Some artists burst onto the scene, announce their presence to the world and are universally acclaimed for their greatness. Prodigies like Mozart, who was publishing music by the time he was five and composing operas in his teens. Or Picasso, who was accepted into the prestigious Barcelona at 14. Or Stevie Wonder, who was recording songs under the name Little Stevie Wonder at the age of 12.
But those are the exceptions. For the vast majority, it takes the public a much longer time to appreciate their genius. For example, Jim Carrey had 16 film credits and four seasons of In Living Color prior to 1994, when he made comedy history by starring in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber in the same calendar year. Speaking personally, Natalie Portman had to make quite a few films as an adult before I fully appreciated what a smokeshow she is. As the saying goes, it takes years to become an overnight success.
Which brings me, at long last, to my premise. Which is, that Jakobi Meyers is particularly good at football.
It's taken him a long time to get recognized as such. Like a lot of his predecessors in the (primarily) slot receiver position on the Patriots, true respect for what he's accomplishing has been a long time coming:
--Troy Brown was released several times to clear roster space under both Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll, and only his special teams production saved his job. He was 29 when he finally gained more than 900 yards in a season. And by the time Tom Brady was his quarterback, he reached 1,199 yards and ring.
--Wes Welker went undrafted. In three seasons in Miami, he barely cracked 100 catches. While once facing the Patriots as the Dolphins' placekicker. In New England, he'd have 100 catches every year by the time you were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.
--In his first four seasons, Julian Edelman had 69 (noice!) receptions. In his fifth, he had 105, for 1,056 yards.
All of them were late picks or not drafted at all. All took a while to get their shot. All took full advantage and became stars in this league. And Meyers is following in their mighty footsteps.
As I said in the Knee Jerk Reactions to the win over Detroit, Bailey Zappe is just the latest in a series of Patriots quarterbacks who have decided Meyers is their favorite target. (I said this makes four QBs, but I don't know who's the fourth one I was talking about, because in Brady's only season with Meyers, Edelman had 1,000 yards. Maybe I was thinking about Jarrett Stidham? I mean, who's thinking about Jarrett Stidham? Ever? Let's chalk it up to an NFL Monday morning hangover.) Here's what I wrote through my bloodshot eyes:
--One play it's a shallow crosser behind the linebackers. Next, he's getting off the line and shaking his defender with "stretch release" footwork, showing he's going one way and breaking the other. Then it's a staple of the Erhardt-Perkins system (which they are clearly running now). Zappe motions in Henry, who chips the end in order to sell the run before releasing. Zappe runs the play action to Stevenson who picks up a blitzer. The two outside receivers on the back side run slants ("Tosser" in this playbook), while Meyers runs the crosser from the strong side for 18 yards. He's exactly what this offense needs, and nothing less.
And not only did the touchdown he caught from Zappe give him more career TD receptions (three) than passes (two), that game put him among the league leaders in per game numbers. He's averaging 6.7 RPG, which is good for seventh most, and 87.0 YPG, which is sixth. Putting him on pace for:
Pro Football Focus has him with the seventh highest receiving grade, as well as the seventh highest from the slot. While his passer rating when targeted of 116.4 is 17th highest among qualifiers.
And while the rest of the world has overlooked him almost to the point of criminal negligence, the people who see him everyday in practice have not:
Source - Safety Adrian Phillips raved about Meyers’ agility, which he said rivals that of perennial Pro Bowler Keenan Allen and All-Pro Davante Adams.
“He can’t be guarded,” Phillips told NESN.com on Wednesday. “I would say that’s the main thing. His agility is just crazy. You can tell he learned from guys like (Julian Edelman), because Jules being in the slot, he was one of those guys that even if he was doubled, it was hard to guard him, as well. You add that with the agility and the fact that (Meyers) used to be a quarterback, (and) he has soft hands that are freaking like pillows, it just makes him a tough cover for a lot of guys.
“I would just say his agility is close to being unmatched. Like, Keenan has that, too. Davante Adams, they have that, too. But he’s a guy that’s flying under the radar. When you turn on that tape, he’s making people fall. It’s crazy.” …
Myles Bryant, who often lines up opposite Meyers as New England’s top slot corner, said he boasts rare separation ability for a player his size. …
“I think quickness,” [Devin] McCourty said. “I think obviously playing the quarterback position like he did before, he has a great understanding of DBs’ leverage. He knows how to use your leverage against you. It’s very similar to watching over the years when I used to watch Jules be in the slot and run certain routes (that) go against what we’re taught as defensive backs. They’ll do some things that kind of break those rules, and by the time you know it, he snaps out of a route.
“I think it’s his suddenness,” Bryant said. “I think for a guy that big, it’s kind of rare to see how sudden he moves. He’s not the fastest guy, but he’s able to get open just with how quick he is off the line and how big he is. (He’s) able to create separation at the top of the route, at the line of scrimmage, and he’s just dependable. He does all the right things that the coaches ask for just in terms of his route depth, coming in and out of his breaks, not wasting movement and then being able to catch the ball. I think all of those things make him the receiver that he is.”
No biggie. Just drawing unironic, favorable comparisons to Keenan Allen, Davante Adams and Edelman is all. So if you're wondering why Zappe is just the latest starting QB to scan the field, go through his progressions and keep seeing Meyers as the most inviting target, which he did Sunday:
… there's your explanation. He's got the agility, the former QB-like spatial awareness, footwork, quickness, play strength and hands to set up and defeat coverage, particularly man:
Meyers is one of those guys who, if he came into the league with a little more hype, say if he was a high draft pick, we'd all be saying he's living up to it. Instead, he's suffering from the lack of expectations anyone had for him. We've just mistakenly assumed his production was the result of having no one else around him, instead of appreciating how he gets the ball because he's every quarterback's favorite target: The one who's open. And when they get it to him, he delivers.
Something that is not lost on the one who's opinion matters most:
The point of all this being that, while we've spent all year hoping someone would emerge as this offense's WR1, we've found him. It turns out he's been here all along. The others can all get in line behind Meyers as he continues to be one of the most reliable weapons in the league.