Demaryius Thomas could be the Patriots’ X-factor this year

Demaryius Thomas, coming off a serious Achilles injury, shook off the rust in the Patriots’ final preseason game – and looked magnificent in doing so.

Seven catches on eight targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

That was Demaryius Thomas’ stat-line through the first half of the New England Patriots‘ fourth and final preseason contest against the New York Giants.

The veteran receiver, set to begin his 10th year in the NFL, looked anything but like a guy who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear just two days before Christmas in 2018. The former Denver Bronco and Houston Texan was easily the story of the first half for the Patriots, who rested most of their starters in anticipation of the regular season opener, but gave meaningful snaps to Thomas and Josh Gordon to allow both receivers to shake off some rust.

And boy did they ever – particularly Thomas.

If there was any doubt lingering as to whether “DT” would make New England’s final 53-man roster, that doubt is now long, long gone.

Playing with rookie Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, Thomas was marvelous on his first touchdown grab, burning a Giants cornerback along the sideline before easing up on his own speed just enough to corral the football against his back shoulder and glide into the end zone. On his second score, he broke away from the New York defense just in time to become wide-open and secure an easy lofted pass into the end zone from a scrambling Stidham.

Gordon might have earned more cheers and applause from the New England faithful at Gillette on Thursday night, but Thomas will be the name on everyone’s lips at the stadium after the game.

Gordon had a pair of nice grabs of his own – particularly his first reception, in which he easily shrugged off a defender that was right on top pf him. The pass-interference call that he drew should also have Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady licking their chops at all the possibilities that now lay before them with Gordon un-suspended and back in action.

The night belonged to Thomas though, with the receiver firmly entrenching himself as an every-week starter and matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Between him, Gordon, and rookie N’Keal Harry, the Patriots suddenly have three hulking, intimidating receivers that can outmuscle defenders and come away with contested catches on every snap.

Thomas should now be considered New England’s X-factor.

While Harry will presumably take some rookie lumps, Edelman will dissect defenses in between the hashes, and Gordon will stretch them over-the-top, Thomas represents versatility and dynamism wherever he goes on the field. Throw in undrafted rookie standout Jakobi Meyers and speedster Phillip Dorsett, and the Patriots might not need a viable tight end to create terror in opposing pass defenses this season.