Jakobi Meyers has been the Patriots’ top receiver for two straight seasons and led the team in catches and receiving yards in the season-opening loss to Miami. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Imagine aspiring to be a security blanket. A source of comfort. A professional plan B.

Now imagine being an NFL receiver, and telling the world that is your goal. More than scoring touchdowns, making Pro Bowls, highlight plays, etc. You just want to calm your quarterback.

That’s what Jakobi Meyers told reporters this week from the comfort of his own locker.

“I can make big plays, but I like to be the guy when (Mac Jones) needs somebody just to get rid of it, I’ll take it,” Meyers said. “I’ll take the hit and get back up.”

Meyers has been the Patriots’ leading receiver for two straight seasons, a testament to his own hard work and the team’s lack of receiving talent. The Patriots were the most pressed offense in the NFL last year, when opponents were unafraid to play them 1-on-1. So the front office imported DeVante Parker from Miami, a contested-catch specialist with a fairly well-rounded game.

It was expected, and may still come to pass, that Parker would become the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver. Instead, Meyers led the team in catches throughout training camp. He led them again in the season opener. He remains Jones’ most trusted weapon.


Yet, public praise for Meyers tends to top out at various synonyms of unspectacular. His receivers coach, former Patriots great Troy Brown, recently called him “Mr. Steady.” Conversations about Meyers, even the most glowing, routinely start with everything he is not: overly fast, big or strong.

Allow one of Meyers’ teammates to step in.

“He’s smart, quick as hell, runs great routes. He’s a great player,” wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey said Thursday. “You don’t see too many guys his size who can move like that.”

Quickness and toughness are paramount in the slot, where Meyers – at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds – has unexpectedly developed into Julian Edelman’s successor. In 2019, Meyers watched a 33-year-old Edelman single-handedly carry the Patriots’ passing offense through a combination of quickness, toughness and trust he developed over years of playing with Tom Brady. Edelman finished with 71 more catches and 720 more receiving yards than any other wideout on the roster that year, Meyers’ rookie campaign.

The Patriots made the playoffs that year, but faltered along with an injured Edelman down the stretch. As the team’s new offense works through growing pains this year – those self-created and forced upon them by high-pressure defenses – Jones needs his security blanket more than ever. Meyers is happy to oblige.

“I know when that pocket collapses, a quarterback’s going to be looking for a guy who can take that hit and get back up. … Just give it to me, and I got you,” he said. “We’ll keep the chains moving.”


Last week in Miami, Meyers led the Patriots in receptions (four) and receiving yards (55) while playing on a hurt knee. He also snagged the catch of the day, going up and over Dolphins defensive back Nik Needham for a 27-yard gain along the sideline in the second quarter. Jones heaved the ball up to him on third-and-7.

It was a play Meyers could not have made as a rookie or a second-year receiver. Maybe even last season; another testament to how the 25-year-old has developed in short time.

“He’s really learned how to become a good slot receiver, but he can do things on the perimeter as well,” Bill Belichick said this week. “He’s good in the blocking part of the game and run force. Some of the more sophisticated routes, he’s had more experience with, so he’s done a good job on those. Got good hands, good catch radius, good quickness to get open.”

Meyers admitted the pressure will turn up at Pittsburgh this weekend. Between the Steelers’ longstanding tendency to blitz, their myriad of coverages and the fact Jones missed practice Thursday, Meyers and the other receivers must deliver for their quarterback. But as far as touchdown celebrations or one-handed grabs go, he’ll pass.

Just give Meyers third-and-medium with the Terrible Towels swirling and his quarterback in trouble Sunday. He’ll take care of the rest.

“I’ve just never really been one for the flash or the spotlight,” Meyers said. “Somebody else can have the spotlight. I just wanna make sure when everyone’s nervous and there’s pressure, I’m someone who can make the tough catch, take the tough hit, and trust me. That’s my thing: being there when people need me.”


MAC JONES returned to practice Friday after missing practice Thursday for the first time in his career because of illness. The quarterback’s illness is not believed to be COVID-related or serious enough to impact his availability for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Jones had previously been dealing with back spasms, but he recovered in time to be a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, when the Patriots installed the early-down portion of their game plan for the Steelers.

The only players missing at Friday’s practice are on the practice squad: linebacker Cameron McGrone, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray and offensive lineman Bill Murray. All three were also absent Thursday.

CHASE CLAYPOOL, at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, was compared by Patriots Coach Bill Belichick to his old tight end on Friday morning. Asked what makes the Pittsburgh wide receiver difficult to defend, Belichick likened him to trying to cover Rob Gronkowski.

“Big, fast, really good hands. Big catch radius. He’s kind of always open, it’s like covering a guy like Gronkowski. No matter where you are on him, there’s a place where he can reach and get the ball that you can’t reach and get the ball,” Belichick said. “They use him in a variety of ways. Down the field, catch and run plays, hand him the ball.

“So he’s a big, physical player. Can block. Block at the point of attack. Run. Hard guy to tackle. Downfield receiver as well as a short and intermediate receiver. So he can get you a lot of different ways. Tough matchup.”

Claypool only caught four passes for 18 yards in Pittsburgh’s season-opening upset of the Bengals, but also carried the football six times for 36 yards. One way or another, the Steelers were determined to get the ball in their playmaker’s hands.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.