The wide receiver position has some faces new and old that have been making plays at Patriots training camp, headlined by free-agent signings Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Both players have made notable plays through the first two days of training camp practices, with Bourne coming up with one of the catches of the day on Wednesday while Agholor snagged a couple of touchdowns himself. Third-year veteran Jakobi Meyers had one of the catches of the day on Thursday, while N'Keal Harry caught multiple touchdowns through two practices as well.
Most in the group have had their moments to shine so far, but in an offense known for complexity and using players in multiple positions, the new arrivals are facing a significant challenge as the offense looks to make new strides in 2021.
"Everything we do is specific to us, but you know, a lot of that is also interdependent on who the other players are on the field," said Bill Belichick prior to practice. "If one player can do multiple things and nobody else can, then it's hard to move one guy without moving somebody else. Just really depends on what the overall makeup of the skill group is and obviously, that plays into situations and formations and game plans and so forth, but generically we try to teach our guys multiple spots at all positions, not just the receiver position."
Agholor shined in Philadelphia through his first five seasons, registering 224 catches and 18 touchdowns. Last season, Agholor exploded for a career-high 18.7 yards-per-catch, better than a seven-yard increase to his average. After showing potential both as a slot receiver and a deep threat, Agholor has intriguing versatility that was no doubt a big part in why the Patriots gave him a two-year deal.
"I think that's one of the cool things that we do in New England, we like to move guys around and put guys in position to run a variety of routes," commented Agholor after Thursday's practice session.
How exactly Agholor will fit in New England is a work in progress but there's already little question Agholor has the ability to run a multitude of routes. As he jumps into Patriots football feet first, he's focusing on picking up the third offense of his pro career.
"I learn from a full concept, I like to learn everything and I have great coaches who are teaching me that," said Agholor. "Every day I try to put it on tape and learn from what I put on tape.
"It's just studying, it's a grind, it's not easy but it's something if you do it well and you stay consistent with it, you'll help yourself have more opportunities."
"Nelson has shown a lot of versatility here," said Belichick. "Again, how much that does and doesn't happen depends on a lot of things. He's one of them, but there's other factors as well."
Those other factors will include the skillsets of other players like Bourne, Meyers, Harry and the rest of the receivers room.
"We all embrace working, that's what I really like about the room," said Agholor. "We understand this isn't easy, we work hard. I like that about our room."
Harris stays focused on improvement
Damien Harris started and ended 2020 on Injured Reserve, but in between the running back broke loose for 691 yards in 10 games, topping 100 yards three times and showing an impressive burst that made him a highly-regarded third-round pick. Now, in his third season, Harris is looking to put it all together and according to the head coach, he'll have every opportunity to seize a significant role.
"I think Damien's a player that improved a lot from year one to year two," said Bill Belichick prior to practice. "This year, he's in a little different role. Now he has an opportunity to compete for a lead spot and so he has embraced that. He's worked hard. He's been here since the day after the season was over. He has worked as hard as anyone has in the offseason. I'm sure that'll help his preparation. Heading into this camp, we'll see how he does. He's worked extremely hard. He's a very dedicated player. I've been impressed by the commitment he has shown."
"Every year you've got to improve, no matter if you're good at something, or you need to improve, every year you want to continue to get better," said Harris after Thursday's session that saw extensive work in the ground game. "It's just the name of the game, this is the National Football League."
Not surprisingly, Harris is keeping that tried and true short-term focus on daily improvement as his main mantra.
"Each and every day I come out here, I want to improve my game. How can I be better? How can I help this team? What can I do to make this team better? How can I affect my teammates? How can I become a better leader? How can I become a better football player?
"Whatever I can do out here to make the New England Patriots a better football team, that's what I'm here to do."
Quotes of Note
Matt Judon on doing what's asked of him in New England:
"If they ask me to kick a field goal, I'm going to be trash, but I'm going to try to do it. Whatever coach needs me to do, I'm willing to do it."
Davon Godchaux on new teammate Matt Judon:
"Real answer: I've always been a big fan of Matthew Judon. Watching him in Baltimore, I always thought he was kind of like Terrell Suggs, kind of like a dirty player but big, aggressive, good player... He's going to be bringing a lot of juice at the edge, so I'm very excited about him."
Ted Karras on returning to New England after a year with the Dolphins.
"It was a great opportunity for me last year, and got another great opportunity this year to come back. It's crazy how life works and business works sometimes. Very glad to be back and see all my old friends and get going to work."