New England Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers is congratulated by teammates after his 5-yard touchdown reception during the first half Thursday night at Detroit. AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — Tom Brady wasn’t pulling the trigger on the passes, but the New England Patriots’ young-gun receivers still enjoyed an impressive coming-out party Thursday night.

Rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, who have stood out in recent practices, again showed off their athleticism and ability to make plays in the 31-3 rout of the Detroit Lions in a preseason opener.

Before limping off after one of his catches, Harry made a pair of memorable plays down the sideline. They were the kind of plays the Patriots hoped to get when Bill Belichick made him the first wide receiver chosen in the first round during his tenure.

Harry showcased those talents, first extending to make a nice grab on a Brian Hoyer throw in the opening quarter. The Patriots were facing third-and-10 on the Lions’ 23 and were able to move the chains thanks to the wideout stretching his 6-foot-4 frame toward the sideline to haul in the football.

That set up Hoyer’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Harris. On the next series, Harry again made noise, making a contested catch down the left sideline. He went up for the jump ball and pulled down another Hoyer pass, leaving Jamal Agnew in his wake. It went for a 25-yard gain, but Harry walked off the field with a noticeable limp after trying to line up for the next play.

He was tended to by the medical staff, watched the rest of the half from the sidelines, then didn’t come out for the second half. Meyers, an undrafted rookie from North Carolina State, took the baton when Harry left in the first quarter and scored two touchdowns.

In the first half alone, Meyers had five catches for 52 yards and a pair of scores, one from Hoyer, the other from rookie Jarrett Stidham, who entered the game late in the second quarter. Meyers wound up with six receptions for 69 yards, leading both teams.

The New England receivers, as a whole, had a productive night, but Harry and Meyers were the standouts. There’s been a lot written about them lately and both delivered with strong efforts, right on cue.

“You never know how it’s going to transition from practice to game. All those guys, it was their first game in the NFL. They answered the bell,” Hoyer said. “The step up wasn’t too big for them. They did a really good job. This is just one building block.”

The Patriots greatly need an infusion of young talent at the position and as first impressions go, this certainly was encouraging, Harry’s injury notwithstanding.

It’s one thing to show off and make all of these highlight-reel plays during practice sessions. It’s another to bring it to the games. Thursday night, in the first preseason game, Harry and Meyers brought it to the game.

Granted, the Lions’ starters weren’t in the mix playing defense. And Brady wasn’t the quarterback delivering the football. So you have to pump the brakes a little bit. Still, this was a good sign.

Meyers consistently got open and the quarterbacks hit him in stride. There was no need for any of his acrobatic catches. He just ran crisp routes, hit the right spot and the ball was delivered. Harry did land higher on the degree-of difficulty-scale for his catches, but when you’re headed down the sideline, that’s almost expected.

On Meyers’ first touchdown, Hoyer wasn’t afraid to hit him with a defender marking him close. On the second, Stidham rifled another ball as Meyers broke free at the goal line.

Meyers said he received a ton of texts recently from people who read how well he was doing in practice.

“It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a (good) game,” Meyers said. “Going out there, showing I deserve to be here for now, I’m just trying to push forward.”

With Brady watching intently on the sideline, the efforts of the young receivers had to put a smile on his face. He’s going to need all the help he can get beyond Julian Edelman.

While Edelman remains out nursing his broken thumb, when he returns the receiving corps can’t rely on him alone. If some of the rookies emerge, defenses won’t be able to just focus on Edelman.

Seeing Harry and Meyers continue to progress, continue to make plays in their first game, was promising for the future.

“I want to be great,” said Meyers. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me. At the same time we have a lot of great players on the team. All I have to do is listen. I’m doing what they tell me to do.”

Obviously, Harry will be monitored in the coming days. He seemed to injure his right hamstring earlier in the week during joint practices, but after being worked out by the trainers continued on in a limited capacity. He might have tweaked that Thursday night. The Pats will want to keep him healthy and not have the injury linger.

Braxton Berrios, a sixth-round pick in 2018, was another young player who stood out, getting open at a few key points. He also made a bunch of plays, finishing with three catches for 45 yards.

While it’s still early and one game doesn’t make a career, it sure looks like the Pats might have help for their quarterback.

Said Hoyer: “Those guys have come a long way. They’ve put a lot of hard work in. You can see that on the field … we just have to keep building on that.”


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