One of the most important competitions in Patriots training camp this year is at the wide receiver position. With Aaron Hernandez behind bars, Wes Welker enjoying the scenery in Denver, and Rob Gronkowski uncertain for the start of the season, there is certainly a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and a brand new group of young wide receivers to produce right out of the gate. The success this team has early in the season may well depend on that production.
Most of the focus thus far in training camp has been on the good chemistry that Brady has already developed with new slot receiver Danny Amendola and on the Patriots high draft pick at the position, Aaron Dobson. Much focus recently has also been given to Kenbrell Thompkins, the undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati who is having a great camp and figures to be right in the thick of the wide receiver conversation when final roster spots are decided on.
There’s been less focus on the Patriots fourth round draft pick at wide receiver, Josh Boyce out of TCU, who is almost a certainty to make the team given the relatively high draft pick the Patriots spent on him. Like Thompkins, Boyce has impressed early in camp. NESN’s Doug Kyed previously reported on Boyce’s solid footwork and his ability to get open and make plays down the field, something that has been sorely lacking in the Patriots offense in recent years. Boyce is an extremely versatile wide receiver, and as Kyed points out could play at all receiver positions in the Patriots offense.
What makes Boyce even more compelling is his history of playing with high pedigree quarterbacks. In college, Boyce caught passes from current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who led his team to the playoffs in his first two seasons in the NFL. Boyce played his high school ball in Copperas Cove, Texas with another young quarterback you might be familiar with, current Washington Redskins phenom Robert Griffin III. It’s hard to say what kind of effect working with great quarterbacks in the past will have on Boyce’s development in the Patriots offensive system, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has experience working with such smart and talented signal callers.
While there will continue to be a lot of focus on Aaron Dobson and whether he can become the deep threat the Patriots have been lacking since the departure of Randy Moss, I think Patriots fans will quickly come to recognize the value that Boyce can add to the offense. While he does have the ability to stretch the field, he’s even more capable of getting open in the middle and in the flat, where the Patriots and Tom Brady do a lot of work. He has the potential to be both a solid possession receiver as well as someone who can add explosiveness on the outside. It’s this versatility that will serve him well in the Patriots offense and what I think will eventually win over Patriots fans as the season progresses.