The Patriots have struggled over the last few years to find reliable and productive receivers post-Tom Brady, but this year appears to be different. As the roster currently stands, New England has a crowded receiver room, creating stiff competition as the preseason progresses.
With most of the top depth chart pieces seemingly set in place, Lil’Jordan Humphrey will need to beat out other young players hoping to grab a remaining spot. His performance during the week one game against the Giants was noteworthy and that continued this week when playing against the Panthers.
The production he has shown through these last two weeks should move him up significantly in the ranks. It won’t be an easy feat to make the team, but he’s proven (so far) that he is deserving of that chance.
Who is Lil’Jordan Humphrey?
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Saints in 2019, Humphrey spent much of his pro career in New Orleans on the sidelines. In his first two seasons, he was constantly waived and moved to their practice squad, but finally got the chance to show his skills during the 2021 season.
Playing only in a total of 18 games in three years, Humphrey would be active for 10 of those last season; a season where the starting quarterback would suffer a season-ending injury forcing the team to use a tight end and eventually a rookie at quarterback.
Despite those challenges, Humphrey would total 13/18 receptions for 249 yards and two touchdowns on the year. He was set to return to New Orleans as a restricted free agent, but a failed physical voided the team’s offer.
A few months later, the Patriots would sign him to a one-year deal, adding him to a lengthy list of receivers battling to make the team.
How has he looked this preseason for the Patriots?
Through two preseason games so far, Humphrey has stood out from the rest. Other than his eye-catching performances, he fits the mold of what the Patriots are said to be working towards with their new offense. Although he’s had a relatively quiet but good training camp, Humphrey has made memorable plays in both games he’s been in.
In week one against the Giants, he would total the most yards on the night, catching 5 passes for 71 yards. At one point, he even took the place of Matt Sokol, the only tight end available in the game, displaying the versatility Belichick is known to love. The chemistry was clear between him and backup quarterback Bailey Zappe too, with Humphrey showing his strengths throughout the game.
He would follow that up this week against the Panthers with 6 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. He also took part in special teams during a punt return and came up with a big play late in the fourth quarter.
What are his chances to make the team?
Because of the current depth at the receiver position, Humphrey’s chances to make the team appear slim, with many in the media feeling he won’t make the final roster. But with his standout performances through two games, he’s certainly made the decision much more difficult for Belichick to make.
Since the talent at receiver is much deeper than originally thought and Humphrey has impressed so far, there has been a lot of talk about all the possible ways that he could secure a position on the team. He’s shown a versatility that isn’t easy to find, particularly from a player of his size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds.) He’s been on the field as a receiver and tight end and has also participated in special teams returns.
The consistency he has shown from week to week stands out, especially as the offense has continued to struggle during practice and games. With the Patriots reworking their offensive scheme and developing several young players overall, Humphrey could become a vital piece of the team. His size, power and ability to create separation checks all the boxes of what the team needs and he has shown he can bring it every week.
He may have been brought in originally as just a camp body, but Humphrey has proven to be far more than that.
Post-game reactions from Belichick and Mac Jones
The biggest takeaway from Belichick’s post-game comments was the mention of Humphrey being “tight end-ish.” After seeing him fill in that role for Sokol last week, some felt that could be his way on the team.
With little to no depth at the position outside of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, Humphrey could earn his spot that way. But if he continues making plays no matter where he’s told to be, a place on the roster will likely be left for him.