Josh Boyce running after the catch against the Atlanta Falcons
(USA Today Sports Images)
Matthew Slater is fast and quick, but his role on offense is almost nonexistent. Shane Vereen has shown the potential, but seems to be inconsistent and limited in his role in the backfield. So who can potentially fill this role?
How about someone who, at the combine, flashed with a 40-yard dash of 4.38 seconds, a three-cone drill of 6.68, a long shuttle of 11.26, bench pressing 22 reps, and a broad jump of 10'11"? How about someone who has the right build for such a role at 5'11" 205 lbs? How about someone who is at the youthful age of 24? This someone is second year wide receiver Josh Boyce. The real question is: will he make the team?
Last year Boyce was extremely limited due to starting the year off with a broken foot. He performed at the combine with that broken foot and still got outstanding numbers, but he needed time after being drafted to return to full health. Once the season started, Boyce played in nine games, totaling nine receptions for 121 yards. At times he showed what he could bring to the table.
NePatriotsDraft.com's Oliver Thomas did a fantastic job highlighting Josh Boyce's rookie year in his article. Boyce's speed is noticeable, and is best used by getting him the ball quickly and letting his legs do the rest.
That was before injuring his ankle Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins, which resulted in a trip to IR shortly after.
Before coming up lame during a run in OTAs, Boyce was having a productive offseason. He was constantly a target for Tom Brady, who hooked up with Boyce numerous times for several impressive plays. Boyce also was among one of three players returning kicks during OTAs, according to ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss.
The other two players, Roy Finch (undrafted rookie roster long shot) and Reggie Dunn (already released), could indicate the Patriots see Boyce as the go to kick returner going forward. Ben Volin of The Boston Globe says Josh Boyce is "playing faster", flashing his speed and quickness in 7 on 7s and team drills, but admits he doesn't like his chances of making the roster due to his struggles last year and the excessive amount of WRs on the roster.
The roster locks at wide receiver include Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, and Matthew Slater. To already have five guaranteed roster spots dedicated to one position, in addition to the position battle with Kenbrell Thompkins and rookie Jeremy Gallon, making the roster will not be easy for Josh Boyce. In order to secure a spot he will need to excel at returning kicks and provide some offensive production. With Dobson likely as the X receiver, and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman switching roles between the Z position, Boyce will need to use his speed to produce on routes where he can produce on yards after the catch. Given Thompkins' productive OTA, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots have the confidence to keep seven receivers on the roster, but it very well could happen.
Preseason will be the last chance Boyce will have to prove that he can stay healthy and flourish in New England's offense. His promise and potential make Boyce worth a roster spot, but only he can show the Patriots that he should be one of 53 final players.
Follow me on Twitter - @PatriotsInform
For more of my articles, click here.