With two preseason games in the books, the New England Patriots could have some tough decisions to make with their wide receiver room. Something that would have been unimaginable to say just a few months ago. Excluding Matt Slater, the Pats’ roster is occupied with eight receivers, nine if you consider Ty Montgomery a hybrid player akin to Cordarrelle Patterson. Safe to say not everyone in that group is going to make the final roster. With that in mind, let's peek at those who may not be a lock going into the final week of preseason.
No. 17 Kristian Wilkerson
Sadly, Wilkerson currently dealing with a concussion due to a massive hit during joint practices with the Carolina Panthers. Additionally, that may also force him out of joint practices next week with the Las Vegas Raiders. What helps his case before final roster cutdowns is that this is his second year with the team. Furthermore, he had an excellent showing last week against the New York Giants. Wilkerson went for eight catches and 99 yards on the evening, both team highs. Should Wilkerson not make the final cut, however, he is a near-lock for the practice squad once again.
No. 80 Josh Hammond
Hammond was a late add by the Patriots, being picked up off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars at the tail end of July. The one-time Florida Gator in his stint in Foxborough hasn’t done much to show he deserves a roster spot through two preseason tilts. He has recorded zero catches through two games, along with several drops to his name. After making it past the first cut-off day on Tuesday, Hammond is going to need a big week out in Las Vegas to convince this coaching staff he belongs.
No. 82 Tre Nixon
Nixon, like Wilkerson, also feels like a logical practice squad candidate, but how are his chances to make the 53-man roster? He had some notable drops against the Giants but ended up with four grabs for just over 80 yards. Additionally, he backed that up with a six-catch 56-yard performance last night. Nixon also ran a lazy curl route on Bailey Zappe’s pick-six, which was more on him than the quarterback there. Should the last spot come down to Nixon and Wilkerson, the latter has the edge in my eyes through two weeks.
No. 83 Lil’Jordan Humphrey
Keeping it short, I’m a big fan of what Humphrey brings to the table. Despite coming to New England relatively late on June 16th, the former New Orleans Saint by way of Texas has been big time in these two preseason tilts. Humphrey’s best play wasn’t even on offense, but rather on special teams where he fought through two blocks to save a touchback and pin the Panthers inside the five-yard line.
What gives Humphrey a good shot to make the final roster is his size. Of all the Patriots’ receivers, he stands the tallest at 6-foot-4, just taller than the 6-foot-3 DeVante Parker. Having another big body on the outside is a need, with the bulk of the Patriots’ other receivers being in the 6-foot-1 range. Also helping his cause is his reliability catching the ball and his YAC potential. A jumbo slot role could absolutely be in Humphrey’s future. He's shown a lot of talent so far this summer to justify keeping him around.
No. 84 Kendrick Bourne
Now to the possibly interesting problem in Bourne, the Patriots' best receiver last season. But why would he be here you may ask? On a night where the first-team offense played a healthy majority of the first half, Bourne was nowhere to be found. Not even for warm ups, let alone the game. Normally, I would have chalked this up to just a night off (as was the case with Trent Brown), but then Bill Belichick hit the podium postgame. “[Bourne] wasn’t available” was all we got from the hoodie.
Those aren’t promising comments considering Bourne got kicked out of practice earlier in the week due to a fight. In addition to some word of an off camp as well. Further adding on, Phill Perry of NBC Sports Boston floated out that teams have been calling the Patriots about their receivers, insinuating Bourne specifically. Nelson Agholor would also make sense, but the money remaining on his expiring deal may dissuade other teams from making a deal. Personally, I would keep Bourne, but I have no reason to distrust Perry's reporting here.