The thriving connection between Jakobi Meyers and Cam Newton isn’t something many would have predicted for the season. It’s an unusual sight to see a quarterback with Newton’s resume lean so heavily on a second-year wide receiver who played quarterback in college and was not drafted.
But the unlikely pairing was the driving force behind New England return 30-27 win over the winless New York Jets on Monday night, and gave reason for optimism that the New England offense may start to turn things around in time to make one last breath for the playoffs so as they head into the second half of the season.
Newton and Meyers have a connection that began to take shape when Meyers was 16, competing in Newton’s founding 7-on-7 All-Star Tournament in North Carolina, when Meyers was a prospect for a quarterback.
“Where I’m from, we all admired Cam. It was like a super hero, honestly ”, Meyers told Steve Burton on Patriots All-Access. “It was a surreal moment meeting someone my friends and I admired and now that I’m playing with him it’s just that life is funny, you know?”
The story behind his on-court connection with Meyers is also not lost on Newton.
“Dude, I’m extremely proud of Jakobi. He’s the person I’ve known the longest in this whole ordeal, ”Newton said after Monday night’s game. “I knew Jakobi when he was 16, 17 out of high school, for both of us from the greater Atlanta area, to transform into the player he is today, it’s just a hard work that pays off. “
It took a while for Meyers to get an opportunity this season, having caught just one pass in the first six games and only played 22 total offensive snaps in that span. But the injuries to Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry have forced him to play a bigger role in the offense, whether he’s ready or not. And Meyers made sure that when his number was called, he was ready to take advantage of an increased number of reps.
“I’m just a youngster trying to take advantage of my opportunities,” Meyers said. “The more they give me, the more I’ll try to do.” Hope I can keep building and building and every week is better than the week before.
Meyers finished with 12 catches on 14 targets for 169 yards against the Jets, including a 20-yard reception on the last offensive play of the game to put New England in position for Nick Folk to hit the winning 51-yard basket.
Meyers’ 169 receiving yards were eighth by a Patriots wide receiver in Bill Belichick’s day. Only Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Troy Brown and Brandon Lloyd have more receiving yards in a game since 2000.
Those 169 yards are also the 12th greatest yards ever received by a Patriots player in a single game. Meyers beat Rob Gronkowski’s 168-yard mark to get there.
According to Focus on professional football, Meyers currently has the 10th best overall rating among wide receivers, at 84.1.
The Newton-Meyers connection has grown so strong that Meyers has established himself as a go-to player for this team, even when N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman return. Newton clearly trusts him more now, as evidenced by Meyers’ target percentage over the past three weeks, dropping from 26% in week 7 to 43% in weeks 8 and 9 each.
“To be able to throw as far and as hard as he used to throw [at NC State] and for him to transfer to the receiver position I knew he would be successful because playing the quarterback makes you intellectually healthy – brain by default because you know what the quarterback is looking for, ” Newton said. “It’s such an easy target to throw, as you can see. He just finds a way to open up. He has a good sense of the ball. His decisive mind when running makes it easy to tell where his body language is going. For him to have the performance he’s had tonight, the last few weeks, is just a show of hard work that pays off.
Over the past three weeks, Meyers has the highest percentage of goals for his team in any of the NFL. Its target share of 36% is ahead of Davante Adams (35%) and Stefon Diggs (30%). It shows Meyers’ potential and where he could be heading if he continues to make the most of his opportunities.
“I just have to keep recording good stuff on tape and keep working to get better every day,” Meyers said after Monday’s game. “It was fun just to be there with the team and I enjoyed every moment so hopefully like I said I can keep building on it and keep trying to improve myself. “
In a season that hasn’t gone as expected, the chemistry between Meyers and Newton is something that could potentially revive this team on offense down the stretch. That the bond comes between a mentor and one of their mentees is a fun subplot in a season that hasn’t had many positive undertones yet.
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