of Monday's joint practice with Philly.

Earlier this summer, of course, Harry and his representatives made overtures about wanting out of Foxborough, but ever since, Harry has been healthy, on the field every day, and having the most encouraging camp of his career.

In recent days, Kristian Wilkerson has been getting opportunities more regularly. Wilkerson, who spent nearly all of his 2020 rookie season on the Patriots practice squad, has periodically exhibited the kind of growth potential that would explain why New England decided to keep him around last year. However, consistency has been an issue for Wilkerson, particularly when it comes to hauling in passes that should be routine for players at this level.

Return specialist Gunner Olszewski seems to be improving as a pass catcher and has shown a propensity for getting open downfield this summer. However, the end result isn't always a completed catch, but that's not entirely his fault. To be fair, deep throws are the hardest to complete for most QB-receiver duos. Olszewski still has room to grow and likely will get that chance again in 2021, if for no other reason than his kick/punt return abilities.

It's been difficult for the remaining receivers to make an impact this camp, but Devin Ross, Isaiah Zuber, and rookie draft choice Tre Nixon remain in the competition for the time being.

Overall, the receiver position has generated mixed results thus far in training camp and the preseason. However, given the additions to the group and the added experience of the returning members, this should be a more productive element of the offense vis-à-vis the 2020 roster.

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