The New England Patriots offense has made a dramatic turn for the better over the past three weeks. Outside of a Week 2 shootout against Seattle, the Patriots struggled to do much of anything with their passing attack early in the year. However, New England suddenly has one of the best passing attacks in the league, and Jakobi Meyers is a big reason for the success. The former undrafted free agent is playing like one of the best receivers in football and could just be the most important non-quarterback on the roster for the remainder of the season.
Jakobi Meyers Carrying the New England Patriots Passing Attack
The New England Patriots had arguably the worst supporting cast in the league last year, but Bill Belichick and company didn’t do too much to address the issue. The hope was that N’Keal Harry could take a second-year leap, Julian Edelman could come back healthy, and Damiere Byrd could provide reliable depth as the third receiver on the depth chart.
That plan didn’t come to fruition. Edelman and Harry struggled throughout the season, as the former never looked completely healthy while the latter didn’t dramatically improve his play. Byrd did his job as a speed threat on the outside, but he wasn’t enough to carry this passing attack.
Thanks to this underwhelming supporting cast, Cam Newton had no choice but to play hero ball on just about every snap. This worked in Week 2 against Seattle, but the passing attack largely left a lot to be desired. Through the first seven weeks, the offense ranked 30th in dropback EPA/play. While the Patriots had one of the better rushing attacks in the league, it wasn’t good enough to fend off a 2-4 record.
Enter Jakobi Meyers
Edelman and Harry both suffered injuries in Week 7, leaving Jakobi Meyers as essentially the only healthy receiver left on the team. Meyers never played more than eight snaps prior to Harry and Edelman’s injuries but saw 79% of the action in Week 7’s blowout loss to San Francisco. The undrafted free agent played well, recording four receptions for 60 yards while making a few impressive contested catches.
Meyers proved that wasn’t a one-week fluke, as he has clearly turned into the best receiver on the depth chart. Over the past three weeks, Meyers has recorded 23 receptions for 286 yards on 31 targets as New England’s passing game erupted. New England is 2-1 since Meyers saw the starting lineup, and the passing offense ranked fifth in dropback EPA/play over this timeframe. Meyers has one of the highest target shares in the league, so this success is basically all thanks to his ability to provide Cam Newton with a reliable target.
This isn’t a case of Meyers getting by on volume alone. By just about every metric out there, the North Carolina State product is playing like one of the best receivers in the game. He has the third-best PFF grade among wide receivers (87.5) and his 3.18 yards per route is second-best in the league.
At 4-5, the New England Patriots still stand a decent shot at making it to the playoffs. If they do, it will because of the great work by Jakobi Meyers. New England finally has a stud receiver, and they should remain one of the better passing attacks in the league as long as he and Cam Newton are on the field.
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