After a breakout 2020, Jakobi Meyers has picked things up where he left off, grabbing 10 catches for 82 yards through the first two games of the 2021 season. More telling of Meyers' value is that he's the most-targeted player on third down for the Patriots and has picked up a team-best four first-down catches on those targets.
In his third year, Meyers continues to ascend as a player who can be trusted in the big moments.
"I'm a lot more confident and that's honestly something [Julian Edelman] talked to me about when I first got here," said Meyers during Friday afternoon's media availability. "He would always tell me he saw the talent that I had. He saw that I could make plays, but he would just feel like there were times where he didn't see the confidence in me to go out there and perform to the best of my ability, which he saw. So here in year three, I feel like I'm a lot more confident. I understand the playbook a lot better. I know my teammates a lot better and I just feel like I can do a lot more to help this team."
Meyers was fortunate to have two years of mentorship from Edelman, who said during his Thursday availability that he's continued to enjoy watching the young receiver's development now that he's retired.
"I'm excited for Jakobi," said Edelman. "He's really grown to heights that I knew he could get to and he's continued working toward that. When Jakobi first got there you saw that he had an ability, he had a shiftiness, he was a natural great route runner, great with the ball in his hands. A lot of what he had to work on was the mental part of the game, the confidence. To see him right now gaining confidence and becoming the player he is, blocking well, going out there doing the dirty things that you have to do as guys in that spot have had had to do for years in this type of offense. I'm super proud of him."
"Honestly, I thought he was a great role model to have personally," said Meyers of Edelman, who had previously expressed how much Edelman helped his development. "I mean, there are some things you kind of got to bleep out a little bit here and there, but just to the way he was a professional, the way he attacked every day, came in and tried to be his best self every day, the way he fought every day and earned every single thing he was given. So definitely a lot to learn from Jules and a lot that I want to keep around in my game and emulate every day."
Meyers development has also caught the eye of head coach Bill Belichick, who said Meyers didn't fit the traditional mold of a Patriots slot receiver but has carved his own path.
"Just really as a player, Jakobi's had a very, I would say, steady growth since he's come here," Belichick said on Friday morning. "Undrafted, really was kind of a little bit of an unusual fit in the offense just from his background.
"He's not really the profile of a slot receiver. He's not really the profile of a perimeter receiver, but he does both. He has a good skillset that enables him to be multiple and he's smart. Just doesn't really fit, I would say, the exact profile that you would have for one particular spot. But the combination of all of them, he does pretty well."
By staying consistent, Meyers is making his way through a Patriots receiver gauntlet that can be tough for even experienced veterans.
"He's become much better in every phase of the game — blocking, man-to-man route running, inside routes, outside routes, zone awareness," said Belichick. "Just adjusting to the quarterback, which he's played for now three different quarterbacks, so that's all part of it, too. And he continues to do a lot of the little things that are important not only at his position but within the entire group."
Five Points of Emphasis vs. Saints
- Kamara, Kamara, Kamara: It doesn't take a football PhD to see what Alvin Kamara means to the Saints offense. He's the kind of balanced back that is a nightmare on any down and the Patriots must have an extensive plan to deal with him no matter what the situation is. In many ways, Kamara is exactly the kind of test the Patriots defense needs, facing a player that will force them to fix some of the areas that have been vulnerable through two games. Especially the run defense will have to be on point. "He does everything well," said Bill Belichick of Kamara this week. "He's got good speed, quickness. He's tough to tackle. Good vision. Versatile guy. Get him the ball a lot of different ways, and they do, and he produces with it. He's a guy you got to keep your eye on at all times. He plays on all three downs, so he's always in there."
- Give us some, Jameis: If the Patriots can slow down Kamara it should lead to positive results against Jameis Winston, who looked like a new quarterback for much of the summer and into Week 1. Week 2, not so much, as executing a similar gameplan to the Panthers' should be a goal of the Patriots. Winston can be hit or miss, or even hit and miss, and the Patriots might have to weather some big downfield connections that could also be balanced out by downfield interceptions. "He's a really good quarterback," said Belichick. "He threw for 5,000 yards in Tampa, so it's not like this guy isn't that productive. He's big. He's strong. He's accurate. He's got a good touch on the ball. The offense that he ran at Tampa is a lot different than the offense he's running in New Orleans, but I think fundamentally he's just a big, strong guy that can throw the ball accurately. He's very good down the field. He's a tough guy to tackle. He's strong in the pocket. He can make every throw on the field."
- O-line, now's the time: The offensive line was supposed to be a strength coming into the season but it hasn't been off to a white-hot start. Part of that is due to having Trent Brown for just seven snaps, but it's clear the line as a whole hasn't quite put it all together yet like they would like to. This week, against a tenacious Saints defense, the offensive line will need their best game. If Brown is able to return it will be a big boost, but if not they'll need the right tackle fill-in and the rest of the line to give Mac Jones the time he needs to help the offense make strides.
- Special battle: Most weeks the Patriots have a decided advantage on special teams where their consistency and value placed on the third phase can often help them pull out close wins. This week, however, the Saints match up well with some of the best special teams in the league. New Orleans currently sits atop Football Outsiders' special teams DVOA ratings, while the Patriots come in at 17th. "The kicking game, you know, Coach [Darren] Rizzi has done a great job there, and one of the top units in the league with some great players, you know, led by [Deonte] Harris, but they cover well on both punts and kickoffs," said Belichick. "Return well. Block kicks. Very good situational team."
- 60 minutes: These are two well-coached football teams trying to figure out who they are early in the season. Often these kinds of games, go right down to the wire just like the 2013 matchup between these two teams did. Which team will fix their problems and get on track? Both will be due for a noticeable improvement in the coming weeks. The one that finds it this Sunday will likely pull out the win right at the end.
Practice & Injury Report
Once again it was only Adrian Phillips that was not spotted at Patriots practice on Friday as the team wrapped up their on-field work for the Saints. Phillips was listed as "not injury related" on the injury report for a second day so there still could be a chance the talented defensive back/linebacker is able to play on Sunday.
Judon, Van Noy and Harris were all full participants but will be ones to watch when inactives are announced. Phillips, Trent Brown, and new addition Josh Uche (back) are all questionable.
|Not Injury Related||Questionable|
Quotes of Note
Gunner Olszewski on now being one of the more experienced receivers on the roster:
"It's definitely different I wouldn't say I'm a veteran voice per see, we got guys like Nelson and Kendrick who played good football for other franchises obviously, and then we have Jakobi here who is kind of our tone setter in that room. He's played the most Patriots football now out of everybody in that room. He does a great job of knowing what the expectations are in that room.
Jakob Johnson on having fans back:
"It's exciting. The main thing is just having people in the stadiums. The fans are excited and I think you can really feel that energy on game day. America's locked in on football, it's exciting to be a part of that, bringing football back, bringing fans back to the stadium."