Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is preaching patience when it comes to evaluating the performance of rookie receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
“I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product — and we do, too — but at the same time, you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to stick to it,’’ McDaniels said in a conference call Tuesday morning.
As New England’s offense still seeks to find its rhythm 12 games into the season, Harry and Meyers have fast-tracked their way to prominence. The two youngsters have become important elements in the passing game, with veteran Julian Edelman battling a nagging shoulder injury and fellow receivers Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle) recently limited in practice with injuries of their own.
Against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12, Harry flashed his athleticism with an impressive back-shoulder grab for his first NFL touchdown. The 21-year-old first-round pick was forced to play catch-up after starting the season on injured reserve and missing the first nine games. Meyers has yet to find the end zone, though both his targets and offensive snap counts have steadily increased.
The expanded roles, however, have not come without growing pains.
In the first quarter against the Houston Texans Sunday, Tom Brady was intercepted on a pass intended for Harry. Later in the game, Brady once again appeared frustrated when a pass fell incomplete after he motioned for Meyers to run upfield.
“I don’t think there’s any shortcut to being on the same page, in terms of anticipating what the other person is thinking, feeling, and seeing,’’ McDaniels said. “A lot is made of somebody thinking one thing and somebody else thinking something else. I think there’s a lot of factors in the passing game that would determine what being on the same page really means.’’
McDaniels emphasized there’s no quick and easy way for Brady to establish chemistry with his receivers. Meyers has mentioned that earning Brady’s trust has been one of his toughest tasks so far this season. The key to building those relationships, according to McDaniels, is just to practice, practice, and practice.
“Every rep we take in practice, every pass we throw, every side session that we’re able to take part in, every conversation, every one-on-one drill that we do in practice, every film session that we’re in, it just continues to try and build off of the last one,’’ McDaniels said. “We know that it’s productive when we stay the course.’’
McDaniels noted that he’s pleased with the work ethic of the receiving corps, despite any on-field struggles or perceived frustration.
“I think our guys are trying really hard,’’ McDaniels said. “I have absolutely zero issue with our effort and the desire to do it right. That’s what everybody’s working toward. I love the attitude our guys are taking into each practice and each opportunity to get better.’’
He’s optimistic things will get better with time.
“Hopefully, our best football in every phase is in front of us,’’ McDaniels said.
Faith in Ferentz
Bill Belichick expressed the utmost confidence in third-string center James Ferentz, should he start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“James has a lot of experience, even though he doesn’t have a lot of playing time,’’ Belichick said. “He knows our offense and all the things that go with it — the line calls, the cadence, and so forth. He’s one of the hardest-working players on the team. He’s dependable. He’s tough.’’
Ferentz would be filling in for Ted Karras, who exited the game against the Texans with a knee injury. Karras was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday and, per one report, suffered an MCL sprain that is not expected to be season-ending. Karras took over the starting job late in training camp after David Andrews was placed on injured reserve with blood clots in his lungs.
Belichick highlighted Ferentz’s ability to direct traffic and block, as well as his work on the scout team. He called the transition from Karras to Ferentz in practice “pretty seamless.’’
“He knows what he’s doing and we can depend on him,’’ Belichick said. “That’s a very valuable thing. You hope you don’t need it, but we do now and we’re glad we have him.’’
Kicking it around
Following the release of kicker Kai Forbath, Belichick did not indicate what the team plans to do at the position.
“We have a few days to work that out,’’ Belichick said. “We’ll look at our options and do what we feel is best for the team based on what our options are. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to go.’’
One possibility is re-signing Nick Folk, who was released last Friday after undergoing an appendectomy Thursday. Folk played three games with the Patriots, making all three of his extra-point attempts and seven of his nine field goal attempts.
Another possibility is using punter Jake Bailey as a kicker, a role he last held in high school. As a senior, Bailey made 26 of his 27 extra-point attempts and 12 of his 16 field goal attempts. Three of his field goals were from 50 or more yards.
Belichick would not say whether the team considered using Bailey as a kicker against the Texans.
“We’ve looked at a number of different options,’’ he said. “Last week was last week, this week was this week. Maybe it’ll be the same, maybe it’ll be different. Maybe some of the circumstances around that will change.
“[Folk’s appendectomy] came up pretty late in the week. This week, we have a little more time to plan and evaluate the entire situation. We’ll see what our options are and try to make the best one.’’