Patriots second-year wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is filling in for Julian Edelman in more ways than one.
With Edelman on injured reserve, Meyers has emerged as the new, “Did you know that he used to play quarterback?” guy, flashing his arm on a pretty touchdown pass late in the second quarter Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
“I’m pretty sure Julian Edelman is somewhere smiling, but nervous at the same time, if you know what I mean,” joked quarterback Cam Newton after New England’s 23-17 victory.
On second and 6 with 70 seconds remaining in the first half, Newton dished a lateral to Meyers, who lofted a high-flying throw to a diving Rex Burkhead in the end zone. The 24-yard touchdown gave the Patriots a 13-10 lead headed into the intermission, and marked Burkhead’s second score of the day.
“Any time you have a trick play like that and you have a receiver throwing a touchdown pass to a running back leaking out, it’s a lot of fun,” Burkhead said. “Jakobi threw a tremendous ball, the perfect pass to me.”
Added Meyers: “I was ecstatic.”
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, based on the amount of separation created by both the receiver and the passer, Burkhead’s catch had a completion probability of just 34 percent, making it the most improbable reception of the game. Perhaps what made the connection even more impressive was that the pair successfully executed the play amid gusty, rainy weather at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers finds Rex Burkhead in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 16, 2020
Air Distance: 43.6 yards
Receiver Separation: 1.5 yards
Completion Probability: 34.0%*
*2nd-most improbable completion by a non-QB in 2020#BALvsNE | Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/H8O8laH6G8
In response to the weather, the Patriots had been favoring the run game — seven of the 10 plays on that 75-yard scoring drive were rushes — so even Meyers was initially a little taken aback by the play call.
“It’s something we’ve practiced over the past few weeks, but I just never knew when it was going to come up,” he said. “I’m surprised it came up in the rain game, but I still got it a little bit.”
The touchdown marked Meyers’s first pass in the NFL, though it was hardly the first of his football career. Growing up in Georgia, Meyers played quarterback at Arabia Mountain High School. As a junior, he threw for 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior, he completed 110 of his 170 pass attempts (64.7 percent) for 1,834 yards and 23 touchdowns.
So, that experience must have helped him, right?
“It’s football, at the end of the day,” Meyers said. “I threw the ball as a little kid in the front yard before I was even a quarterback, so just remembering the love for the game and continuing — I mean, I still throw.”
Or as Newton put it: “Once a quarterback, always a quarterback.”
Meyers was recruited to NC State as a quarterback, but ended up transitioning to wide receiver after knee surgery forced him to redshirt his freshman year. During his three college seasons, he completed just one of four pass attempts.
To be able to complete one at the professional level still meant a lot.
“For it to finally connect and for it to actually work out, it was a big moment for me,” Meyers said.
Experience as a quarterback has benefited Meyers as a receiver, too. In addition to his touchdown pass on Sunday, he caught five passes on seven targets for 59 yards. The past three weeks, he’s amassed 286 receiving yards with a catch rate of 74.2 percent.
“I definitely still have that quarterback clock in my head,” he said. “So, if I feel like my route’s taking too long, I know to get my eyes back to the quarterback because he might be in trouble. Or I know where I might have to cut it off.”
Edelman, who underwent a knee procedure at the end of October, is eligible to return off injured reserve this week, but it’s unknown whether the Patriots will activate him to the 53-man roster. N’Keal Harry, who missed the past two games with a concussion, returned to action Sunday but did not register a target.
Meyers reiterated his goal was to use the recent games as an opportunity to build trust with the coaches, and he certainly has in more ways than one.
“The coaches are seeing I can throw the ball a little bit,” he said, with a smile. “We might have something in the future, but we’ll see. Hopefully, the confidence is definitely there for the coaches and they trust me with the ball in my hands to make the right play.”
More Patriots coverage
- Instant analysis: The Patriots' win over the Ravens shows what weeks of building momentum looks like
- Dan Shaughnessy: If you can believe it, suddenly Patriots are right back in it after stunning Ravens
- Patriots spring surprise, storm to upset of Ravens
- See how the game unfolded